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!