This visit to the island has been a little mind-boggling. Seeing so many friendly, familiar faces is a kind of mix between amazing and exhausting.
After a year apart, there’s so much to catch up on, but replaying your own stories is never as interesting as hearing new tales. I’m eager to hear the news from my friends but they want mine. And so we sit there, battling out who asks what, darting around answering before responding with a question back.
But I’m the one who’s been away, so I dutifully repeat my story, and it changes a little each time, but generally runs the same gauntlet.
This past year—and I keep calling it a year but really the time is stretching past that—has been, for lack of a better term in mind, full-on.
And a simple question carries so much forward in my mind. And hearing myself try to bring these people with me on my journeys has been good and bad.
Bad because I can’t quite explain what’s happened, what I’ve learned or how I’ve changed, though I’m sure the latter is more obvious to them than it is to me. And I want, so badly, to bring them to these places I’ve visited, and show them—no, introduce them to the people I’ve met, but words fail to make them as vivid as I know them.
So when people ask, “How’s Halifax? Do you like it there?” I nod and emphasize YES. “How was California? How was your trip?” GREAT, I grin.
One-word answers because attempting more is overwhelming.
How there were times when I was so lonely, and even knowing the loneliness would pass didn’t help exhaust the feeling of emotional destitution. How I struggled through the silliest episodes that, at the time, sent my day into trauma. And how many days passed where I just wanted to have a really good friend there, one I didn’t have to make any effort with, one who just let me be grumpy or happy or quirky without asking why or what or who?
But also how I met the most amazing people who welcomed me into their lives. And that I almost embraced this life they invited me into as my own, forever, not looking back. I’ve shared a living or temporary sleeping space, I’ve made coffee, broken bread or split a grocery list, and travelled roads, for hours and days, with people that are so close and dear in my memory and heart that mentioning them in a few words only amplifies the geographical distance between the people I’m now explaining them to.
But, it’s also good. Because it reminds me that I’m still journeying. And that I’m a lucky, lucky girl. Because I have people like you in my life now.
And it’s good because hearing myself say these things out loud helps me remember that they happened, and that they will happen again. And that means I have so much to look forward to.
Here’s a note to say helloooo, and we’ve made it to August.
Yesterday was high 30s and soooo hawt, today is low 20s and cloudy. And currently, my feelings towards this city are as dependable as the weather.
At a glance from above, I’m just a red dot slowly approaching the end of Highway 70. Keyword: slowly. Right now that’s the rock in my shoe, the cramp in my foot, and it’s overshadowing any joy at the progress I’m making en route.
Something in me started to tick as soon as I sensed the ocean getting closer. I’d lost reception in Texas and Tennessee but now I was losing focus. A restless itch runs through me as I tap my thumb impatiently on the wheel; the road stretches ahead and I’m starting to meditate quietly through each stoplight as frustration creeps in.
Road-tripping has a romantic ring, but it’s easy to forget ‘road’ is half the title and usually more than half the while of a journey by car.
After five hours, and almost as many states, of driving in one day, crossing from Virginia, through Maryland and Delaware into New Jersey, I was hoping to arrive at the coast sometime before sunset. A five-hour drive is a small price to pay in seeking out new turf for adventure, but that was just today. Landlocked since Encinitas, California, I’d crossed the continent in ten days and it was the culmination of over forty hours of driving that was starting to get to my senses. And my lower back.
Stiff and sore, I shift around like a boat bobbing on anchor, constantly readjusting my posture. I peel my back off the seat and a breeze blows across the damp of my shirt. I’ve refilled my water bottle at least four times but still risk dehydration—I’ve been sweating since Baltimore.
Glancing at the state map for the twentieth time, the minute space I’ve inched towards the blue mass labeled ‘Atlantic’ in the last few minutes adds punch to my spirit and pressure on my gas pedal.
After slipping off the Interstate a few miles back, swapping high-speed rush hour for a slower but more direct route, the congested single lane is making me regret my decision. I’m starting to feel desperate in the haze of traffic.
This is when I pause and reflect. In this almost-there moment, I’m forgetting the now. I’m forgetting to appreciate the bridges, literal and figurative, I’ve crossed to get here.
There were many times on this trip where I could have driven further instead of stopping in time to set up camp, so I could quietly watch the sun set. There were even more times I could’ve hurried through places instead of dilly-dallying in some small-town supermarket, ogling over the new-to-me junky snacks on offer; I could’ve bypassed the scenic byway or the opportunity to snap a photo of the world’s largest rocking chair; I could’ve cut my conversation with Elma short when she started telling me about her grandkids, but those are all moments intertwined in a trip. Those are all people and places that have given me a story to tell.
But so is this one. All those high points, caught in memory or glee-filled snapshots, are riding on the back my current less-than-glamorous situation. So, as I shift back down into third (again), I simultaneously shift my mindset and take a breath. Then I wet my lips with the tepid water remaining in the bottle, crank up the radio and beat out a new rhythm on the wheel—one that vibrates with stoke.
A second note I have to add is that when I got out of the water, after this long enduring tale of a day to get in it, I was approached by a boy. A kind-of-chubby-around-18-has-his-first-chinstrap(kind of)-boy. With terrible greasy bangs. Sorry, dude. They were bad.