Homesick? Create a New Comfort Circle

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I didn’t like Dallas when I first moved here. I remember walking around downtown near The Dallas Morning News building and thinking, “There’s nothing to do here!” But that was before I realized how sprawling Dallas is. That was before I really gave the city a chance.

Everything in Florida had been going well, so when I arrived in Dallas at the end of July for an internship at The Dallas Morning News I felt uprooted, scattered, and lost. I arrived in the newsroom the day buyouts were announced, I didn’t know my way around the city, and every face I saw looked unfamiliar. Dallas is a big city for a girl who lived most of her life in a small Massachusetts suburb. I’ve found, though, that the old cliche about time is true: it really does heal. It took me about a month, but I now feel more comfortable here and have actually started to like it.

Part of what has helped me make the transition is knowing that I’m going back to Florida. Leaving a place that feels like home makes you realize how much you took for granted while you were there — the lifestyle, the familiarity, the relationships. But it also makes you realize how much more there is to see outside your circles of comfort. These circles keep us focused, shape our lives and help us survive. (I often think of Sara Crewe, the main character in my favorite childhood book, A Little Princess. After Sara’s boarding school director made her a servant and forced her to live in an attic, Sara drew a circle on the attic floor. Within that circle, she felt safe.)

But these circles can also engulf us, making our lives so cyclical that we trap ourselves in the same routine day after day, week after week, month after month. Going to Dallas has helped me create new comfort circles in unfamiliar territory. I’ve taken on new hobbies, tried new foods, and explored new places. To keep track of my explorations, I started a list of all the fun places I’ve visited. Here are some of the places I’ve been throughout the past week:

Kalachandji’s — A Hare Krishna temple with a gift shop and Indian restaurant attached to it. The temple is open to anyone who wants to worship there, or just catch a glimpse of the ornate decorations. And I’d highly recommend the restaurant. I normally don’t like Indian food, but it’s all vegetarian, and it’s not loaded with curry. The restaurant is cafeteria style and reasonably priced. And the dessert is delicious, too.

Central Market — This grocery store is like Whole Foods on steroids. It’s full of organic food, fresh produce, gelato, and salad bars. It’s also a haven for fruit mix fanatics. There are bins upon bins of different kinds of fruit mixes that customers can scoop into plastic bags. Same goes for coffee beans and candy. Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite part: Free samples! I left feeling full.

Southside on Lamar’s Jeanette Kennedy Gallery — I took a free yoga class here Sunday night. I had only done yoga once before and wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but I found it to be incredibly relaxing. I listened as the instructor guided the class through the motions. “Inhale. Exhale. Oooowwwwwm,” he said. “Breathe, smile. 🙂 Breathe, smile. 🙂 Pretend as though your brain is falling to the back of your head. Relax.” At times I felt funny, my head hanging between my knees, my arms and hands folded in a knot. But by the end of it, my body felt like jello, and my mind felt at rest.

The Buffalo Exchange — Lately, I’ve become more interested in fashion. Maybe it’s all the talk at work about the paper’s coverage of New York’s fashion week. Or maybe it’s the fashionable girls and guys I see walking around the city streets. I like to look, but I don’t buy. I found both fashion and frugality at the Buffalo Exchange, though. There are lots of stylish clothes here with price tags that didn’t make me cringe. I ended up buying three cute dresses and a pair of yellow hoop earrings for $50. Not a bad deal.

NorthPark Center — This mall is huge, and it’s a great place to people watch. For a while, I was walking behind a little old man, who seemed as though he was doing his speed walking workout for the day. At another point, I walked behind a group of five ladies who were all wearing over-sized T-shirts and hats that had pink and purple strands of hair attached to them. Then there were the women in Barneys New York who were buying $600 dresses. I walked inside the store, just so I could say I’d been there. Naturally, I gravitated toward the sales rack. Wow, a T-shirt for “only” $199! This store, and many of the other stores in the mall, are a little too pricey.

Snider Plaza — This outdoor shopping center near Southern Methodist University has cute little boutiques, nail salons and restaurants. It’s three blocks long and great if you’re looking for a shopping area that isn’t dominated by designer stores. I like the names of some of the stores here: “The Blues Jean Bar,” “Goo Goo Eyes,” “Peek in the Attic” and “Peggy Sue BBQ,” (which I’ve heard is pretty good). Heck, there’s even a snoring center. (What?!)

The Crow Collection of Asian Art — Located in downtown Dallas, this collection is worth a look. The museum currently has an impressive display of Chinese art from private collectors in Texas. There are photographs, paintings, sculptures and more. The museum is free of charge, making for a cheap and cultural experience.

Nasher Sculpture Center — This outdoor museum features sculptures from artists such as Edgar Degas and Picasso. I expected there to be more sculptures, but I still enjoyed what I saw. Sculptures, I found, seem more beautiful in the outdoors. Sunshine and shadows fall on them, creating an interesting balance of light and darkness depending on the time of day. My favorite sculpture in the center is called “Walking to the Sky.” Sculpted by Jonathan Borofsky in 2004, the piece features seven life-size figures walking up a 100-foot stainless steel post. It looks as though they’re walking on clouds, determined to reach the sun.

In the month-and-a-half that I’ve been in Dallas, I’ve seen a lot. But there’s still so much more to see …

Weigh in: What recommendations do you have for things to do/places to see in Dallas?

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