The past week brought me a few personal revelations. Some silly, like: I have nothing left to say, why did I start this blog? Some more realistic: Isn’t it funny how you can think you are doing really well and then totally fall apart? And some ironic: For someone who cries almost daily, how do I get a clogged tear duct?
On my way to New York I was shut down, struggling to find tears and looking for beauty and poetry in books and my playlist to evoke real emotion and connection. I think that it is the power of art to remind you of your true heart. Often, and especially when facing a difficult personal transition, you don’t ease into the next stage right away because you need to recover or find who you are in uncharted circumstances. I don’t think I fully appreciated until recently that not being able to move on can be because you are still as attached as ever to a person, idea, or location. Which is fucked up, because time has moved you to places that make it impossible to go back, to return to what once was once new, pure, and beautiful.
Visiting New York again this year under very different emotional and physical circumstances: no blizzard to trek through, no company to entertain me, and three months of personal exploration (notice the avoidance of the word growth) to shape my experience. Everything has changed, I have changed, but I feel just as raw emotionally as I did months ago, like not a day has passed. It’s like a song keeps playing in my head and I need to figure out what it has to say. I honestly have no idea how much longer it will take for me to shift and begin to feel a sense of anger, release, or reconciliation. But, I do know that challenging myself to get out in the world is remaking me a little more everyday. Into what? Still not sure...
I have spent a considerable amount of time mourning this year. Mourning death, heartbreak, and some dreams it was time to let go. Of course, I have also spent quite some time reflecting on how this mourning was tangled in so much love, laughter, rediscovered friendships, and adventure. It is also true that not all the mourning was bad and not all the laughter joyful. But the adventure has been the real touchstone. Because no matter where we go and with who, alone or with a crowd, we are taking ourselves along for the ride.
I have mentioned before that milestones have never really been something for me to celebrate, so the idea that I am making something special out of the year I turn 40, that I am setting goals for celebrating a milestone, is a big deal. In addition, the spontaneity with which I am jumping in is a new thing for me. In general, I am a planner. I am a master at efficiency, organization, and overthinking (as anyone who knows me well will tell you), sometimes to the detriment of being able to let go of my expectations. But in the last year, I have embraced spontaneity in a new way by making big decisions for my life and then figuring out how they will work later. Putting my needs first is also something new, because I am giver and am happiest when others are taken care of or their needs are being met.
Like many introverts, I have always been pretty self sufficient. I am friendly, but I hate the point where small talk gets awkward and I would prefer to have a plan when talking to someone in person if I do not know them well. I like my solitude and am pretty good company for myself. Usually, I am the loneliest in a group of people. So, the idea of traveling alone was both an easy decision and a challenging reality.
There is something about seeing the world with a broken heart.
How easy it is to forget that your feet know where to go and that many others have been where you are before you. Same place, same pain, same joy, same humanity. In a city like New York you see so clearly how life is rooted in the past, but changing so quickly that the future seems right on the horizon. On this trip, I reflected quite a bit on duality. How things can be both past and future. How we can seem ok, but really be devastated. How we can bounce back, rebuild or reinvent ourselves, and recover from anything if we are able to accept all the mess, let time move with us, and be gentle with our hearts.
This trip to New York was a spontaneous use of last year’s air miles (thank you 2018 travel!). I got the tickets with no idea of where I would stay, if I would be alone, or what I would do there. Luckily, everything fell into place: one of my closest friends was able to come with me, one of my favorite bands was playing, museums had exhibits I really wanted to see, a good friend had a place for us to crash, and my cousin had a day off to hang out. Things just came together.
What I didn’t realize was that I would be so busy I wouldn’t have much time to just be my introvert self in New York. I also didn’t realize how much I need that when I travel, especially when feeling a little heartsick and reflective. To just wander a city in silence, to quietly observe strangers around me, to just sit and read or write somewhere. I was perhaps a bit too eager to avoid processing some of the things in my life, so it was easy to fall into busyness. I try not to travel with too many expectations. I prefer to appreciate what people and places have to offer and keep myself open to those experiences. One of the reasons I love travel is that you can’t take it personally when places unexpectedly delight or disappoint you. Unlike people, places have no choice but to show you the truth of who they are if you look beyond the obvious. No bullshit, no need to impress, just a piece of earth filled with grit, humor, beauty, and endless possibilities. It’s why I choose to visit cities, rather than resorts. Take country drives, rather than tours. If you pay attention, you can even learn something about yourself.
There are lots of reasons to travel: visiting family or friends, work, exploring sights, experiencing a new place, listening to music, shopping, eating and drinking, running away from something, running to something, chasing love, mending a broken heart, getting to know yourself better, escaping yourself, or just being you somewhere else. I have done all of these in Portland, so the city and I are already intimately acquainted after only a couple of visits. I honestly cannot think of another place where I have such a sorted history, but despite all of that (or maybe because of it), I find myself drawn there. It is like it holds some secret that I am hoping to uncover in the bizarre scavenger hunt of self discovery or some love that is yet to bloom.
The first time I fell in love with a place was in my twenties, about three months after moving to San Francisco. I was walking down Market Street with the bustle of the city around me and The White Stripes playing on my very basic phone that held maybe three albums at a time, and it just hit me. I was just where I was supposed to be. This was my place, my home, and I was in love with it. San Francisco was the first place I had ever chosen for myself and I still love it to this day for that reason and more. Walking around the streets of Portland, I didn’t feel that I was meant to stay, but I had that same feeling that I was meant to be there, that this was the place I needed to be in just that moment.