I have never been afraid to leave home. In fact, if you look at my pattern, it would seem that I’ve been fleeing home for as long as I was allowed out of the house.
From the time I was very small, I took any opportunity to go somewhere else: at six, it was spending the night at my grandmother’s or at the neighbors’; at eight, at my best friend’s. I was always pushing for one more night away, extending sleepovers to whole weekends away from home.
When I was 11, I went to summer camp in Colorado for five weeks; at 12, in Massachusetts for eight. When I was 14, I spent the summer in England and the first semester of eighth grade with a family I had never met before in France. I don’t think my parents ever expected it, but the end of that year was the last time I would ever live at home.
But here’s the thing. All of that moving around has very little to do with some kind of innate, intrepid nature. I never would have been able to do it if I hadn’t known that, somewhere behind that door I was walking through, my family was still at home, waiting for me.
That’s the benefit of being an oldest child. You get to pave the way forward, but you always have a support squad, waiting for you, in case you fail. Every time I came back, things were exactly as I had left them: my room, my siblings, my home.
My sister — just two years younger than I am — has led a very different life. Whereas I was always chomping at the bit, trying to get out, out, out, she stayed as close to home as she could. That isn’t to say she didn’t have adventures — she attended arguably the best drama school in the world, and today, she puts herself out there at every chance she gets, standing in front of juries who are judging, yes, her work, her ability, but also something so inextricable from who she is that I can’t imagine how she separates the judgment they cast onto her from the reality of her identity. I don’t think that I could do what she does and not have my entire sense of self ripped to shreds.
Through all of this, she has clung to home. I understand the desire, the temptation, the comfort. What I don’t understand — what I applaud — is that now, at 27, she is letting herself leave.
My sister is moving to Los Angeles on Saturday, and unlike each and every time I left, she doesn’t have a nest to come back to. The nest is gone, and she’s flying it anyway.
She’s much braver than I ever was. I can’t wait to see her win at life.
Jerk Steak Bowl with Black Beans, Tomatoes, and Sweet Potatoes
2 pieces skirt or flank steak
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 sweet potato, white or yellow, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cup canned or cooked black beans
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 red tomato
1 orange or yellow tomato
1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 red banana chile, thinly sliced (you can also add this to the marinade, but the Country Boy hates spice, so I just put it on top of mine!)
salt and pepper
Combine the marinade ingredients, and marinate the steak for at least 30 minutes and up to six hours. Bring to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the sweet potatoes with one teaspoon of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until tender.
Combine the beans, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan, and heat through.
Heat the last teaspoon of oil in a pan over high heat. Shake off any excess marinade from the steak, and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest.
Assemble the bowls. Begin with a base of rice, then add the beans, tomatoes, and potatoes. Place the cooked steak, either thinly sliced or whole, on top of the base. Sprinkle the chiles over the top, and serve.