For much of my young adult life, the suburbs represented everything that I did not want to be or become.
As a teenager, I could not wait to get out of Plano, the Dallas suburb that I spent most of my childhood in. I looked at the manicured lawns, the houses lined up in neat little rows, and the women who went to the store in perfect makeup, and I knew this was not somewhere that I fit in. It was not somewhere that I wanted to fit in. I saw no way to stay there and be authentic to myself and also belong.
It was a cage that I longed desperately to escape.
The first chance I had, I did just that. I left the suburbs for the big city, moving to the center of Los Angeles to go to college. A city that was thriving with diversity and culture and stuff to do.
As an artist, the suburbs were frequently a focus in my work. I read books on suburban sprawl. How individuality and difference were stamped out by big box chains and the people who preferred to frequent them. The disgust that I felt for the suburbs, the place that had once been my home, was mirrored back to me in the words of critical thinkers and served to further entrench my viewpoint. The role of the suburbs was to grind down creativity and spit out another perfect housewife. “No, thank you,” I thought to myself as I made a solemn inner vow to never live in the suburbs, and especially not in Dallas.
But after a time, even the big city of LA that had once been so expansive and full of possibility started to feel too small. No, it wasn’t cookie cutter or covered with artificial lawns, but it was filled with concrete. People. Cars. Its own form of sprawl that started to feel increasingly suffocating. My longings turned elsewhere, to new and different horizons where I hoped I would finally feel the wildness and freedom that I so longed for.
The structure of the cage had changed, but the cage itself remained.
This time, I found myself actually missing the warm summer evenings in Texas, where the air hangs heavy against your skin. I missed thunderstorms; to feel them building in the atmosphere only for the pressure to be released with ground-shaking thunder, lightning that would illuminate the night sky, and torrential downpours that could last all night or a mere ten minutes.
But seeing as I could not move back to Dallas (as I had sworn I would never do that, and my husband was also in the same boat as he too had grown up in Plano), we set our sights on Austin. It was in Texas, yes. But it was different. Funky. It had artistic flair. There was the river and barton springs and live music.
In my mind, this would be the place where I could finally unleash my fully expressed, wild, free and creative self! It helped that I had recently quit my job and was diving headfirst into my coaching business full time. With all the old constraints gone, nothing could stop me now. Hallelujah!
You can imagine my disappointment, frustration, and confusion when I still didn’t feel the way that I thought I would. I had escaped all the external cages in my life and somehow I still felt held back.
That was because there was a single cage left that I had yet to escape.
It was a cage that I could never escape because it was one that I carried with me. It lived within me and therefore it was a cage that I would need to dismantle one painstaking bar at a time.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, much of my writing over the past five years has been sharing what that process of dismantling has been like for me. Identifying my little girl. Recognizing my pleasing patterns and coming to terms with the fact that despite seeing myself as a rebel, I was also that good girl that I so detested. I became aware of how my strict black or white, right or wrong thinking had painted me into ever smaller boxes of who I allowed myself to be and what I allowed myself to want. Much of this dismantling work to come home to the wild soul I truly am underneath that cage was via the help of my dear longtime mentor, Lianne Raymond. Between my work with Lianne and climbing slowly back into my body via Qoya, I began to remember that I do not solely exist to please and achieve and perform.
That no else can define who I am, and what my life looks like on the outside matters less than how it feels on the inside.
That there is a wild and unruly and indigenous place deep within me that has always existed.
A place that was waiting for me to remember, revisit, and reclaim it.
A place that was patiently waiting and calling me home to myself. A wildness that cannot be taken away. That is not dependent on anything that is outside of me. A wildness that is simply an energy, a way of being, that I embody and take with me wherever I am.
And the more that I embodied that wise and wild energy, the harsh lines that I had drawn in the sand began to disappear. Life became less black or white and much more nuanced. When I could trust that I belonged to myself, always, I no longer had to fear what the suburbs had symbolized to me when I fled them nearly 20 years ago. There was no longer a need for the definitive “never”.
I had already owned the ways that I had desperately wanted to fit in, even while I liked to consider myself the non-conformist rebel.
And for the first time, I saw clearly what my mentor had shared with me many years ago: Even the suburbs can become ensouled.
And even a life that looked boring and banal on the outside to a cagey teenager hungry to find herself, could be deep and delightful and full of soul when you peered inside.
So it feels quite fitting that I sit here writing this in our first home in Plano, Texas, where we have decided to lay down some roots. Our house wedged in between the high school and senior high school that I attended and could not wait to flee.
But when you come home to yourself, when you reunite authenticity and belonging from within, it is only then you can be truly wild and free.
And it is from that place that I look forward to connecting with another sense of home that I left behind all those years ago.