By: Elizabeth Hardt
Elizabeth is from Louisville, KY and graduated from Transylvania University in 2015 where she majored in International Affairs and Religion. She is working at the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, MD, with Mary Hunt and Diann Neu, dear friends of Loretto.
Airplanes have always held a mystical quality for me. The process of flying is almost (to use a concept my religion professor would be proud that I still remember) liminal in nature. At takeoff, we strangers, in this weird metal tube, become neither here nor there, removed from the reality in which we were just participating and waiting to be in the next one. We leave behind the usual structuring of our lives, enter a space cut off from the outside world (it helps that we can’t use our phones), and land in a completely new environment. The speed and ease of flying make the contrast between where we began and our destination even more stark; once we get there, somehow our starting point seems like a thing of the distant past.
Last week, I left my new DC bubble around 6am and made my way to Baltimore-Washington Airport, flying home to be in one of my best friends’ wedding and to have a bridal shower for another. Suddenly, at 10am on a Thursday morning, I was in Louisville, KY, hugging my dad instead of making coffee at work. I drove my car to Berea, ate much-anticipated Cane’s and drank sweet tea with the bride-to-be like we did in college more times than we ought to admit, watched my best friend marry the love of her life, drank sweet tea, hung out on my college campus until way later than I should have with very important people, had such a beautiful time at a bridal shower for my dearest friend getting married in January, saw my momma and cat, and finally, drank more sweet tea. Despite the prevalence of once-in-a-lifetime events this weekend, it was like I had never left.
Stepping right back into my Kentucky life was natural and comfortable. Driving to my university after the wedding, down winding Kentucky roads with the UK football game on the radio, I thought, “This could be so easy.” I bring up this story that has nothing really to do with Loretto only because it is very unusual for me to feel this pull to a particular place. I love to travel and explore new spaces and meet new people. I miss friends and family, but I’m never homesick. But here I was, so certain at that moment, that this was the place I should be. That I had been at BWI airport two mornings prior barely seemed real.
But I got on a plane back to Washington and started to feel the same kind of excitement I felt the first time I learned I would be living in DC this year. I was reading a book for work – a job that I truly enjoy and that has already given me many new experiences and opportunities – and I was hoping I would get home before my housemates went to bed so I could see them. I felt as natural on the bus and metro as I did in my car. I thought about what to do the next weekend – I’ve even thought about staying here after this Loretto year. In just two short (but busy!) months, I was already getting hazy on which place I should consider my current home.
I remember talking about the concept of home during orientation. What makes a strange or ordinary space into a home? Obviously, I can always call Kentucky my home, with its claim to 22 years of my life; and my housemates will tell you that I realllly love talking about it (it’s the best state). But the Loretto program has an uncanny way of making a new place into a home, providing a safe space for both comfort and discomfort. I think a large part of my experience here has to do with the program’s emphasis on intentional community.
Intentional community means lots of things, like sharing a food budget, cooking and eating together, holding community nights, sharing chores, and more, but most importantly to me is that we act towards each other and towards our community with purpose. We strive to make our house a home, and we do. We assume best intentions and give each other space. We dig into our work and our life in the community. Where we could easily become complacent and apathetic about being so distant from what’s comfortable, we are intentional about making a new and different kind of home.
So, back to my fascination with planes. I love the way that flying almost jolts me from one place to another because it reminds me of how my reality can change so quickly. Whether going to study in a foreign country, vacationing, visiting family, moving to a new city, or coming home, it reminds me that I always have to be intentional about engaging with my present space. It challenges me to allow unexpected places to become a home.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.