How Walking Away Brought Me Back To Myself

The sun glistens off the gently swaying water as I walk along a row of vibrant, colorful houses. To anyone else, this would be a scene out of a postcard - something you could only imagine in your wildest dreams. But, to me, it’s my home. This routine walk I’ve taken along the Charleston Battery for the past four years has become my solace, my place of reflection, and, most importantly, a benchmark to show me how much I’ve grown as a person. As I rapidly approach graduation day, I can’t help but notice that, while this location has remained the same for the past four years, I’ve changed immensely.  

 

The first time I walked along this path was during my freshman year of college in 2015. Moving all the way down to Charleston from New Jersey was daunting, and quite frankly, I was experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into; I had no idea who I wanted to be at the time. Reflecting back now, I realize that being given the opportunity to uncover your true personality in a new place is a gift. As I walked under the angel oak trees, I began to see glimmers of sunlight peeking through the branches. While I didn’t fully know myself yet, this place gave me hope that I would find out soon enough.

 

My sophomore year of college was a turning point for me. While Charleston became more and more familiar to me, I found myself missing home. While walking along the Battery, millions of questions ran through my mind like a broken record. Did I pick the right school? Was everyone else enjoying themselves more than I was? What did I really want to do with my degree once I graduated? So many times I would sit on a bench and watch the sunset, not knowing how to solve the uncertainty that permeated my college experience thus far.

 

As fall of Junior year came rolling around, the Battery was bright and inviting as per usual, but I was not there to see it. I spent that entire semester back in New Jersey, believing that being away from Charleston would solve all of my problems. I took that time to reflect and better myself, and I would continue to walk around my neighborhood at home to clear my head. It turns out that, while taking those walks, I was homesick for a place that I never knew I would miss so much. As I started to grow back into myself, I realized that I was ready to return to those rainbow-colored houses, angel oak trees, and clear blue skies. I was ready to go back to Charleston.

 

To this day, I still frequent the Battery whenever I need a moment to stop and reflect on my life. Since returning to Charleston, I’ve bared my soul as a writer in ways I would have never dreamed of doing in the past. I’ve made friends that I’ve laughed with until 2 a.m., confided in about every existential crisis under the sun, and roamed the city with until the late hours of the night. I’ve said “yes” to last minute plans that have turned out to be some of the highlights of my life thus far. I’ve fallen in love with new places, people, and passions that have become part of my identity. This past year has taught me that the best things in life lie outside of your comfort zone, but having a safe and beautiful resting point like the Battery will always serve as a sanctuary.

In the movie, Lady Bird, the protagonist muses on how driving around her home city of Sacramento, CA for the first time made her feel emotional. As I take my last walk around the perimeter of the Charleston Battery, I feel a sense of heaviness in my chest as well. I know that I’m ready to find my new home base after I graduate, but the future is uncertain yet again. I think about how much I’ve grown into myself over these past four years, and I don’t feel as nervous anymore. Instead, I consider how beautiful it is to know that there are more experiences to be had, new places to discover, and unique people to be met. While I continue to evolve in the future, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for these walks that have guided me to meet the person I am today.