Yaya Shi

Growing up, I experienced multiple educational systems and cultures. I moved from Guangzhou in a Chinese school to Beijing in a British international school in grade 5 then finally here in the U.S. in grade 8. Switching places seemed like the default state of my life. Each time, I had to rebuild connections and blend into my new community. Everywhere, I was an anxious traveler carrying my packed suitcase — always being ready for the next destination. Instability overwhelmed me as I struggled to find a place I could call home.

To make up for this void, I filled every moment with tasks of all kinds, conversations, and adventures. I enjoyed living life in such a way that I would not slow down. Being alone scared me, it made me uncomfortable.

Then the pandemic hit and my life shifted from finding a sense of belonging from the outside world to finding a sense of belonging from myself. When I have the time in the morning, I now wake up an hour before everyone else, prepare myself a hot matcha latte, and roll out my yoga mat. As I move through the yoga stretches in complete silence, I focus on nothing but my present breaths.

These mindful moments have gradually anchored me. Without realizing it, I have slowly grown roots. For the first time, I have unpacked my suitcase and set it aside. I didn’t have a sense of home before because I was always busy on the road, never slowing down to look inward. Now, I realize that the home I have been looking for all my life is right inside me. 

As I watch the sun slowly rise above the hill while entering a meditative state on my yoga mat, I am filled with deep contentment by simply being with myself.

I have always been at home, for I carry my home with me.

Through these practices, I learned that I can never be fully there for others if I am not fully there for myself. I can never be fully existing if I am not living only in the present moment. I can never find a better version of myself if I don’t find comfort in being uncomfortable. 

Finally, I believe that nothing you can feel is inherently wrong. You are allowed to have ups and downs and you are allowed to show up imperfectly. You are not here to get everything right. You are here to learn and grow. Making peace with yourself through every step of this grand becoming of life, because you are exactly where you need to be, and you are enough.