To Lafayette/West Lafayette,
Thank you for a lovely childhood. For introducing my parents to one another, for teaching me about all of the wonderful ways to explore downtown, cross-culture, language, art and family. You contain memories of my first friends, but also of my angry teens and my isolated, terrified first college years. We have a history, but much of it is unpleasant.
However, I feel cramped when I visit now, and I truly hope I never live within your confines again.
You taught me about mass-transport. You introduced me to authentic Indian food, and eating from a street stall. I bought my first adult beverage on your doorstep, and I fell in love with travel.
You’re a bit gloomy, I’m afraid, so it’s hard for me to stay too long. Seeing you is like walking back into a cozy corner, and I will always treasure the moments we’ve shared.
My time in your city walls opened my eyes to true suffering. I learned about being grateful in the midst of both natural and familial disasters. I learned to laugh in the midst of confusion, and I discovered how to communicate with people who don’t speak my language. I saw joy not determined by circumstances, and practiced dancing in the streets at midnight.
Your smile left such a mark on my heart.
I learned Spanish in your midst. I’ve never experienced such frustration and exhaustion in my life, nor such excitement and freedom on the other side. I fought many wars in this city – with my past, my friends, my present, my God and the future. I made many plans, was hurt many times, was forgiven and in turn forgave a lot in my time with you. You’re such a strange place, and I forget about the transformation that began when we were together…
I hope one day to return.
Ooph. What exhaustion. You saw me stumble through Spanish, trip over freedom, fight the system and embrace the culture. I made lifelong friends, and just a few enemies, in the two months I called you home. I spent my days in a church, and learning to love when I preferred a nap.
And you loved me back. Thank you.
You. You were never my first choice. I lived in your NapTown embrace and I grew up. For the first time ever, I paid my own way. I went to school and I cooked my own meals. I made friends without introductions or years of similar circumstances. I chose my own church, and left it, too. I re-ignited old friendships and watched many of them meet the love of their lives. For the first time ever, I partied, I ran, I joined a gym, I drank too much and cried too often. I was hurt and I hurt others, but I grew.
I began deciding what I believed without a formal program or even strong family influence. I chose life. I found incredible diversity, and experienced racism. I discovered Activism, Non-profits, Hypocrisy, Social justice, Choices.
I was a College Student.
I turned into an adult in the center of your tiny circle.
Words cannot express how much I miss you these days. Our time together turned my worldview upside down and twisted it around. I discovered and joined a self-made family for the first time ever. In the midst of extreme poverty, you wiped away all of my jadedness. You scrubbed me clean, pulled all of my insecurities to the surface and calmed my heart. You gave me new vision and refreshed me, with your filthy streets and putrid air.
You reminded me that Laughter is truly Worship. You nudged me to Love when I preferred to Hate. You forced me to speak, and Speak kindly. You didn’t let me stay in the Shadows, and you helped me Dance again. In a city of Timidity, you showed me how to be Bold.
I will never be the same.