This Fall I’m calling all parts of myself home

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By Fola Onifade

I arrived in Philadelphia at the very start of Mercury retrograde, excited to see my best college friends for our 5-year reunion and energized by the prospect of running around campus like we used to all those years ago. I had taken the train down from New Jersey, where I was staying with my family in my childhood home as we collectively regained our footing from a health diagnosis that had thrown all our lives for a loop. Outside in the real world, everyone was moving on too: from the pandemic; the racial reckoning; the Trump years. Everywhere I looked, we were all trying to put the past behind us and move forward.

There were a lot of unanswered questions in my life when I first arrived on campus for the reunion, but I didn’t want to focus on the uncertainty. I just wanted to dance, laugh, reminisce, and maybe even hit it off with someone I had never noticed while in undergrad. But Mercury was in retrograde and things didn’t go according to plan. While at brunch with my friends, I received a text notification from my credit card company that someone had tried to swipe my card at a Target store in downtown Philly. I hadn’t even realized I’d lost my wallet until that moment, and after multiple attempts to retrieve my belongings, I could only think of one thing left to do: get still.

We returned to our Airbnb and I went upstairs to my room to breathe. If I had learned anything from the past year, it was the importance of grounding and centering myself in the midst of chaos. So, I sat down on the bed, closed my eyes, and began to listen to what my body had to say.

As I felt the distress about my missing wallet wash over me, I began to think about everything I lost that year: a long-term relationship and the future we were building together, the life my family knew before our world was turned upside down. I lost access to a “permanent address” and mail-forwards became my way of staying up to date on my correspondences. But as I sat grieving both the material and intangible pieces of my life that were no longer what they used to be, I felt a nudge in the back of my brain reminding me that anything that truly belonged to me could never be taken from me and that as long as I was alive and breathing, I had the most important thing. During that meditation, I began to call home all parts of myself—all the parts I had walled off or forgotten how to reach—I invited them home.

Calling myself home looks different depending on what I need in the moment. Sometimes, it means lying in bed and letting my inner child express how she’s feeling. Or wearing a fuzzy robe and slippers and sipping on chamomile and rose tea that warms me from the inside out. At other times, it’s listening to a song that invites the quiet, sensitive parts of me to feel confident enough to take up more space or to let the parts of me that are still getting comfortable with anger express themselves. I am still new to this practice of learning to find home within myself, of believing that this body can be and is a safe space for me to ground myself. But after a challenging year filled with uncertainty and fear and anger and pain, finding home within myself has been both a refuge and a fountain of growth.

Before I left Philadelphia that weekend, a Good Samaritan did eventually find my wallet and leaped through hoops to return the mostly empty leather pouch back to me. And while I’m so grateful to have my wallet back, I know I’ve gained so much more than I have lost this year.

Fola Onifade is a staff writer for Democracy in Color, a nonprofit media organization at the intersection of race and politics. In her creative work, she crafts stories that explore and celebrate the realities of African diaspora women.

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