It’s Where The Heart Is

I was uprooted last December.

Weston FL

I was excited to be back in South Florida celebrating Christmas after a one-year hiatus when I found out that my parents — divorced over 10 years, but always living within 10 minutes of each other — were moving back to their respective home countries. They were both living in Latin America by February. All of a sudden, Christmas 2014 became my last Christmas at home, for real this time. (Not “my last Christmas at home before college, x, y, or z.”)

Not only did I have to essentially mourn the loss of my parents’ proximity to me, but I also had to mourn the loss of my hometown. Yes, it’s still there to visit, but it won’t be the same. I don’t know when I’ll be back, and when I am, I won’t get to stay at my mom’s house, or in my childhood bedroom. Those roots are gone. It’s a moment I knew would eventually come, but I wasn’t expecting at 24.

Now, I’m really not sure what “home” means. My place of origin will always be Florida. The familiarity is comforting — the friends, the food, the Publix stores, the humidity, the mazes of highways that I can’t drive but are still etched into my mind. But it’s not my home base anymore, and I never necessarily fit into the stereotype: the hustling, the glamour, the swag that South Florida thinks it’s all about.

Is Philly my home? That would imply that I consider myself a Philadelphian, but I don’t. Arguing about what makes someone a “true” Philadelphian (or New Yorker, Miamian, etc.) is neither here nor there, but it’s not a way I choose to identify myself right now.

For me, it keeps coming back to the idea of love and friendship. For the most part, when I’m with my friends — from growing up, or college, or now Philly  — and my family — Nick and Zamboni included — I feel happy and at peace. For now, that feeling is home. I’m laying down roots again, and who knows how long or how deep these will take hold.

Over Colombia

This past Saturday, I flew to see my mom in Colombia: the first time I’m here in four years, the first time I’ve been here since my grandparents passed away, and the first time I’ve been here since my mom made her old home her new home. It’s been less than 48 hours, but it feels different. Some of the places and faces have changed, and I have a new place to call home (for a week): my mom’s apartment, where I can be myself and speak English as freely as I want.

On the trip down, I had the briefest of layovers at the Miami airport. It felt completely foreign to my body — I’ve never had the need for a layover there in my life. It was always the start of my adventure or my final stop, not a stepping stone. I spent most of my time back in Miami waiting in line at a Cafe Versailles stand. The guava pastelito I bought, that tasted like home too. 

Her Campus Drexel Panel Discussion

Earlier this spring, I had the exciting opportunity to speak to Drexel University’s Her Campus chapter as a panelist for a Women in Journalism discussion. When the Her Campus Drexel team reached out to me, I honestly thought they had the wrong person. My day job is in marketing, which is definitely media-related, but it’s not what I expected to build my career in when I was studying journalism. (Actually, at Fordham, marketing wasn’t even included as a communications concentration — it was a business major!)

Honestly, I was tempted to decline the invitation — what advice do I have offer soon-to-be college grads, when my professional life hasn’t gone as planned? Then, I remembered that my New Year’s resolution was to push myself, so I said yes. I put the panel on the back burner, and the week of the event I found out who else was on the panel: Katy Zachry, a NBC10 reporter; Jenice Armstrong, a Daily News columnist; Aubrey Nagle, a Philly Voice producer…and me. I freaked out again, sucked it up and went along with it.

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

Being back on campus, even if it wasn’t my college campus, was bizarre, especially since I now felt an expectation to be some sort of authority figure. Two years ago, I was still a student, feeling over school but also over my head about the real world. So I totally surprised myself when I had answers to students’ questions, and when they seemed to be receptive to some of my advice. Just craziness.

Listen, I never really wrote about it much here, because I was too busy living it, but the college graduation transition is difficult. There are so many decisions to make, and I ended up choosing my personal life over my professional life. It may have seemed unwise to some, but it didn’t mean I was entirely discounting the latter for the former. I was not in the place where I was ready to throw away a relationship to pursue a difficult career path I wasn’t 200% sure about (because that’s the attitude you need to make it in print or digital journalism). Of course, ideally, I wouldn’t have to choose, but that’s not how life works. I think it’s good for young women (and men) to hear that, and know that it’s okay to make the unpopular choice.

Since I made that choice in my own life, I’ve had my moments of doubt and uncertainty, but I haven’t had regrets. There were sacrifices I was willing to make (leaving New York) and sacrifices where I drew the line (uprooting every 1-2 years to move to a different market). Being able to say that aloud to a crowd of 30 or so students, though, made me realize how much I meant it. Afterwards, Katy and Jenice (who are well-establsihed in their respective careers) told me how interesting they found my perspective, and I was super appreciative of that.

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

And obviously, I learned lots from my fellow panelists (I mean, I’m only 24). I think HC Drexel did a great job organizing the event, because we were four women in different media tracks at completely different points in our careers. It was inspiring hearing how Katy and Jenice dealt with inequalities in the workplace (not so great that that’s still an issue…). Our advice on how students can get started in the media world was also so different, which was pretty cool. One student even came up to me afterwards to ask more questions, which was the coolest!

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

Thanks again Kiarah and the whole HC Drexel for having me! It was a great learning experience, and I hope the students got as much out of the evening as I did.

~ Sarah

Cinco

How’s this for crazy: I published my first post here on Shades of Sarah five years ago. Five. Years. Ago. I was still a teenager! Twitter was just starting to become a mainstream medium, and Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist yet.

#canteven

Shades (as my college friends lovingly refer to this space) was not my first foray into blogging. Back in eighth grade (which, oh my goodness, was 11 years ago) I started a Xanga because well, a friend I met on a cruise had a Xanga, so obviously I needed a Xanga to stay in touch with her. My theme colors were hot pink and lime green because, duh, I still worshipped at the alter of Lizzy McGuire. (Really feel like I’m aging myself here.)

I guess I’ve always been a new media geek. Along with Xanga, I participated in a few online forums, like Craftster during my pre-Pinterest DIY phase. I remember being part of another independent forum where teen girls chatted about boys, shopping and celebrities after YM (now I’m really dating myself) folded its own forums.

Oh man. I even had a Neopets account. (It was the best, but if my full on geekiness has overwhelmed you, it’s okay if you close your browser window.)

I rediscovered what I would say are more contemporary blogs (because this medium is always always changing) my second semester of college. I remember Googling what to wear to class on cold, rainy days, because as a Floridian I was (and remain) fully unequipped to deal with the weather in the northeast. I landed on CollegeFashion.net, and it was like a whole new world opened up.

After a few months of reading CF and a few other personal style blogs, I decided I was ready to throw my proverbial hat in the ring. When I was home from college, I brainstormed names and registered on WordPress while watching Roy Halladay dismantle the then-Florida Marlins. My first header was an image of lavender fields pulled from We Heart It.

My, have times changed.

The first summer I blogged, I wrote about anything and everything: politics, baseball, the World Cup, the environment, shopping, movies, Colombian candy. Some of those early posts are still some of my favorite. Now the ideas behind my blog are slightly more in focus (see the tagline above), but I still love all those things. I have Frunas on my kitchen table and I get excited when I get home in time for the evening news.

And offline? Wow. I did my first internship (serendipitously, at Xanga, and partly thanks to my blog) and too many more after that, but at some of the coolest places. I acquired like 12 roommates (not all at once). I fell in love. I wrote a thesis (for a degree) and presented my own research (on bloggers!) to an audience (for fun). I volunteered in San Diego and the Dominican Republic. I graduated college. I moved to a new city. I started over. I got my first part-time job, and eventually a my first full-time job. I adopted a dog. I was a bridesmaid. I learned (a lot) and I grew up (some).

Five years is a long time, but one constant has been this space. So thank you. Thank you to my real life friends, my online friends, the lurkers, and the friends that are all of above. Thank you for reading, commenting, emailing, favoriting a tweet or liking an Instagram, telling me you liked that thing I wrote and not making fun of me (to my face). To be honest, I do this for myself, but you guys make it even better.

So I propose that on this rainy Monday (excellent start to June, right?), we all treat ourselves, whether it’s to some wine or gummi bears, because you rock just for reading this. I treated myself to this pretty new online space (and maybe a chai latte), so I say it’s only fair.

Thank you,
Sarah