Where is Nowhere?
A look into the past that informed my future.
To arrive at nowhere, we must first start somewhere so I’ll start here: High School, 18 years old, East Tennessee.
At 18 I finally had it all figured out (though I can hardly hold a straight face while typing that).
It was senior year, I was heading off to college in a few short months, and the yearbook I had spent the previous 10 months editing was off to the press.
photo from my senior year of high school with my brother (may 2015)
My co-editor-in-chief and I had chosen a Vogue-inspired theme for the 2015 edition of the “Spartan Yearbook.”
Think: elegant, timeless, something destined for your coffee table and not the bottom of a box stuffed into the corner of an already-stuffed storage unit (which is precisely where my copy now resides).
The stiff cover was going to glisten in shiny black and pearly white and the pages within would hold more than a Costco-sized shopping cart ever could: stories both told and untold, past love interests, mini moments of teenage bliss, traces of heartbreak, a kid looking left behind in the lacrosse team photo, faces that I had seen change over a rollercoaster of 13 years, and though I didn’t know it at the time, the face of one particularly shy (and younger) boy who 7 years later would later be sitting across from me in a New York shoebox apartment signed in both of our names.
Totally had it all figured out…
Despite the 300+ pages that contained almost every visual representation of my life from ages 5 to 18, the only Yearbook page that remains in my mind is the one that informed my future, not reflected on my past.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but - well I want to go places and see people, I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“I figure, if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.”
“Read books. Care about things. Get excited. Try not to be too down on yourself. Enjoy the ever-present game of knowing.”
These were the quotes I chose to include under my senior picture in our yearbook.
Many of my classmates opted to inscribe their pages with John 3:16, Hank Williams Jr. quotes, and “everything happens for a reason.”
After feeling like anything but a legend throughout my middle and high school career, I was ready to make shit happen.
This brings me to nowhere.
Nowhere is where I found myself when I walked out in the middle of a keynote speaker a week into arriving at my new college. I poured my torso over bunched-up legs in the stairwell until my light-washed blue jeans became sprinkled with indigo-colored tear stains.
Like many, college was filled with a lot of firsts for me.
Trying to fit in (unsuccessfully) at my first college “darty” aka a daytime party - (August 2015)
The first time moving away from my hometown, the first time not living with my family, the first time going through a breakup, and the list goes on.
The “first” I want to focus on here is the first time I chose to let myself cry.
I grew up acting as if I was a pressure cooker.
As life threw grenades my way, I’d receive them and suppress them until once every 4 or so months, my body demanded a release.
The tears never felt voluntary and they were certainly never welcomed. It’s laughable to me now that at one point I thought strength was measured by how dry my eyes were and how hollow I could make my heart feel.
I know now that the rawest form of strength and courage is found in the softness of vulnerability and surrender.
When I arrived at college, I met that part of myself for the first time.
What I know now that I didn’t know then, was that it actually wasn’t my first time meeting her. I’d known her since I was young but for many reasons, had asked her to take a back seat.
If you haven’t realized this yet, much of life is simply about returning to ourselves; returning to a former version that may have only existed between the ages of 3 and 4 (but existed nonetheless).
I found myself leaving in the middle of a keynote speaker because I wasn’t sure I could process much more than what she had already said. I felt utterly exposed.
She spoke about this vacuum-like hole that exists within all of us. One we can feel and know is there and we try to fill it over and over and over again.
However, nothing can fill this void because it exists for only one thing: divinity.
At the time, I was still exploring what it meant to believe in something greater than myself.
For the sake of this conversation, please insert whoever or whatever you acknowledge as being divine. This could be God, Spirit, Source, etc.
She went on to speak about how we find our identity in whatever we fill this void with. Up until that moment, I had tried filling it with grades, achievements, sports, hobbies, relationships, social status, and many, many other things.
The reason I was crying and felt as if someone had punched me in the gut was that I realized for the first time I had run out of external entities to fill that gaping hole.
It was as if I could physically feel the void within me and it took my breath away.
No more boyfriend. No more club president titles. No more GPA to boast about. No more external validation.
I realized at that moment it was time to start over. Time to begin again. Time to brave the wilderness.
For the first time, I let myself crumble so that I could begin to rebuild.
Brick by brick, stone by stone.
I had finally arrived at nowhere.
With red, puffy eyes and a crumpled kleenex covered in mascara, I was ready to stop searching for something to fill that void.
And just when I stopped searching, something appeared out of nowhere.
Thanks for reading Written Thoughts! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.