Avid readers here may already have some idea by now that I've moved around quite a bit within my lifetime. I think this is why I find it effortless to quickly adjust within various surroundings and connect with a diverse group of people. I also think this is why I love to travel so much. There is a sense of excitement and wonder in the midst of the inconsistency of being in one place and then the next.
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and have relocated to a number of cities within the Metro-Detroit area. I've had the pleasure of living in some fairly decent communities and some pretty dangerous ones as well. I've experienced both city life and suburban life. I have attended a total of five grade schools and three high schools and yet still graduated from the same high school that I attended as a freshman.
The experience of being the "new student" (more times than I'd like to have been) was a great challenge. I always felt alienated within my surroundings and struggled with making friends. In fact, during grade school, I'm pretty sure I acquired more enemies than friends. I was the new kid who liked to sit in the front of the classroom and just so happened to be extremely smart - the perfect target for bullies. As scared as I was to face my childhood enemies, I never backed down. I never ran. I always defended myself. I was the Honor Roll student with the worst attendance due to suspensions from fighting.
That all changed in high school though. I made friends much easier than I ever had before and I only got suspended once for a fight during my freshman year. Having a circle of friends felt great although they weren't the ideal teens most parents would want their teens hanging around. It didn't matter to me though. I felt a sense of belonging and that is all that mattered to me. I was introduced to marijuana, alcohol, and skipping school and I participated in it all as a way to cope with issues that I had going on at home. Sex and drugs, this was my community.
Even with a great amount of responsibility at a young age, substance abuse was the norm for me. Work hard, play harder was my motto and I didn't hold back. My friends supported and some even encouraged it all. The social butterfly that I am found a party to go to nearly every weekend and sometimes even during the week. These were fun times and painful ones too. The more pain I experienced influenced how much more "fun" I would find until my idea of fun started to become a scary nightmare. This was a turning point that led me to a journey to healing, creating and self-empowerment.
The initiation into learning how to heal my wounds was one of my greatest challenges. I wanted to do better, but I kept finding myself slipping back into old habits. I started practicing zen meditation on Sunday mornings which meant sacrificing the joys of partying on Saturday nights. There were many times when I gave into temptation and told myself I'd go to the temple the following week, only to find myself convinced by a friend (or a group of friends) to join in on painting the town yet again. I'm pretty sure I've even gone to the temple hung over a couple of times.
I'll be honest, I did not enjoy the experience of sitting still in silence and being present as much as I loved connecting with the community after service. Sitting still was difficult. Everything hurt and my legs fell asleep countless times making it difficult to stand up and walk afterward but it was all worth it when I got the opportunity to connect with the many people that I chanted the "Three Refugees" with. They were all so different and extremely welcoming. I did not know much about any of them and yet they felt like family when we were together. Being within this community exposed me to a new way of connecting with people and I loved it. I had experienced a new sense of belonging.
Being a part of a compassionate and nurturing community was important to me then and is even more important to me now. Community provides grounds for support and co-creation. Coming from a mindset that it was me against the world, learning to open up and connect -without the influence of alcohol or drugs- has been one of the most beautiful parts of this journey. Discovering the many people that are like me, wanting to connect on a higher vibration, love and be loved, express, play, create and so much more is what keeps me inspired and motivated to continue this journey of self-healing and fulfilling my divine purpose in life. For this, I am grateful.