I am often asked how an old girl born and raised in New York City ended up in a little country town in upstate New York. My short answer sometimes elicits a puzzled look on the questioner’s face: “My soul kept telling me I was in the wrong place.” I usually have to follow it up with a longer explanation.
I was born and lived the first 21 years of my life in Queens, New York. When kids in other parts of the country took school trips to the zoo, or or a diary farm, or to see how apple cider is made, I took school trips to the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History (have you any idea what a giant dinosaur skeleton that takes up an entire exhibit hall looks like to a 7 year-old?), the UN, the Statue of Liberty, and Lincoln Center to see “some guy” named Leonard Bernstein teach us about the orchestra while narrating “Peter and the Wolf.” I remember that my mother’s jaw dropped when, a few months later, he did the same program on TV and I pointed him out to her as “the nice man I saw who told us the same story.” It was all great fun, and certainly stimulating to a young child, but my heart never got as excited as it did when I got the chance to spend a week during the summer in the Adirondacks at a place just like the one in “Dirty Dancing,” or when I got to spend part of my summer vacation at my cousins’ house out on Long Island before it was all built up and still had miles and miles of farm land. Somehow my soul knew before I did that I was not meant to live in the city, but to be a country girl.
Fast forward many, many years later and I got the chance to do what I had been dreaming of all of my life – I packed my car and moved to a little village in upstate New York to be near my sister who had moved up into that area a few years before. The first 9 years was a time of major adjustments to the way I lived and, more importantly, the way I thought. My own belief systems were put to the challenge and it was not unusual to find that I had been following paths that weren’t my own, but had been built by others. Financial necessity, aka gainful employment, forced me to leave the village after 9 years and move closer to the city of Binghamton, NY, in one of its suburbs called Endicott. I mourned my sweet little village for 15 years and when the opportunity to move back literally “fell” into my lap (my little accident with a patch of cracked concrete and my sneaker that resulted in a fractured hip), I jumped at the chance!
A funny thing happened during the first two years that I lived there. First, my sweet little village had changed a great deal while I had been away. There were empty store fronts all over the main streets, lots of folks I’d known had moved away, and that friendly sense of a close-knit, small community was no longer there. More importantly, I had also changed, way more than I realized. During the years I had been away, I had become a vegan, and living surrounded by dairy farms, beef cattle farms, chicken bar-b-ques, and the crowning of the Dairy Queen were no longer something I could support. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t so much the actual physical place I lived in as much as it was my sense of place. I needed to live in an inner place that felt comfortable, authentic, and essentially “me.” So I moved back to Endicott, this time in a different neighborhood that felt like a compromise between small town and city, and I’m loving it. I can still walk a few blocks and see where they make the apple cider, and go to strawberry festivals and maple festivals, but I can also go down the road about 10 or 15 minutes to the city of Binghamton and visit museums, art galleries, and even attend an opera. My sense of place is finally at peace.
We all need to find that place within us that tells us we are where we are supposed to be, that feeds our soul and helps us create our authentic lives. It is especially true when we enter into our Third Age, those years after 50 and beyond, where we finally have the time and space to answer the longings of our hearts that we put aside while we earned a living and raised a family. There is no better time to answer that call.
Our writing assignment for this week over on the Home Page is going to challenge you to uncover your sense of place, especially if you’ve been hiding it away, and find out what it’s saying to you. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing. Peace and blessings!