I spent much of my summer, as I have for the last 3 summers, frolicking in my hometown of Mashpee, Massachusetts; a quiet, mostly unknown little town on Cape Cod, nestled between the bigger presences of Falmouth and Hyannis. A place unique for its rich and wonderful Native American culture with the Wampanaog tribe calling its marsh-lined shores home, for the wood shingled houses, many of which, unlike the rest of the Cape are occupied by year round residents, rather than “summer people”. It’s anchored by a village-like shopping center, The Mashpee Commons, that is a collective of boutiques, with a couple more widely known “chains”, a movie theater, an organic grocery store, the library my Grandmother helped commission to be built, sidewalk cafes and New England-y pubs.
For the couple of months a year we leave behind bustling Nashville to go to Cape Cod, we try to pretend we’re like the locals- especially me, attempting to knit myself back into the town that made me, often awkwardly and unsuccessfully- lowering our heads slightly in embarrassment when it’s revealed that we, ourselves, might indeed now qualify as “summer people”- the loathed city folk who occupy the otherwise quiet two lane roads, demand faster service, better product, or something else that feels finicky and snobbish to the locals for the 2 months a year they descend on our Northeastern peninsula. This year, we made every effort to live like we might if we were there full time. Shaun joined a gym he fell in love with more than any other gym either of us have ever belonged to. We hired an excellent babysitter and worked diligently on our business remotely, every single weekday. We visited new local restaurants, reconnected with old friends, spent as much time as humanly possible on or by the ocean. We forwent almost every “tourist” activity, and instead devoted our days to testing the limits of our sunscreens, and the evenings laughing over family dinners with my mom and dad, aunts, uncles and cousins, old friends and family friends.
It felt good. Really good.
Things slowed down. Even our business, which typically feels frantic and 100 miles per hour, was managed seamlessly by our team in Nashville, with us serving as escalation points when necessary. It felt like we were breathing for the first time in months. Maybe years. Even in the rumble of juggling 2 kids, revolving childcare providers, a remote business, and (surprise!) a new pregnancy, there was some kind of peace we found in my hometown by the sea.
New Englanders have an undeniable edge to them- a brininess that feels like the ocean; beautiful, incomprehensible, the result of seeing many storms, and standing strong in all of them. They are kind, but not formally polite. They are genuine. Deep. Unapologetic. Rooted. Nashville, conversely, is like living in an Instagram story. Most people feel a little too beautiful to be real, a little too nice to be kind. I have some extraordinary friends in Nashville, so don’t misunderstand how deeply I’ve come to love this place and its people. I love the shininess of this city. The hustle of it. The seeming reality that absolutely anything is possible, and anyone can start or do anything that could be successful, if not impactful. The women I watch walk through The Gulch (the neighborhood I’ve half-affectionally dubbed as “Little LA”) are more stunning than I could ever hope to be. They all look like “influencers” (many of them are) and they seem to ooze some kind of glossy finish I wouldn’t have the first clue how to even seek, let alone achieve (and trust me, I’ve tried).
And this all makes me wonder who, and what, and where I am and meant to be.
Because, I feel a bit like an imposter in both worlds- the one I came from and the one I came to.
I’ve been listening to 3 Brené Brown books simultaneously, so I’m not sure which one this came from, but in it, she references a Maya Angelou interview in which the exchange went:
MAYA ANGELOU: You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…
BILL MOYERS: Do you belong anywhere?
MAYA ANGELOU: I haven’t yet.
BILL MOYERS: Do you belong to anyone?
MAYA ANGELOU: More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.
I don’t know that I’m as enlightened as Dr. Maya Angelou, nor do I imagine I ever will be. But I think this may be a good thing to try to work towards.
The truth is, I am a daughter of the ocean and the culture from the shores around it. I believe in honesty- many times in lieu of tact, although the Southern world I live in has polished my rougher edges to some degree. I believe in realness and depth. I loved lying on the beaches of Massachusetts and seeing freckled, curvy, wrinkled, worn, used, loved, cared for, neglected, beautiful, real bodies skipping through the surf and dancing through the dunes. They are me. It felt I finally saw myself reflected, which I don’t very often in Nashville. I am Cape Cod, with the influence of Nashville, rather than Nashville with the roots of Cape Cod, if there’s a difference, and I think there is.
I’m happier than I’ve ever been in and with my life. Mostly, because I am loved so well and have such a powerful support system surrounding me always. My forever heartache may live in the reality that I might never fit in in any one place ever again. But, maybe none of us do. And maybe none of us ever did.
Maybe “home” is the place we decide most represents who we are in the moment we’re in. I’m not sure where that is for me right now. And I’m ok with living in the “in between”. The “not yet”.
As I sit this morning in a buzzing coffee shop in a part of Nashville that 3 years ago I wouldn’t have even considered driving through, let alone sitting in, I find myself smiling at the polite 20-somethings who are effortlessly and exponentially cooler than I ever have been or ever will be, wondering if (and knowing that) they almost definitely are, or will, feel the same way I do. After all, have you ever met anyone that feels like everything is 100% as they want it to be or as they planned?
Some of us wear prettier disguises than others. Some of us are more polite, more polished. Some of us are better at hiding, and maybe (although I doubt it), some of us are more like Dr. Maya and just come to accept complex conclusions earlier and more easily than others.
Today, my heart is open. I miss “home”- wherever that is. I ache for the sea, and the shelter of my extended family, and loathe the traffic I sat in this morning and the heat that will wash over me when I leave this air conditioned building. I wish I was more, and less all at once, but I’m grateful for where I am in this moment. I’m grateful for a life where my identity and my hometown can be fluid, even when I resent that it is. And I hope, in time, I realize that I, too, belong to myself. And maybe that’s enough.