Home and Fulfillment: What 2018 Taught Me

I have always had an extremely strange relationship with the universe. You might call it intuition, or a heightened sense of external awareness. Nonetheless it is there. I ended 2017 on the patio of my home in Omaha, Nebraska with an unnerving sense that this was the ending of a place undeniably important to me. Caffeine Dreams was a coffeehouse, an art venue, and a haven for me - among many - for exactly five years. I will never forget the first time I entered its walls as a freshman in high school. I was having coffee with a local activist because we had both been in attendance at a church service where the priest went into a long commentary on the evils of homosexuality. They were in a pew a few rows in front of me, and, as I witnessed them become visibly upset and proceed to walk outside, I followed them.

While teary-eyed in the parking lot of our church, they were one of the first people I came out to. I had my first dialogue regarding the problematic experiences of being who I was in the context of the communities I lived within. We agreed to meet for coffee later and returned to our seats. Our later conversation was the beginning of my love affair with Caffeine Dreams, and it was one of the first times I ever sat fully in myself.

Over the course of the next five years, I found myself at Caffeine Dreams more than anywhere else. I even skipped school to go and write. I would sit on the patio with the clean morning air, while enjoying a Parliament with the intimate rays of the first sunlight. On December 31, 2017, I returned to that same patio, and had a celebratory cigarette to mark the New Year. While discussing what 2018 would hold, I turned to my friend and said, “This might be the last time we are ever here.” Three days later, it was announced that Caffeine Dreams would be closing immediately. I began 2018 with a familiar sense of being stripped of the places that are comforting and safe for me. I began 2018 lost.

In January, I was in the final stages of formatting and editing my second collection of poetry, This Void Beckons. Originally the collection was going to be released in November of 2016, then early 2017. Then, I finally gave myself permission to finish the work in its own time. On February 24, 2018 I released This Void Beckons among a beautiful array of loved ones and community. Earlier that month, after spending time living on a friend’s couch between housing, I received the keys to my first studio apartment.

In August, I departed Omaha for California to begin the coastal cities of my book tour. The first time I was in California I was extremely fortunate to experience some of the most breathtaking and amazing places I had yet graced at 18. The penthouse of the Chateau Marmont, where I shared in fellowship with beautiful people from the LGBT+ community and other loved ones. The Santa Monica pier, where I stood in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The Hollywood Hills, where I spent a night under the stars beside the Hollywood Sign. This time I was 21, and I was coming to the City of Angels to speak about my second book.

The day of the event, I was extremely nervous. What if no one would come? What if something were to go wrong? If you know me, you know I live border-line unhealthily in a constant state of “what if’s”. After having delicious salmon salads with Jim - one of the most supportive souls in my life - I began to sit in myself deeper. I returned to that hopeful young woman at Caffeine Dreams, writing the words that she wanted to share with the world. It wasn’t just in that moment I returned to her; I did so all throughout 2018.

I returned to her when I spoke at the Harvard Coop, a school I had applied to senior year and was rejected from. She was there when I was in Iowa City, walking through the small town where I wrote my first columns in a newspaper. She was there when I stepped onto the streets of New York City for the first time, and felt my very Soul taste bliss. She was there when I received the first shipment of This Void Beckons; smelled the fresh pages for the first time - one of the most magical moments for an artist. She was there when I opened the door to my first apartment, my own space for the first time in my life. She was there through the entire year. Every experience of joy, exhaustion, defeat, introspection, and fulfillment. She was there. I was there.

On the night of December 31, 2018 I returned to the patio of my dearest coffehome, which is now a bar. It was painful at first, as it is extremely different now. It was foreign to me. It wasn’t the home I knew. But the whispers of the past will always linger here, as a testament to the people, dreams, and futures built within its walls. With a glass of red wine, I stood on a now unfamiliar patio, with the same friend I was with exactly one year prior. We toasted a New Year. New Beginnings. New Unknowns. New Familiarities. Old Friends. Past Lives. Past Homes.

In 2018, I finally accepted something I think I have always known. In this life, I will always be lost. I will always be searching, and that is not something to fear. The world outside my vessel of flesh shall ebb and flow, it shall continue spiraling and turning all around me. It is a gorgeous drum beat, eternally cascading over cosmic movement. What is different now is I am not running from myself anymore. I am not detaching from my present to find safety in the echoes of the past - whether good memories or bad - for the sake of familiarity or for the sake of feeling a consistent sensation to call “Home”. For I am Home. I am my own Home. I will continue on my journey onward, always searching, but Fulfilled. For I am always Home.

 

In Light and Love. Always,

 
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a.j.k. o'donnell