Moving to a new state after twenty-two years firmly established in a tight-knit community of friends and family is eye-opening. While I’m deeply grateful to be studying what I love at a new school and embarking on stimulating adventures, there are a few attendant challenges. I sometimes feel a tug of homesickness for my family, and for the comfort of the known. Oddly enough, one of the most effective ways I’ve found so far of fending off these feelings has been to stick stubbornly and exactingly to the small rituals of beauty I built at home. I’m still not sure why something as simple as polishing my nails or writing a letter by hand can so reliably make such a positive change to my frame of mind, but it never fails.
Perhaps it’s because, in a new place, surrounded by novel influences and pressures, the carefully drawn edges of my sense of self grow blurred and fragmented, and these small, familiar routines restore an air of familiarity to my life. Perhaps by being an almost militant femme in my personal space is my own way of pushing back against the mundane daily difficulties that can seem overwhelming. Or perhaps I am just restored by the beauty of these small things and moments that make day-to-day life a celebration instead of an inconvenience.
In any case, I am grateful. Grateful for the few, precious trinkets that I was able to bring from home as talismans in this new world—for the tiny, beaded ballet slippers my aunt gave me as a child, the carved wooden type block with my initial “M” standing out boldly from its square base, and the large crystal wineglasses that were a birthday gift years ago from a dear friend. These things, scattered around my plain little studio provide touchstones in the moments when I feel disconnected, adrift in a sea of possibilities that are both tantalizing and confusing.
Likewise, the time I snatch greedily from the day for my own private rituals of self reiterate an intimate, constant reminder of who I am. The moments I take in the morning arranging my clothes, my jewelry, my hair—these moments sustain me for the rest of the day. I feel cared for, content in solitude or company, while the scent of my perfume floats in and out of my consciousness, an invisible armor of sensuality. By attending to these details, small and frivolous as they may be, I am thus able to create a more gracious reality for myself to inhabit, a refuge from all that would ail me. And by doing so, I make this new, wild, strange place my beautiful home.