How do you describe homecoming?
Returning back, from whence you came?
It feels like... you can breathe again. Like your chest is opening up and the air can finally settle in after an eternity underwater.
15 years ago, I walked away from the Middle East Intelligence & Policy track to which I had worked so hard to bolt myself. I would lock the "female Ethan Hunt" personae I had envisioned in a box, alongside dreams of strengthening American ties in the Middle East & Central Asia.
It was a long time coming: it was 2005 when I pulled the plug, and to be honest the dream had crashed down with the Twin Towers. I tried hard to piece together a future in the Middle East, when it was lost there in the Manhattan dust.
And so, I left.
To this day, when I see pictures of Istanbul in friends' social media timelines, or the sun reflecting on the Dome of the Rock in some politically charged thought piece, or pictures of Damascus - oh, Damascus - my chest opens up, the breath rushes in, and a familiar warmth fills my chest with a hum of remembrance.
That feeling of going back home, like a prodigal son wrapping your hands around your dad's neck and telling him that you missed him. That's how coming home feels.
After I left Intelligence & Policy, I toyed around with Middle East Journalism, but the new style of corporate advocacy journalism left a bad taste in my mouth.
And so I fell back on my first love, my "what I would do if money weren't a factor" passion: fitness, specifically 12 Week Transformation Coaching (a niche I was initially ridiculed for filling by people who lacked vision, but that's a different blog post). I had lost 75 lbs in 24 Weeks at 23 years old, and found I had a knack for guiding others down the path I'd macheted.
And so I departed the Middle East community with its rules of hospitality, generosity and thoughtfulness for another whose rules were more or less the same, but with dumbbells.
Just a year into my fitness career, with only 8 months of full-time gym experience under my belt, I was given the gift of a lifetime: the chance to head the Grand Re-Opening of the highest grossing gym in the Gold's Gym national network, Gold's Gym Clarendon, in Washington's wealthy Northern Virginia neighborhood of Arlington. We crushed records - because of a high quality product fueled by a passion for transforming lives - and I made a name for myself.
And then a death.
My friend & colleague Maggie died in a car accident as I was basking in the glow of our sensational Grand Re-Opening. Sitting at her funeral I made a decision: I didn't want to die here. I wanted to go home.
And so I left.
10 years ago, on my 27th birthday, I packed up my car and left the life I had known in Washington DC for all those years behind.
I hopped in my car and headed back to my hometown of Seattle, Washington.
Only when I got there: there was not a homecoming.
Brothers and sisters embroiled in a real estate controversy, rain, and a sadness that settled over the city like the news of Maggie's death had settled over my gym the day a drunk driver plowed into her small sports car on the highway.
And so, once again, I left.
Got in my car and kept going.
Through Utah, in all its glory, to San Antonio, and then to Austin, en route to Los Angeles. Where I would 'make it' in fitness, make a name for myself, and maximize my impact.
But fate would intercede and the stars decide that I was to stay in Austin. Oh, Austin. The love of my life for ten years. What a beautiful old soul you are, and how good you were to me.
I started a business with a $400 loan and grew it into a million dollar operation. I loved, I lost. I gained two beautiful young girls and a black lab. I saw the stars and each night when I laid my head on my pillow I was happy to call myself a Texan.
But the pain of my divorce settled over my heart like a black cloud that wouldn't leave.
Like the sadness that settles in on Seattle with the late-October rain. Like the news of a friend's death before her time.
And so, I left.
I came home. To Washington. To my adopted home of Annapolis, Maryland, where I had spent about four years off and on in my late teens and early 20's.
I made a decision to not make any major commitments or moves for two years. No relationships, no marriages, no significant business commitments.
Two years to be still, fill myself up with the sounds and smells of naked babies running around my house. And just listen to that small, still voice that trills in your ear like a bell with long-forgotten memories you are only now coming back and realizing were true.
My two year sanctuary deadline arrived last month, in mid-February.
homecoming (n.) a coming or returning home. Synonyms: arrival.
I sometimes wonder if the prodigal son was carrying anything when his father called him back home. I imagine him walking in the desert: tired, thirsty, almost near falling. I imagine he would be parched. The parable tells us nothing of his father asking his son what mistakes he had made, or what lessons he had learned. All it says is that they celebrated.
And so I would like to simply celebrate.
As of April 15th, 2017, Transform With Mariah will be offering In-Home Personal Training & On-Location Group Training in Washington, DC / Northern Virginia. Specifically, greater Arlington & its environs. (Clients outside a 10 mile radius to be serviced upon request).
Please see our ad in Arlington Magazine, on stands April 15th. Be sure to sign up for their email list for a special Transform With Mariah Grand Opening offer which will be emailed out April 20th.
I am currently assembling a team that will deliver the highest quality transformations to impact the greatest number of lives.
This is the business I know and love, the space that I thrive in, with all the lessons I have carried with me from Austin, in a location I call home.
The support I have around me is second to none. It's a tough thing, being a visionary. One does need to surround themselves with integrators to ensure that the vision is attainable and sustainable. And I have been blessed with just that.
The new business operations will not affect current Online / Skype clients, a service which will continue indefinitely. Mariahs-Gym.com will remain unaffected. Operations in Annapolis will be in effect until July 15, 2018.