“Go West, Young Man”.

The famous quote by Horace Greeley is on my mind this morning, as I sip a delicious cup of black coffee in sunny Berkeley, California. 

I first stepped off of the plane on the West Coast last fall, in October, a few days before my second bodybuilding competition. I took second place in LA, which was a notable achievement, but what was most amazing to me was the complete and utter happiness I felt in being so very far from where I grew up. I stepped off that plane, and I felt I was home. 

It could be a myriad of factors that contribute to this confidence I’ve found in knowing one day I’ll be living out here, far from the humidity and judgement and bigotry of the East Coast culture: it could be that it feels far away from the pain I incurred at the hands of several men where I grew up. It could be that it’s far from memories of rape and abuse and neglect and destructive emotional put-downs and self-righteous, arrogant religious hypocrites; judging my divorce, my openness about the pain I went through, my scandalous display of confidence in my body and sexuality in my competing and modeling. 

It could be that it’s far from all of the hospitals I was in for so long, from the familiar haunts of a gaunt 19 year old with no hope for the future. Far from PICC lines and seizures and bloodwork and broken dreams.

It could be that it’s so far removed from the places that used to fit me, which can no longer hold the things I’ve learned: “Roads that closed off to me while my back was turned”… away from lessons finished and places with nothing left to show me.

It could be the air out here, that is brighter, purer, less polluted, less heavy with memory and pain and darkness. 

It could be many of the people, and the way they encourage being different, non-conformist, non-judgmental, loving, open, unrushed, less anxious, less willing to walk all over anyone who stands in the way of twisted dreams and ambitions they concoct from a deep insecurity of self and an utter lack of empathy.

It could be the scenery, the layers of gorgeous landscape and the tantalizing wonder of being unable to see around a bend or over a rise. No flat, empty places.

It could be the fitness industry, which rages and thrives and grows out here, and the people in it, who have learned to care for mind and soul and body much more efficiently. 

It could be the coastline, the sky, the trees, the flowers, the farmer’s markets, the simplicity and beauty and rush of what is new, and untouched, and undiscovered, and unfamiliar. 

It could simply be that it is a beginning. The end of the old, starting over, breathing again, a deep inhale and an exhale in a rush of toxic release, letting go of what was, what was done, what has been, and welcoming what will be, can be, could be, might be. 

All of the promise of tomorrow, all of the newness of being and renewing, thousands of miles from what hurts, and stings, and breaks… landscape and people and climate and places that are scars on the mind and the subconscious, dragging you down, holding you back, restraining and wounding and slowing the healing. 

The very uncertainty of it is enthralling, and the complete unfamiliarity is exhilarating. Rich with hope. That is what it is, simply, it is hope. Hope of opportunity without fear.

This is home, and one day, it will be mine. 

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