Have you ever been to a place in the world that immediately felt like home, but it wasn’t…yet.
Or maybe, it was.
Somehow I knew New Zealand before I even stepped off the plane. Somewhere, deep inside, I think I’ve always known.
The first time I saw this country was just a couple of months ago. I was sitting in the backseat of an old car belonging to a person who didn’t know me, but who saw me carrying my life on my back at the airport and offered me a ride. The windows were down and I hadn’t slept in 30 hours, but my whole body broke out in a smile as we drove along. Every cell was vibrating, buzzing, glowing, emitting a light I hadn’t known I possessed. I felt more alive and free and whole than I have in years, or maybe ever.
“What is this?” I wondered.
The answer suddenly welled up from within:
I belong here.
This what it feels like, I realize, to belong.
Without a shadow of a doubt.
I’ve never felt this feeling without having to do something to earn it. Ever. And here I am. On the other side of the world. For the first time ever. Alone. More alone than I’ve ever been.
And in case my faith ever started to waiver in this knowing, there have been signs…everywhere.
A couple of years ago, I was visiting my best friend down in Atlanta and I had this absolutely incredible sweet cream gelato with honey comb crisps folded in. I’d never had anything like it and ever since I’ve been obsessed. Looking everywhere for anything even remotely like it–ordering every honeycomb related product I can get my hands on trying to find something similar.
After only a day-and-a-half in this country I took a shuttle service to Mana Retreat Center on the Coromandel peninsula. On the way, the driver decided to stop at a little cafe for ice cream and coffee. I walked in and saw a flavor called “hokey pokey,” and asked “what’s it all about?” (ha). The guy behind the counter didn’t get the joke, but politely said “It’s vanilla ice-cream with honeycomb.”
I squealed with delight. I HAD TO TRAVEL ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE WORLD TO FIND THIS THING?!
The man looked like me like I was a little nuts, but I didn’t care because I was on cloud nine. He then said to me, “Miss, you know this ice cream is everywhere, right? It’s the classic New Zealand flavor.”
And so it was, on every street corner, sold by every gelateria/bakery/ice cream store in the land.
Earlier in the year I’d also discovered Edison bulbs (look them up) at a beautiful little store in Cincinnati while interviewing for residency. They were charging an arm and a leg for these things, but it seemed justified because I don’t think I’d ever seen them anywhere before and they were so beautiful! “I’ll have to get some for my new house once I move,” I thought to myself and then tucked the thought away.
I noticed them almost immediately here. They’re in every store, every home, every business and because they’re hardly unique, they’re easy to find and dirt cheap in New Zealand. I’m sitting in an Indian restaurant by myself eating Dahl at the moment and in the middle of typing this sentence on my phone (I write whenever, wherever inspiration comes), I look up. Above me dozens of Edison bulbs are hanging from the ceiling.
I literally laugh out loud.
The universe is so funny–sending me tiny signs everywhere, signaling to me that I’m connected, that I’m in the right place at the right time and that maybe my whole life was leading up to this moment
And then it sent me people, like my sweet new friend Clare Fitzgerald, who make sure I’m paying attention–who teach me to tune into, value and trust my intuition and it’s subtle calls to action without needing to search for justification or explanation.
And finally, it gave me a sign so blatant and so powerful there’s no way I could ignore it.
I found this yoga studio–orange and glowy and reverent and sacred–a cozy little shala nestled right in the heart of downtown Birkenhead, Auckland.
I breathed in the thick smell of Nag Champa incense and the the soft candlelight seeped through my closed eyelids. The cadence of my teacher, the owner of this space’s, voice felt familiar and safe and loving. Behind me I noticed an orange wall with a mandala mural and to my right a wall painted black with chalkboard paint. There was chanting and depth and the genuine appreciation of being a conduit for something more.
And I realized, I’ve been here before.
Or another physical manifestation of it’s source, at least. It’s clear across the globe, but it’s the same.
And tonight I taught a class in this studio and the owner, her name is Jennifer, felt it too. Being that it’s a teacher training studio built entirely on the premise of safety and sustainability, she told me how she’s normally very protective of her students and of letting new teachers in, but that she felt called to welcome me and that now she knows why.
Somewhere before, we’ve known and now we remember.
I wonder to myself, if Logan and Jennifer were to meet, would it be the same? The women who built such similar spaces from the very same energy a world apart, taught by different teachers, trained by a different lineage, with entirely different influences–would they realize it too?
I expected coming here to feel foreign and uncertain and maybe a little scary, but it’s not. I hike and explore and eat by myself sometimes without even realizing I’m alone. I do this in the U.S. too of course, because I like to do things on my own, but I’m always acutely aware of it–that I sort of stick out or that it’s not the norm. Maybe, it’s contentment that I’ve found. I could be doing anything anywhere with anyone here and I wouldn’t feel out of place.
We fit, New Zealand and me.
To be honest with you, this realization of belonging is so profound and life-altering that if I wasn’t locked into medical residency in the U.S. I don’t think I’d ever leave. Not because I don’t love what I do or because I’m not unbelievably grateful, but because what’s happened here feels bigger than everything else.
So, I’m leaving.