People are often surprised that I identify as an introvert, but I do not thrive in social situations and need lots of time by myself to recharge; Time that is not scheduled, where even small interactions are up to me. It is one of the reasons I love music. It really is the best company. I don’t like going into draining situations full of small talk and, while I can do it, I prefer not to. My down time is for friends and myself. But, when I decided to start a blog this past January, I was in real need of connection. Especially connections around mutual interests. I figured I may meet a couple of friends who were like minded and imagined they would be akin to pen pals.
I never expected to find so many soul mates and true friends as part of an online community. People with whom I have shared heartbreak, loss, fear, laughter, and some of the most intimate details of our lives. People who have filled my life in ways I did not know I needed and were not scared to be honest about their boundaries or desires.
The value of having people who check in on each other, who say good morning and goodnight with no expectations, is immeasurable. I never would have thought so many would be people that I would also able to throw my arms around and hug.
I started this year with a broken heart and a resolution to not let being alone hold me back from experiencing more, traveling more, and to see more music, but what I found was people all over the world (and some at home) to keep me company in airports, hotel rooms, concerts, and record stores. Last April, I took my first solo trip to a new place and lamented the loneliness I felt alone wandering around Austin. I also reflected on finding balance as I explored New York City twice (once with friends and once alone). As the year ends, I can now gush about the camaraderie I felt in Chicago and being able to have a community and good friends both there and in Portland.
I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year with the help of people who reminded me that life is about adventure, not escape. I mean what kind of introvert travels thousands of miles to stay with and visit people she has never met?! Someone who has learned to trust her gut. Someone who is able to trust their intuition after they thought they never could again.
Someone who realizes that it wasn’t my intuition that was off, just my timing.
This year, I let myself be broken. I still am in many ways, but I have accepted that the broken places can be beautiful and that the right people see that and accept it for what it is. This year took me all over the country, from coast to coast and many places in between. I saw three of my favorite bridges, walked across two, and found the ability to be with myself in a whole new way.
And the music. So much music. I have to say, this year has categorically sucked in lots of ways, there have been a plethora of personal challenges at home and work, but having a community of friends and strangers who remind you that the music you love is important, universal, and can hold you through the darkest times has been so unexpected. As I travel and meet people who are just as honest and amazing as I thought they were, I am so deeply appreciative.
This year will always have a big “what if” hanging over it. I will always associate it with putting myself out there for someone who crushed me, with pushing past hurt, and being reminded that the right people don’t push you away. But I am slowly coming back. I am remembering that there are all kinds of ways to have deep connections and that looking for those rare “big loves” is not the only way to find meaningful relationships. As I start a new year I am pondering what I will be able to carry with me. Is this level of self exploration sustainable? My list of places to visit now includes faces that I want to see, the space to explore without tether, and people who share my not just my interests, but a sense of humor, a passion, and building an ever expanding community.
I know still need to find better balance, but I also know that throwing myself out into the world, spending time with the people who bring me joy, taking chances that both frighten and excite me, feels right. Remembering who I am and seeing myself through fresh eyes has changed me. Honestly, I think this has been one of my biggest years for personal growth.
I still long for what could have been. Still find myself crying a few times a week (sometimes for the loss of a friend, sometimes as I process my own insecurities). However, I have faced this year with little anger and a huge capacity for compassion for even the people who caused me the most pain.
Missing people who leave, by choice or death, has helped me to remember that life is short. That we should hold on while we can. That we need to say how we feel as we feel it. That the way to be kind to others, and to ourselves, is with trust and respect. I have no regrets about the choices I made this year. As hard as things have been, I know that I was honest. That I have said what I needed to say, left doors open where I could and set boundaries out of respect for myself, not malice or fear. I let myself be open and vulnerable and hurt, and that has helped me appreciate the laughter and pleasure more. It reminded me that pain teaches us things about ourselves we could never learn otherwise. That when we reach for someone who wants to be there, they will hold our hand in times of both joy and fragility.
What will 2020 hold? Well, I hope it will be a year of transformation. That honesty and love will lead us all down a path to better understanding. That we walk through the dark and come out surrounded by others who care deeply for each other and a shared passion for what sets our souls on fire. Mostly, I hope it continues to be filled with all the love I have found this year, from the most unexpected of places, as well as the people I am lucky to call family. I hope it continues to be a beautiful mess.
There are some moments where you are able to reflect on how much your life has changed. However, as I get older, also recognize that those moments also make clear how little the truth of the heart is swayed by time.
Last February when I went to New York, I was a mess. Floating through the city and crying a few times a day, just feeling broken hearted and aimless: Not knowing how or if things would ever change. Now, over six months later, I went with the same friend to Denver for a similar weekend (concerts, museums, and wandering), but this time it was very different. No tears, no frustration with each other, no unintentionally aimless experiences. We ate good food, listened to great music, bought a ton of records, and had a nice balance of time together and on our own.
But, when I think about how my heart feels, there is not much difference. I can function better, get through days with enough distraction, have more confidence in myself, am able to fall back into my comfort level with new people. I enjoy being challenged and changed by new flirtations, wondering if there could be more. But I still have questions and doubts, feel raw and undone. I am still trying to figure out a balance between keeping my heart open and protecting myself from what has actually been a pretty paralyzing emotional experience paired with cathartic self discovery and expression.
In all of this, I reflect on the anomaly that is time and the euphemisms that go with it:
“Time heals all wounds.”
“Time changes everything.”
“Give it time.”
Spending time a place you once called home feels so different than going places to explore or where you could imagine yourself living. There is a sense of ownership, comfort, and years of experience, but also a disconnect because it is no longer yours. There is no home to go to, just new streets and places to visit. I love to travel with my mother and daughter, but it was nice to have a couple hours each day to escape on my own. Getting on the train and heading to the neighborhoods I used to love, walking the streets, trusting my intuition rather than a map, were all special moments where I got to revisit the me I was a decade ago when I took the freedom to explore the city for granted.
I try to visit at least once a year since moving, but for some reason this trip felt much more reflective. There was a very palpable awareness of how much things have changed for both me and the city. The last time I visited the Golden Gate Bridge was nine years ago when I got engaged halfway across in what was probably the most romantic gesture of my life, just with the wrong person. Last year when I visited, I thought of all the things I loved that I wanted to share with someone who might be the right person. I saw the city through sharing it with them.
Disclaimer: This post is a little touchy feely/woo-woo. Prepare yourself.
You know that feeling you get when you just vibe with a place? It’s like your body relaxes and you feel a sense of being right where you should be at that moment in time. A friend described it recently as "being in a harmonic vibration with your surroundings.” It is a lot like when just the right song comes on when you need to heat it the most. I have written about this feeling when I lived in San Francisco and while visiting in Portland. Colorado: not so much.
I have visited Colorado dozens of times. Growing up in Albuquerque, Denver was one of the closest big cities and was often an overnight or weekend road trip. I have camped, visited friends, driven through, had my heart broken, broken others hearts, danced all night, and all stayed in quite a few places. Me and Colorado are well acquainted. Once I even drove 5 and a half hours up with friends just to buy a pack of clove cigarettes when they were all the rage and not available in New Mexico. I have had a lot of fun and some really bad trips, but, in all of those times I have never been able to set my compass on where I am or where I am going. I feel lost, stressed, and panicked whether in traffic or on the open road. Once, I got altitude sickness on a family vacation so bad I had to suck on a can of oxygen (I thought that was a gag in Spaceballs, but it is in fact a real thing. Who knew?). Because I live at about the altitude of Denver and have traveled to many other high altitude places, I will attribute this (perhaps somewhat unfairly, I admit) to the level of unexplained anxiety that I get when visiting Colorado.
I guess given my history with Colorado, it was possibly not the best choice for a weekend retreat to reset after a busy summer. I was attracted by the idea of getting to be an off the grid introvert in a judgement free zone. Originally, I was going to come right before my 40th birthday last April, but life happened and here we are. Maybe I am just trying to hard to make sense of my literal place in the world, but I like to be clear about where I stand with a place when I visit. Don’t get me wrong, Colorado can be one of the most beautiful places (the picture below are evidence of that) and I have had lots of good times. In fact, I will be back in just a few weeks to see one of my favorite bands. But taking this trip, it occurred to me how this year of travel has changed the way I see the places I visit and Colorado came into focus as a place that has never called to me.
Loyal, Organized, Efficient, Leader, Funny, Smart, Good Listener:
These are label I often use to talk about myself and traits others say they admire about me. But for the last year or so, sudden and spontaneous have been hallmarks for my life. There was a recklessness to how I fell in love, a suddenness to the loss, and an insane amount of spontaneity in my decision making over the past year. People I don’t know, and many I do, have been using words like brave, vulnerable, sexy, and insightful to describe me. I don’t know about any of that. I do know I was changed this past year and have felt more me since last autumn, than in a long time. I have taken all the spontaneity that allowed me to love someone else and let it lead me to love myself too, which is maybe what I was doing all along and why things are the way they are. So, here I am.
As I get better at being me, I have also embraced my love of spontaneous travel planning. That moment you decide to go somewhere, buy the ticket, and get to look forward to it. This July, I knew that I would have a week on my own and, given my wanderlust, decided to not just work and enjoy a quiet house, but to visit family in the Pacific Northwest and escape from the heat of the desert. Knowing I would also be coming off of a trip to Washington DC, which is always a hot and exhausting experience in summer, especially with a small child, also made this an easy decision. When looking for a ticket, I noticed that I could return with two one ways and stop in Denver for about the same price as having a layover there and be able to catch one of my favorite bands and see an old friend. This was a bit of a budget stretch for me, but I managed to piece it together for pretty cheap (staying with family most of the time helped). A week of cool temps, great music, family, laughter, record shops, exploring, and a little alone time to top it off--sign me up!
With joyful abandon I made the impulsive decision to do it. In my mind I thought it would be a week distanced from daily responsibility and see how I felt to be in a place I love and just be me: not mom me, or work me, or friend, keep it together, clean your house/take care of things me, but uninhibited me, the me I want to be when I am stressed and feel like I am so extended I have nothing left for myself. Well, that did and didn’t happen.