i've become Someone Who Listens to Porter Robinson, which means i'm expecting an induction into whatever cool kids club that gets me entry into any day now. these days i've been alternating between EDM and sob-your-heart-out country music, addicted to repetitive melodies and the sound of a synth, and i'm just thankful that we're not in the office because i know that one of these days i'm going to accidentally unplug my headphones while walking away from my desk and reveal that i listen to the same thing over and over.
right now i would give the whole world to be in a crowded indie music hall, singing along with a thousand strangers whose names i'll never know, convinced that nothing else could possibly matter in the present moment save for a verse, chorus, and bridge. sometimes absolute understanding is found in total strangers.
i've spent the past week listening to Shelter on loop—it's a long way forward, so trust in me / i'll give them shelter, like you've done for me—and tonight i'm thinking about safe places and sanctuary and where you go when you're pretty sure that the world is ending. i've been thinking about every home i've ever had, about seeking adventure, about this wild life; mystified by the places we go when we're sad, by unadulterated tenderness, the incomprehensible way that we know when someone is a safe place.
while trying to maximize the amount of adventure i can fit into this life, i've been lucky to have been surrounded by people who were shelter to me. we spend a billion hours at work with people we didn't choose, but they end up shaping us. the first person i ever worked for right out of school was placid calm all the way down; still one of the most unshakeable people i've ever met. and some time ago when i was restless and hurting, new friends came along at the right time and adopted me into their world. strangers became a home, and the fever dream we lived through together became a story i would tell again and again.
later, i would strike out on a new adventure, this time with less direction than ever before—i left behind the home that you made me / but i carry it along. i‘ve spent the past year feeling a little bit unmoored, trying to figure out how we coexist together in pandemic spacetime and across distance which i couldn't have fathomed when we were just six people in a walk-in closet. mostly, it was idyllic—we built stuff together; everything was fine. but my dumb, light heart was always waiting for the other shoe to drop—because i'm a cynic, and because i've done this before and i knew it would. a couple of months ago i said, we haven't seen it get really hard here yet, but it will. and then it did.
it turns out that we're always building safe places, but you only find out where they are when it really matters. mine is a group chat with a ridiculous name, and post-5pm banter juxtaposed on top of Battle Tetris, and the moment when i'm lying on my couch with my laptop propped up on my knees while on video call, perpetually about to drop the computer on my face. it's silly poems and bunny photos and levity when i need it most. sanctuary emerges when we need it, and i'm infinitely grateful even though i don't understand how it happens. in a recent fit of accidental emotion i said, at some point i started feeling safe with you? i don't even know when that happened, can't pinpoint the moment, but it didn't take that long. and it was true, but i didn't know exactly how much until that moment.
everything is going to be okay, we tell each other. finding—and being—sanctuary is a universal instinct; one we pick up from watching everyone who came before us. when friends come to me with the things which make them sad and i feel massively ill-equipped to help them, small and finite and powerless and unable to fix anything at all, i channel my very best impression of all of the safe places i've ever had; mimic everyone who has ever sheltered me from a storm. sometimes everything we are has to be enough because it's all we have.
shelter is a structure, not a place—and sanctuary is fundamentally about belonging; about the homes we make and carry with us. we're humans made up of fragments of everyone we've ever existed alongside. the universe gifts us time and space and opportunity to belong together, but we have to choose it. the shelter we find in each other is forged from extraordinary events; our capacity for emotion expands when other people need it of us, in the same way that some things are made possible only because of incredible pressure; the same way that fire forges new material which couldn't exist otherwise. finding shelter in another person is saying, let me be safe with you. even though emotional labour can be exhausting, i'm grateful for every chance that i get to take these tiny little sticks i've collected and build them into a semblance of shelter for somebody else. finding and being shelter for each other in this wild life is a gift.
this one's for C, who always tells me that everything's going to be okay; says it out loud, repeats it until i believe it. and for A, who was a safe place to me before i even knew that i was in search of one.