I Left Home, But I’m Returning As A Different Me

Olivia Gaughran
3 min readNov 16, 2019

The adrenaline of being seen and felt and discovered by new voices feels like a rebellion. What part of this emotional insurrection is about me?

I HAVE BEEN UP LATE, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE RHYTHM I WANT TO LIVE IN.

I am warming and cooling and pushing viciously against what I’ve built in Seattle, brought to Sydney, and lost in the process — it seems like the only truth I’m capable of relying upon are my own choices. It is painful to be the boss of my own words. Here, there is a twisting vulnerability in knowing what I want to say and saying it. It sticks me against the wall and says, “This is what I believe. What you do with it is up to you, but this is what I have to say.” And then suddenly, you have identified yourself and where you stand and the words you’ve used are no longer yours to keep inside — you are identified.

AND PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU.

But being identified is a beautiful feeling, even with the criticism and the jokes and the judgment that becomes instantly available when I am clear about what I think, and who I am. The beautiful thing underneath all of that is that there are people I’m constantly discovering and understanding, who want to discover and understand me as well. I am identified and it is like tender lightning, softly electric and dangerously beautiful.

I AM REBELLING AGAINST WHAT I KNOW.

Because I have come to this city with a boy who I know, who I know very well — who feels like family. And, like I knew beforehand but did not truly understand the gravity of until now, I have met many strangers who are becoming part of this story of mine. The adrenaline of being seen and felt and discovered by new voices feels like a rebellion. What part of this emotional insurrection is about me? I feel like I’m getting to know my shadow, and she has new things to say which aren’t always pretty or coherent or able to be packaged up into an article that tells a story from its logical start to finish. Some of them feel like a riptide that I’m curious to get pulled out to sea by; a chaotic tug towards choices I’ve never made before. Like I’m writing poetry with my choices and how I spend my time and who I’m drawn towards.

I am learning that I am capable of being alive, with or without the people who need me. The way my lungs sigh after a lost fight and a slammed door makes me unsure of this life I’ve created. Who needs anyone? Do I need anyone? What do I need?

WHAT DO I NEED?

I am breaking down what I know and need and want, and the answers aren’t so clear anymore. Isn’t that the point of leaving and coming home? I’m not coming home to the same Seattle, because the person who left it is in a process of reimagination — there are new ways to be, see, think, and feel — and I’m finding them all at once. Overwhelming. I wish there was more time, less time. More choices, less choices. More change, less.

The waves break hard on the shore, but the ocean is gentle on the life that swims beneath the surface. The sun burns unprotected skin, but softly warms the living room. The Europeans heckle the American stranger, but drink and dance with the international friend. Belonging is a feeling that I thought I understood, but I am caught between being and belonging in every way.

I AM IDENTIFIED HERE, AND THIS IDENTITY IS A WAR BETWEEN INTEGRITY AND ART.

Meaningful conversations have my mind spinning until three in the morning because there are beautiful friendships keeping me up that late without meaning to. Isn’t that exciting? There are different energies thrilling me awake — and I am alive for feeling.

I wish this half-baked letter could sing me to sleep, because I have a feeling that I’m not going to be getting very much of it tonight.

Today was hard.

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Olivia Gaughran

Medical anthropologist, editor, and creator of The Olly Project @ theollyproject.com! Probably reading bell hooks or taking a long walk.