Prompt: What don’t you want to go back to?
“I’m taking you back to the very place you suffered shame and defeat and you will have victory.”
A couple of years ago, I came across this old journal entry. At the time I wrote it, it spoke to me about my return to Arizona in 2018. Heavy, profound, life & family altering changes happened during my first stay in Arizona in the 1980s. When I stumbled upon this message a couple of years ago, I had just returned to Milwaukee after sixteen years away. This time, a return to all the places, people and things that have impacted my life seemed to be the warning and lesson.
I don’t know what the victory is, but I know the promise is that I won’t die in defeat. My end won’t come while I’m low. If I’m not shouting for joy now, I need only hold on because the morning will certainly come.
The first time I left Arizona, I vowed never to return. I was thirteen. It’s now a place I think of as an ideal home for myself. A place I want to settle in before retirement so I can build a community to age with before old age keeps me in place.
The last time I left Milwaukee, I swore I was done with it. I was thirty. Yet when I came back in 2021, Milwaukee was the most promising city for me as a new real estate investor. Among other cities, my top considerations were Atlanta, Baltimore and Detroit. Anywhere may have been a profitable choice, but I knew none of those cities intimately. However, I understood Milwaukee – it’s markets, culture, neighborhoods and its people. It’s biases. I remembered where it was twenty and thirty years ago. I was beyond excited about recent, current and future development projects. More importantly, I could afford to buy in a neighborhood that was one minute from the interstate, ten minutes from most major points in the metro area, and adjacent to a neighborhood I wanted to work myself into.
When I left New York City, the mantra that drove me was, “I’m not going to die here!” I was forty-three. New York is where I first became my most authentic self. I was able to push boundaries, explore concepts, sample possibilities, and dismantle walls boxing me in identities I wasn’t sure represented me. It’s where I was most alive even when the City began to feel like a gilded cage. Six months after selling my co-op apartment and completing my relocation to the Tortolita Mountains in Southern Arizona from East Harlem, the Covid-19 lockdown began. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be a shut-in during a global quieting.
How we begin our journey is no indication of how we will end it. How we leave a place, people or situation doesn’t mean we will return the same way – stuck in our hurts, frustrations, disappointments or soaring on triumphs and memories of greatness. If we are open to change, not only will we evolve but the way we interact with the world will bring opportunities we never could have imagined the first time around. As our perspective expands, life forms everywhere we look and joy becomes an expectation.
- Where is the one place you are determined never to return to? Why? Is it fear based? Shame? Regret? Whatever the reason, have you confronted and explored it?
- What is the best lesson learned after you returned to a place you didn’t want to go back to?
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