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March 6, 2014

The Place Where I Grew Up. ~ Emily Bartran

Alice_par_John_Tenniel_06I grew up in a curious place.

It was sometimes so quiet that each rush of breath sounded like a deafening wind, and sometimes so loud that I had to seek out silence in deep, dark corners I never knew existed. Sometimes it felt vast and uncharted and like an endless landscape begging to be explored, and other times it felt so unbearably crowded that a single ray of light did not have room to shine through the tiny spaces that were left to navigate.

I have grown into this place over the last few decades, become familiar with which stairs are creaky, learned which doors open into rooms of light and which open into caves of dark. But, have not forgotten the days of stumbling over loose carpets, removing splinters from the hand that carelessly slid itself up the unfinished railings, and moments of terror induced by feeling utterly lost in the one place I had always counted on to be found.

It is not an unmoving place—it is capable of being transplanted to the current location of my heart, only to discover months later that my heart was in fact misplaced, and that this home of mine is either better suited where it came from, or somewhere else entirely.

It has nurtured me and natured me, depending on which form of care I most needed, whether I knew which I most needed or not.

It has been a reprieve from the outside world, a place to quietly cry, a shadow to duck behind when I want to feel invisible.

When I didn’t want to be invisible, it was where I first found my voice. It was where I constructed and became confident in my identity, and it was the mirror that never failed to show me an honest reflection of that identity, even when I tried to present it dishonestly.

It is both a source of fracture and of wholeness. It is both a fortress of carefully constructed, impenetrable walls and a flimsy, delicate house of cards nervously awaiting its fall. It is contradictory and consistent, unperturbed yet ever-changing, the safest and most dangerous place I have ever known.

Within its walls, I have played hostess to friends and lovers and perfect strangers. I have also turned off all the lights and sat in a staged absence, ignoring knock after knock that came to the door.

Despite many attempts on my behalf to cut all ties, this place has never closed its doors to me, and never judged me when I’ve come crawling back covered in self-pity and repentance. It has never hinted at vengeance, despite my many betrayals, and it has never held a grudge despite the many times I have regarded it with the utmost disrespect.

I am still growing up in this place, each new day that I am alive.

I find that each time I have memorized the intricate patterns of cracks on the ceiling, a wall shifts, and an entirely new pattern is formed, which must be learned and remembered all over again. Just when I have mastered the stealthy art of avoiding each rickety floorboard, its silent counterparts will have found their voices, forcing a new path to be charted and followed.

There are days I still get lost here, days I swear off this place for good (again), and days I am poignantly aware of how lucky I am to have a place like this to call home.

There are others like me, who have grown up in similar places, and there are others who will never understand the solace of a place that is really not a place that all—a place that only becomes a place with awareness, cultivation, and patient attention.

I grew up in an odd, magical, peculiar place, that I more frequently refer to as my mind.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Emily Bartran  |  Contribution: 28,410