Free to Roam Miles Away from Home

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Earlier this morning, I was running through Oak Cliff, the predominantly Mexican neighborhood where I live in Dallas. Piñata shops, taquerias and dozens of auto repair shops line the side of the road in Oak Cliff. In many senses, I’m a minority in this community, a community where blonde hair and blue eyes almost always makes heads turn. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Since coming to Dallas, I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do in the Northeast where I grew up and went to college, or in Florida, where I’ve lived for the past year. Stepping outside of my comfort zone — by trying new foods, taking Tejano dance lessons, and going to a Nine Inch Nails concert, for instance — has helped distract me from the friends and family I dearly miss. I wouldn’t say these new experiences have cured my homesickness, but they’ve helped my time here go by faster, they’ve made me like Dallas more, and they’ve helped me grow.

Too often, I think we get stuck in the same routine. We shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, drive to work the same way we always have. Change means having to make adjustments, having to step away from what we know and, sometimes, having to say goodbye. Goodbyes can spark feelings of loss, which can be difficult when what we’ve gained is so good and when what we’ve lost in the past still hurts. There’s comfort, though, in knowing that a temporary goodbye is more so a “see you later” or “so long for now.”

I’m thinking about all this while sitting at a Starbucks in Uptown, one of the ritzier areas of Dallas. It’s only a few miles from Oak Cliff, but culturally and socio-economically, it’s worlds away. Most of the customers here are white, and they’re wearing fancy clothes and carrying Crate & Barrell and Pottery Barn bags. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it reminds me a lot of what I experienced while growing up in a small Boston suburb. And it’s part of the reason why I knew I couldn’t go back there after I graduated from college. I needed to step away from what I’d always known and diversify my life experiences. I needed to prove to myself that I could be on my own and be OK.

Even though the transitions from place to place are tough, they help shape who we are and help us to realize what we like and don’t like, what we’ve been missing out on and, often, how lucky we are. I can’t wait to go back to Florida at the end of October, but rather than waste time longing for the familiarity of a place I’ve come to love, I’m braving unfamiliar territory and embracing change.

What suggestions do you have for helping yourself adjust to a new place?