28

Oh, 28. You were so many things. Brought in on a brisk night in Paris. Dinner celebrations at a hip Mexican restaurant in Montmartre, with a moody Frenchman by my side. We shared tacos and had a single margarita each. The salt stung my lips, as the reality of our time together ending sunk in. Tears formed as we walked back to the apartment, with subtle attempts to casually wipe them away. But smudged mascara made it obvious. My sadness, on some level, wanting to be known. 

The previous three months had been spent adventuring throughout Europe. Little plans besides beginning with a yoga retreat in Tuscany. I was no stranger to leaving my life for long stretches of the unknown. New languages, new loves- seemingly waiting for me around each corner of the map. But I wasn't quite prepared for the boredom I would experience. The way travel was no longer hitting like it once had. For as long as I can remember, trains and planes got me high in a way that other things couldn't. Until suddenly, on the precipice of 28, my drug stopped working. 

I returned to New York, mourning the loss of a man I had practically created in my mind. Attempting to figure out a way to turn my trip into an endless summer. A summer that had been weighed down by internal struggles. The desire for something more than I was experiencing. I was left with a mirage of memories. They would visit me randomly throughout the day. The rushing sound of the subway and the way the light in Berlin was the bluest blue at 5 o'clock in the morning. My friend's voice, the one who I traveled with for a month. And fought with over a shrimp and french fry lunch in Croatia. The boys and their faces. Names that meant nothing. And then names that meant everything. But would also, at some point, become meaningless.

I started taking medication again. Weighed down by the worries and sadsies. Emotions that had habits of haunting. Taking up residence without asking for permission. Each New York day left me missing the sharp Parisian tongues and cheap baked goods. I would find myself in the kitchen, rummaging through store bought croissants that came in packages of 10. Toasting them, I would fold slices of cheese and press down as I attempted to pretend. Closing my eyes and imagining that I wasn't so far away from where I wanted to be. 

I purchased a French computer program for $50 and began practicing daily. The language felt foreign, far more challenging than Spanish or Italian. But in hopes of living there, I kept on. Creating an idea of what life would be like. What I would be like. Not fully understanding that where ever I went, I would keep running into myself. After a month at my father's, I headed back to California. To a sublet shared with seven guys in Venice. We were a block from the beach, which was the perfect refuge when the house felt cramped. But surprisingly, it never really did. I was so used to living amongst many. A summer of strangers and hostels. Friends thought I was crazy for choosing this living situation on purpose. But it made perfect sense to me- I didn't want to be alone. 

The next several months would take me to Mexico, Minnesota, Mexico and Minnesota again and lastly, my once beloved, Brazil. But nothing felt right. I was tasting the globe, but I needed a home. Some place that made me feel safe and held. So I returned to LA. Bouncing around in a couple more sublets, while looking for place that felt like mine. I finally started this blog, creating it on a rainy day in Rio. The idea had been been on my mind for years, but fear ran the show. At first, sharing my words with the world fulfilled me. And then soon enough, I was obsessing over analytics and likes. As the months pressed on, little made sense. Relationships were rocky. My belief in the invisible started to dwindle. I questioned my daily kundalini yoga practice. Was any of this real? The white and the turbans and the painful arm movements. The mantras and the supposed results that saying funny words out loud could bring. Was it all just a cult? 

Eventually I found a little bungalow, just outside of Los Feliz. It had everything I wanted- a fireplace, a breakfast nook, good lighting and a garden. And some things that I didn't want- like a view of the scientology center from the back window. My very first purchase for the space was four pieces of black tourmaline, placed into the four corners of the house. A Spanish woman that I had met in Tulum joined me as my roommate and our friendship quickly grew. With parallels in our pasts, we both wanted to be more open. More loving. Aiming for presences that spoke of warmth and welcomeness. We served tea and led a meditation on the day of summer solstice. Attempting to cool the living room with weak air conditioning on the hottest day of the year. Everyone commented on how calming our home felt. Aside from the sweat, the gathering was a success. I went to bed feeling full, excited and hopeful for what was to come. 

And then came more ups and downs. Doubt. Hardship. Confusion. Friendships that felt like they were failing. So much chaos in the greater world. Killings and politics. Blood on the hands of those who are supposed to protect. I tumbled down a little rabbit hole right before my birthday. Before I went home to New York to bury my grandmother. Where getting up close to death reminded me of how finite our time here really is. As I sat besides my father, a man who has fallen under the spell of a mysterious physical illness, I was forced into gratitude for the simple things-  a walk down the beach at sunset. Standing up in the shower. The ability to live without constant pain. 

Fast forward to now and I am a week into 29. It's been a year since I gave up smoking, back in good old Paris. I had to give up some other things, too. Experiences and personalities that felt far more challenging than nicotine. As I walk into this new cycle around the sun, I am greeted by a softness. A reminder that I am needed and worthy. As I look around at my relationships, I see unique individuals who allow their lives to be centered around creativity and kindness. I realize there is no reason for me to withhold the love that I give so freely to others from myself. Once again, the prospect of traveling is starting to sound dreamy. This time it is not in a running sort of a way, but instead to capture and be captivated. Temporarily, with a home base still intact. 

28, with its Saturn Return and nomadic start, proved to work me more than I could have imagined. But I am grateful for the lessons and the forceful push into changing. My path may not look like many others, but I am lucky to have people in my life who love me just as I am. In all of my ways. Even when I wander from a resting place of happiness from time to time. I will head out to the Palm Springs in a couple weeks to properly celebrate amongst friends. Think robes and good food, live music and desert stars. I have finally entered the last year of my 20s and the future seems hopeful. So far, I am into 29. 

Photo: unknown

TravelKenna Conway