Twice a day the tide in Bar Harbor, Maine parts to reveal a quaint path that leads to a sandbar. The locals call this mysterious strip of land Bar Island. The tide is reliable, like rain in Seattle, and doesn’t stay parted for too long. The locals will be sure to mention this casually by whipping out their phones and showing images of tourist’s cars submerged in the cold, salty seawater.
The term local is used loosely since the island shuts down from November to May. If you’re there working for the season, as I did four summers ago, you might as well consider yourself a local. Tourists would routinely flood the island. They were mostly tolerable, except for days when cruise ships would dock, and hundreds of people would exit the boat and fill the shops and restaurants with their demands and impatience.
I remember this island fondly and all the precious memories I made while living on it. It was a transformational summer. I grew more in those three months after my first year of college than I imagined was possible. Now four years later, I reflect on those young, innocent days and realize I was only beginning this journey of creating myself.
Since moving alone during a pandemic, I’ve struggled to feel at home. Visiting my college town feels like home and going to my hometown feels like home, but being here in Nashville alone post – graduation certainly does not feel like home.
I’ve been here a little over five months and I’m starting to finally feel settled. I have a couple of favorite restaurants, weekly routines with new friends, good relationships with my coworkers, and the house I’m living in is filled with my books and plants. But the city itself does not feel like home. It’s too big, with too many tourists and “instaworthy” photo spots. I miss being minutes away from gorgeous hiking spots in the mountains.
In these last five months, I’ve felt like a tourist myself. I don’t know my way around the city, I can hardly seem to remember the names of the places new friends take me – unless I write them down. It doesn’t feel permanent.
One night four years ago, while I was still living in Maine, I decided to go to the sandbar to see if the tide was parted. The wind was lazily blowing, a cool contrast against my tanned skin. The sandbar was out of my way, but I was leaving the island in just a few weeks. Time is a concept I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around.
To my disappointment, the path of shells and rocks was covered by the vast darkness of the sea. I was content that the journey would not be a complete waste of time so I climbed atop the container wall and stared out to the small stretch of land. When my vision adjusted to the darkness I saw two sets of glowing eyes across the water. I locked gazes with a mother deer and her baby.
They had probably walked across the sandbar while the tide was down, lost track of time, or were never aware of it. Now they were forced to spend the night on the small patch of land and wait for the tide to break before they could prance back home. At the time, I was sad for this deer and her young. They were trapped, unable to get home because their only path back was temporarily blocked by Mother Nature. But now looking back, I realize they were home all along. They were together, with a source of water, and enough leaves and twigs to keep their bellies full for the night.
Amongst all the internal and external chaos, I have realized, just like those innocent, clueless deer, I have been home all along, right here, within myself. I have spent years ignoring what my body tries to tell me. I have pushed nervousness away until it has put me in my kitchen floor, choking on anxiety and tears. I have ignored uncomfortable emotions and avoided difficult conversations while pretending everything was fine. I have felt like a tourist in my own skin.
But now, I’ve realized this body is my home; I am my home, and usually, once you realize something like this, you cannot go back.
It won’t be perfect – nothing ever is. Nor will it be permanent – because nothing ever is – but it’s mine. The tattoos, the piercings, the scars, the acne, the stretch marks, the wrinkles and folds, the shape, the texture. All of it is me. Beneath this flesh and these bones, I have found a place to call home. A place of safety, love, and gratitude. No matter what city, town, or state I’m in, I know that even if the external world doesn’t bring me peace, my inner world will always be a place of acceptance and self-love.
It has taken me twenty-two beautiful years of metaphorically staring across the water, helplessly looking for the sandbar, to realize that home has been right here all along.