Hello from San Francisco, friends! To start, I offer you a poem…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
T.S. Eliot “Little Giddings”
I’m writing from a coffee shop in downtown San Francisco, one of my favorite things to do. I wanted to write an ode to the ways traveling changed my life. Can I be dramatic and say that it saved my life? BECAUSE IT DID.
Traveling is a privilege not everyone can afford. I’ve struggled with talking about travel as a way to “fix your life” because that’s not an option to everyone. For me, I was in such a horrible place a few years ago and felt I exhausted all my options short of moving far, far away.
Cut to: November 2015. For years I had been among the walking fucking depressed. Walking depression is a real thing. I didn’t know it at the time, but all the signs were there. I missed work on a regular basis. I stayed in bed for days. I rented my house out and moved back in with my grandma. Nothing was fun. I cried a lot. My eating disorder was worse than ever. I had gained over fifty pounds. I ruined dear friendships by isolating myself and being an asshole. I refused to date because I felt emotionally incapable of being in a relationship. A lot of that had to do with how much I hated my body. You could not pay me a million dollars to be intimate with someone. And yet…
I was good at my job. I smiled at coworkers and for the most part was a pleasant person to be around. I organized a huge project in my community. I spent time with people and family. I laughed. I volunteered, did social things, went to young professionals events. I did all the things that should have made me happy.
But none of that mattered, because I always knew something was off. I’ve always had this overwhelming feeling that I am not reaching my full potential. That I am five steps behind the rest of the world at all times. Can you relate?
On one of the shit days I couldn’t get out of bed, I received a package. It was my lavender bouquet I had ordered as a futile attempt to make myself feel better. The strangest thing happened. I knew I had to go to the place the lavender came from. Maybe I was craving something life changing so bad that I was looking for an answer anywhere. I’ll never know, but I know at that moment my answer was leaving Indiana. I got online to message the shop owner when I read this on her profile…
“Sometimes I get to help someone else start a lavender field and I have to say, that always makes me feel a little bit like a fairy godmother. I know what it will be like to sit in the middle of a field, alive with bees, and full of purple. There’s nothing else like that.”
Damn. I was going to sit in the middle of that goddamn field if it was the last thing I did. That place was Paradise, Montana…and I did sit in the field that Summer.
That Summer I would come to learn a lot about myself. The most important thing being a piece I read from Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar.
“…because wherever I sat–on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok–I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
Traveling did not fix the issues I carried with me. Traveling made me feel like for the first time I had control over my own life. I had made the decision to change directions and forge a new path for myself. It allowed me to reflect on my life and figure out where I wanted to go next. I realized that what I needed most was some self-fucking-care. Radical self-care, even.
I am allllll about self-care now. It’s more than just a buzz word. Self-care is connected to many other important virtues in life. It’s a chain of events. Radical self-care starts with gratitude. Gratitude leads to simplicity. Simplicity brings order. Order creates harmony. Harmony gives us the inner peace needed to appreciate beauty. Beauty opens us up to joy. Joy was something I had not felt in a long time.
For this week – I hope you are able to do whatever you need to do to support yourself. Maybe that’s something small, or something BIG. If you can’t travel 1,700 miles away, that’s OK. When you look closer, the only thing I actually did was commit to focusing on myself for once. To slow down and pay attention to my feelings. To acknowledge what wasn’t working and refuse to walk through life as a zombie. To have new experiences that brought me joy.
Here’s to new experiences! Whether that’s staying in a hostel and learning you don’t enjoy sleeping in bunk beds next to snoring dudes or enjoying San Francisco sourdough and clam chowda, it all matters. You matter. I love you!