Friday, June 6, 2014

From My Journal: New York to the DMV

There is something that happens to my soul when I step into these three cities: Brooklyn, Berkeley, and Washington, D.C. 

As soon as my body leaves the plane, train, or vehicle, I'm either overwhelmed with anxiety or washed over with a serious calm. 

Brooklyn is home. A suburban kid who was born in the inner city, I often found myself on trains back home to compete in poetry slams and play with my cousins. I walked past brownstones with my parents, swearing that I'd call one home. (I rent a floor in one, now.) As I got older, New York City started to wear on me. During the hustle and bustle of the work rush, the running between sites for work, and listening to the train (every ten minutes) while writing at my desk, I found myself yearning for the quiet of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia). 

I once felt this way about Berkeley, California. I became a teen slam champion and went to VONA there. I'd begun to make preparations to leave; saving money and looking for jobs. When the thought of being that far from my family crossed my mind, I decided against it. Its pull wasn't strong enough for me to abandon my loved ones. 

After this revelation, the DMV became my retreat. I rented a car, every free weekend, and drove down the I-95 filled with the excitement. 

A few weekends ago, I went to see Micah, a few friends, and even had the pleasure of my mother and grandmother following me down. While we strolled through Alexandria, I realized that the DMV always felt like home. It felt more like home than Brooklyn did. 

While I was sitting in a restaurant, trading jokes with my grandmother and mother, I received a text from one of my best friends. 

"I'm watching your social media, while you're on vacay. Stay Riv, you're so much happier there." 

I wished it was that simple. I could've let myself pack my things and leave, several moons ago, but I'd always let something get in the way: My students, the haunting of a past love, a promise with a new one, and just plain fear. 

Even bliss can cause trepidation. My discomfort caused me to strive above and beyond. What if being too comfortable affected my work, my reach? 

My last visit to the DMV brought these notions to the forefront. Seeing my grandmother and mother let go of their burdens and fall in love with the DMV, as I have many times over, made me realize that this could be temporarily home for them too. They could visit me and eventually follow.

My mother stated, "When I retire, I would definitely live here with you."

It felt great to hear her say that. She's always been anti leaving New York. I'm her only baby and she always wants me close by. Taking the short drive down to see me, on my getaway, made her realize that I wouldn't be that far at all. 

Enter memories.


I was afraid to go home. I'd switched my major, without discussing it with my parents, and I'd skipped a few classes to perform. The performances hadn't affected my grades, but my parents were becoming savvy at social media and they started to catch on to my lies. I could no longer tweet about being in Adams Morgan, when I was supposed to be in Hampton, Virginia. From afar I could ignore their calls, but it was spring break and I had no choice but to come home. I pulled off of the highway and drove into Georgetown. I parked my SUV, filled with suitcases and journals, and walked out to the waterfront. I practiced my lines, as I hung over the railing.

"I know journalism is a guaranteed writing route, but I want to write about what I want. I've been writing forever. I can do this." 

"Mom and Dad, you don't understand, performance is breath. If I don't perform, I can't live." 

The terrain grasped on to my imagination. I imagined myself, living in Georgetown, sitting at my desk, grading collegiate creative writing and writing books. This is what I wanted. I was going home to let it be known. 


We stood in the middle of NorthWest yelling at the sky and one another. He tried to pull me back into the party, I pulled him in the direction of the car. I no longer wanted to be a part of his charade. 

"If I go back in, I'm announcing that we're together!"
"What good will that do? Do you think anyone cares?"
"I care. These are your best friends and you just introduced me, as your childhood best friend."
"Aren't you?"
"Not anymore."
"Look...I'm just not ready..."

I grabbed my keys from my purse and drove off, before he could finish his sentence. D.C. was the first place I stood my ground, when it came to the love I wanted. I drove into Maryland, checked into my favorite hotel, and spent the next day writing my frustrations while watching the cherry blossoms come to life. 


It was the first place I went to alone. I once read that whenever Maya Angelou wanted to really focus on her writing, she'd check into a hotel instead of working out of one her multiple fabulous abodes. D.C. was definitely my writing refuge. I'd pack my car or a small bag and I'd write on the ride down, while I was there, and on the way back. I couldn't stop myself if I wanted to. 

I once sat on a bench near the monument and took my journal out. When I'd come into the park, it'd been daylight. When I left, it was nightfall and five hours after I'd sat down. I hadn't even noticed the sun go down. At home, I'm always cognizant of the day's passing. There was something about this environment that left me without a care. 

Perhaps it's remembering the holding of Micah's hands.
It might be the frequent Howard vs. Hampton events. 
It could be the laughter, that won't leave my stomach, as I brunch and hang with my friends who reside here.
It could be the inauguration that aligned with a car crash and broken heart, but still a melancholy upon departing. 
It could be Langston's house in Dupont. 
It's probably the abundance of culture. 
It could be that it was the halfway point, between my alma mater and home. 
It might be the swelling of my tear ducts, every time it's time to leave.

Whatever it is. I'm home, when I'm there. One day, I hope to wrap my arms around the area permanently and let my burdens walk themselves back to Brooklyn. Home doesn't have to be the place you're raised in or the place you reside. Home is the place that is sanctuary. It's the residence in which your heart is full and your spirit content. I'm home, when I cross the Mason Dixon line. I'm ready for a change of scenery.

Where's your getaway?