Just Spitballing… Road Trip Reflections

My former roommates tell a somewhat embarrassing and definitely telling story about me from when we lived together in Pine Bluff. I get VERY into ‘calendar flip day,‘ that quintessential (and made-up) holiday when the last day of one month rolls over into the first day of the next month. I used to wait until they went to sleep, and then sneak back out into the living room to flip our kitchen wall calendar to the new, fresh, full-of-possibilities page… and they would rarely notice because, like most normal people, they didn’t put a lot of stock into the first of the month (other than, time to pay the rent check). It brought me a lot of elvish joy, though, and still does, even though right now I’m too transient and vagabond-y for anything as permanent as a wall calendar. It’s the last day of the month, which means it’s time to reflect back on what happened in the last thirty-ish days, what I learned, what I want to take with me into the new month, and what I want to leave behind.

This has been a bananas month. So bananas, in fact, that I haven’t written a blog post since I had some surprise free time on the side of the road in Pennsylvania nearly four weeks ago. In the last thirty days, I’ve visited Columbus, Pittsburgh, Boston (and Lexington and Cohasset), New York, DC (and Kensington and Baltimore), Charlottesville, Richmond, Charleston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Valdosta, Nashville, Indianapolis, South Bend, and Chicago. I’ve slept in 15 different beds and reconnected with 33 people I really love, not counting my extended family in South Bend over Thanksgiving. I only got one speeding ticket, which feels like a small miracle, and two parking tickets, none of which I’ve paid yet. (Will I pay them at all? Only time will tell.) I finished my 52-book reading challenge for the year, thanks mostly to a thousand hours in South America with no wifi and lots of time on my hands. I ran 50 miles this month for the first time all year, and simultaneously shaved 30 seconds off my average pace, thanks mostly to running in flat, sunny places like early-November Brooklyn, South Beach, and Charleston. I saw myself reflected in human mirrors who’ve known me since high school, or college, or the corps, or Pine Bluff, or Little Rock. I met the new generation of intelligent, badass, compassionate social justice warriors in the tiny babies many of my friends are raising. I played in a box, read picture books, spooned rations of mushy sweet potatoes, and felt jealous of how rarely infants are expected to wear pants. I pictures myself living in lots of different cities (I was most pleasantly surprised by Columbus and Charleston, but currently feeling most pulled to live in Chicago long-term). I started side hustle job #4 and solidified plans for Actual Full-Time Job starting in January. I spent a weekend with my family nucleus in Chicago and kept in touch with some key South America friends. South America started to solidify as a story I’ll tell forever, a special talisman that’s mine alone.

A few select journal reflections from the past month, to let you into my brain:

  • Tuesday 11/7, Brooklyn: Went running again this morning; I think I’m finally – after almost five years – to the point where I love it, enjoy it, am not just doing it to get a workout in. It’s not always easy – in fact it feels different every single day – but it makes my body, brain, and spirit feel so alive, that sense of flow.
  • Friday 11/17, Fort Lauderdale: Today was such a lovely day! We walked to Wynwood Walls, a funky and apparently rapidly gentrifying neighborhood with tons of graffiti and street art. Then we went to brunch at a place in Miami Beach called Yardbird, which is really fancy and southern. Our waitress hooked us up with lots of samples and free bday ice cream and all the rest. Then Zach Gali-fancy-nakis directed us to a dive bar called Mac’s Club Deuce that had 2×1 happy hour so we sat in the smoky amazingness for a while and endured everyone telling us how beautiful we are. Also walked on the beach for a while in perfect sunshiny weather, then went to another Eagles dive bar for PBR, air hockey, playing Tom Petty on the jukebox. Got an Uber and spoke Spanish to the driver the whole time…just drove to FLL.
  • Tuesday 11/21, Nashville: I’ve felt so, so loved, embraced, cared for by so many people these past few weeks, and I’ve also felt very conscientious about being ‘on’ – being fun, kind, self-aware, asking questions, giving compliments. It’s not that I’ve not been myself: it’s that I’ve been a slightly better version of myself, interestingly, and that’s required some hard work and intention. And I’m ready for a bit of a reprieve!
  • Friday 11/24, South Bend: Everybody warned me about the comedown. Coming back from backbacking, adventuring abroad is tough, they said. Yes, seeing friends and family is awesome and bucket-filling – and at the same time, you miss the luxurious freedom, the exploration, the novelty, the friendships, the easy-come, easy-go nature of it all. I don’t think I experienced too much of that when I first came back, but it’s starting to happen now, mostly, I think, as full-time work looms ahead. The stakes are high, in other words.

I’m planning to start roadtrip 2.0 sometime soon – Out West – but not sure exactly when, as I’ve stuck around South Bend a bit longer to take care of some family stuff. In any case, I have one more month of semi-transience before I resettle and refocus, and I’m planning to make the most of it.

Coming up: reflections on parachuting into people’s lives for 1-4 days at a time; advice if you want to roadtrip better than me; rootedness vs. rootlessness. Below are a bunch of random roadtrip photos that didn’t make it onto Facebook. Enjoy!

Just Spitballing… On Bon Jovi

This is the teeniest of blog posts, less a ‘post’ in itself and more an opportunity to shout out and amplify my friend Julie’s awesome music blog, Your Face Is a Mess + a forcing mechanism for me to get back into the blogging habit after the past month’s super-fun and totally inconsistent roadtrip schedule.

Julie was my ballet BFF for many years, and in addition to dancing in The Nutcracker every year, we also binge-watched Full House before binge-watching was even a thing, played the board game Compatibility, did ‘pretend cooking’ where we’d dump a bunch of stuff in a bowl and see how it tasted, and do ‘wild goose chases’ around her house and yard where we’d place notes with clues to the next place, and the next, and the next. (Sidenote: if any of my adult friends are into any of these activities, I just realized I still love 100% of them.)

I got to hang out with her for a couple days in Brooklyn on my roadtrip, and while there, we recorded what we planned to be a 10-minute video that ended up being 30 minutes. It’s basically answering the question: why are middle schoolers so, so weird? Specifically, why did we as middle schoolers get so, so into Bon Jovi? Bonus: I realized I make a lot of puns (TAKE THAT, CHARLOTTE), am unashamed of my O-town fanatacism of yesteryear, and would like to offer you an end table Mod Podged with images of your favorite band and/or artist.

Check it out here.

Just Spitballing… On the Side of the Road LOLZ

 

I got jokes.

But for real, I AM on the side of the road right now. I-80 eastbound near Loganton, Pennsylvania, to be exact. (The roadside assistance people wish I could be MORE exact as they try to find me, but alas: I was blasting Justin Bieber when it happened, not paying attention to mile markers.) I just blew out a tire en route to Boston, so I’m chilling in my car, eating leftover falafel salad, editing photos from the week so far, and reading Pachinko. Honestly, things could be a lot worse.

Shitty travel stuff just happens sometimes – sort of part of what I expect when I make the choice to go on a trip anywhere. Delayed flights, flat tires, wacky schedules, and all that are part of the adventure. I’m always miffed by people who take it really personally when they, say, have a flight delay – OF COURSE YOU DID, this is why Jesus invented the Kindle, and airport charging stations, and people watching. You’ll be fine.

I mean: I’m bummed I’ll be getting to Boston super late, and that I have to buy a new tire, but in ten years or even ten days I’ll have forgotten the annoyance and expense and just retained the exhilaration of driving myself all over the midwestern and eastern US of A and getting to reunite with so many great, great humans. It’s likely that my current reserve of good feelings from seeing friends is what’s allowing me to take this in stride so easily. Hm.

Tire-in-smithereens and all, it’s been such a nice week. It’s really filling my bucket to see so many friends from different parts of my life (well, almost entirely TFA people so far, but different corps years, so that kind of counts, right?), especially after the joy and struggle of constantly making new friends – literally on the daily – for my months abroad. There’s just something about: being asked how each individual member of my family’s doing, having the mirror held up to me on my relationships, and going to Meijer for Halloween crafting supplies that feels…irreplaceable.

It’s also a great reminder that I know the BEST people – both in terms of how and what folks are doing in the world (post-doc! masters! thinking about opening a yoga studio! taking time off! publishing books! managing teams of 30! having babies! not having babies! networking! grinding! rejecting the grind! learning!), and also in terms of the care and consideration they consistently show to others and to me. I just listened to an episode of 2 Dope Queens in which one of the comic guests kept starting sentences with, “Not to brag, but…” Like, “I was at Whole Foods the other day – not to brag…” and “I was in the yogurt aisle – not to brag…”

So, my friends have been amazingly kind to me – not to brag, just to celebrate them and remind myself and all of us what it looks like to be a good human in really easy, normal, daily, often-forgotten ways. One friend lent me her apartment gym pass; another sent me to a cool yoga studio. Multiple have grabbed the check for dinner, against my will because I saved up monies for this trip AND my dad sent me with some cash explicitly for buying friends’ food. Someone else made a handwritten list of suggested activities to do in their city, including vegetarian restaurant recommendations. Literally everyone has given or made or offered me breakfast and coffee. People have sent me addresses and directions and parking info in advance so it’s not confusing when I arrive, and taken time off work to hang out and show me around, and introduced me to their dope friends who are now my dope weak ties. Kaitlin crafted me a Halloween costume addition that took me from sexy bee to Pythagorean Theorem deconstructed. Of course, so many are letting me crash in their beds and on couches and air mattresses and lending me towels and toothpaste and such. Most of all, though, people have said things like, “I can’t wait to see you!” and, “How was South America?” and, “Do you need anything?” and, “Safe travels!” and that means the most. My lil words-of-affirmation and acts-of-service heart is so happy.

And the thing is, each individual act is somewhat unexceptional – and many of y’all reading are probably like, “Well, of course they did that!” Taken together, y’all are really an exceptional group of humans – and those little lovingkindnesses are indicative of a way of being that’s huge and hopeful and important. It makes me want to be better.

Love to y’all!