The Heart Wants What it Wants

Alisha-Sommer_imageTruth: The heart has desires that come from an unnamable source.

We moved to Chicago 8 years ago with palpable excitement but having been married for less than a year and with a very happy 6 month-old baby, we knew we wanted to be closer to family and in a place that was both beautiful and safe. And even though we weren’t able to afford to live in the actual city of Chicago, we would still be close enough to all of its culture – theater, museums, festivals, the Cubs. So on a warm summer morning, we drove away from our little farmhouse in Kansas City, Missouri to settle in the western suburbs of Chicago.

I do love where I live. In the almost 8 years we’ve lived here I’ve had 2 more children and moved into an old historic home with big wood trim, high ceilings, a breezy front porch, and magical light. I can walk the kids to school, grab coffee with an amazing tribe of mamas, and hop on the train for a solo jaunt to downtown Chicago to catch the latest exhibit at the Art Institute. I’ve met writers and artists, attended amazing lectures at the local college, and cried at the ballet. The kids have friends here that they’ve known since birth – which for a child like me who moved so much, seems like an amazing gift. They know their town so well that even the 4 year-old can give Grandma directions to the grocery store.

Yet still we feel the tug toward different land.

Truth: If you give life time, the universe will find ways to support your wildest dreams.

I took my first trip to California almost 3 years ago. I remember flying in to San Francisco over the deep blue waters of the bay and walking out of the airport to see the silhouette of mountains on a clear October morning. And as we drove up the 101, windows open, my eyes drank in the yellow-brown grass and balding oaks, the black dairy cows that dotted the landscape. The air tasted so different. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could breathe again.

Two years later I returned to wine country to celebrate my 30th birthday. We stayed nestled in the valley, got up early for coffee and the vibrant glow of sunrise. With wine in hand we stayed up late for the watercolor sunsets. I took quiet walks over a bubbling stream, saw a jack rabbit dancing between the vines, and ate until I was bursting with gratitude. I left even more convinced that yes, this piece of earth could be home.

I managed to find my way back earlier this year, this time in February. Back to the valley for the cool mornings and warm afternoons, for quiet walks alone where I bathed in the sounds of the sky around me. I connected with a new friend and through him saw California in a way I never had before: through the eyes of someone who was raised there and left but came back because of a love for all of the things northern California is that every other place is not.

But it was not that afternoon when the waters of Bodega Bay splashed into my face. Or the ascent up the Oakville Grade, or the goat cheese croquettes with tomato jam. It was this one evening while walking down a dimly lit street, admiring the porches and lemon trees and the scent of blooms that lined the walkways. It was watching the two little boys on their skateboard and big wheel, and then a few minutes later hearing the husky voice of a woman who was not their mother, but a neighbor. Someone who knew them by name and well enough to firmly scold. “Really? And no helmet. Go home!” It was her, in her very ordinary SUV, in that very ordinary neighborhood, with her window down yelling at the kids that grounded me into my own truth. That showed me that this does not have to be only a dream. People do this. People live here. I can too.   


Lie: Your dreams need outside validation.

Last night, over key lime pie and white wine, I said goodbye to a family making their own way west. They are settling east of San Francisco where there are good schools for the children and where they will be close to family. I must have told her 100 times how excited I was for them and how inspiring it was for me to know someone following a dream that felt so parallel to my own.

Because when I came home after February’s trip and began to share that big Californian dream, there were rarely words of excitement of encouragement. Even when there were no words, there was a look in the back of the eyes that spoke loudly enough. I was suddenly reminded of the pain that sometimes infiltrates the tiny spaces of an open heart. I spent a lot of time in my journal reconnecting with the enthusiasm and joy surrounding possibility. Most importantly, I reconnected to the truth that I don’t need anyone else to validate my dream. Just because it’s not possible for someone else doesn’t mean it’s not possible for me.

I don’t know if we will move in the next 2 years or the next 12, but I do know that it will happen. That it’s meant to be for us. Because the heart wants what it wants. The only person who needs to trust that is me.

Alisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, lying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists and is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course. You can find Alisha at her website,, and on her favorite playgrounds: Instagram and Pinterest.



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Inner truth + outer alignment = unapologetic joy

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