Baptism by Baltic
“I feel like you have found home,” my friend responded to my Instagram story. Oh, if only I could call this majestic scene of my cousin’s cliff side manor home.
Where is home, though? This question has haunted me for years; I’m sort of everywhere and nowhere all at once. My things are in Missouri with the greatest mommy in the whole wide world, attached to a permanent address for all official purposes. But even before this new gig, I was rarely home by design. That’s ok— I’ve been a self-proclaimed vagabond long before this bout. I spent more of my adult life in Seattle than anywhere else, pandemic notwithstanding, and I feel more connected with the Pacific Northwest as a whole.
The plan had been to save some money for a down payment and eventually move to Missoula, Montana where my grandparents and a smattering of other family live. The draw of Montana isn’t hard to process; Big Sky country is increasingly popular, and Missoula has a darling hippy vibe. And, much to my dismay, this has been reflected in property values. The real estate market everywhere is nuts, and I was naïve to think that this would be an easy foray into homeownership.
I’ve decided to suspend my housing endeavor, only because I simply can’t afford it. That’s embarrassing and frustrating all in the same. I want to be somewhere. I’m not asking for a McMansion or a sprawling estate— I just want a cute dwelling, one to put my dumb little trinkets and perhaps have a guest or two stay. Lord knows over the course of the past decade, I’ve mooched off benevolent friends, sleeping on couches or occupying extra rooms. I only wanted to return the favor, and now it’s exceedingly out of reach. I feel indebted and ashamed that I cannot give back in the way that has been graciously extended to me.
I’m also in that weird spot where I don’t want to pay rent anymore—I want my money to go toward something useful, particularly when I’m not home half the month. It would be a different story if I had a 9 to 5 and utilized the space, but I was not destined for that. When I envision my future, I still see myself being nomadic, perhaps leading an intercontinental lifestyle (preferably north of 47º of latitude).
Rewind a bit to my time in Sweden. I had hours upon hours to gaze at the sea, and something called on me to jump in. I’m bizarre, I know. But I’ve heard of ice baths for a long time, and their supposed health benefits seemed helpful— a reduction in anxiety and depression, plus a circulatory system shock. So what the hell. Why not.
I eyed it for a few days. Of course, I was nervous— about the cold, about walking down a treacherous slope, about how deep it was, about the current washing me away, about swimming back to shore, and well, about the walk back up the cliff with slippery shoes.
But then I did it. And my body panicked as I plunged and resurfaced. I was gasping for air, swallowed some sea water, but I begged myself to give it a second. And then another. And then another. The ladder to the dock was right there, and I regained control of my breathing. “Ok. Ok.” I told myself. All the sensations, my skin tingling, my heart racing, came into view: surrendering isn’t so much giving up, but more of letting go.
While I’m bummed to put Montana on hold for the moment, I’m open to other possibilities. I still just want to be somewhere, though, and put some roots down; cultivating community (that isn’t online) is far more difficult when one is continually on the road. And this is the life I’ve chosen, let’s be clear, but I’d like to find the middle ground of being in one place and being all over the place— how easy it would be to dissolve into the ether that is this job.
I even floated for a bit, just to see if I could stand it. The water couldn’t have been more than 45ºF, as the summer sun hadn’t had time to heat it up. This Baptism by Baltic was a lesson in ceremony, that anything can have an applied meaning. On the outside, I looked like a lunatic jumping into the sea, but internally it was washing me with a renewed spirit— to let go into the unknown and, eventually come back. I’ll come home someday.