I made it to Kansas. So 45th state is in the bag. Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia are all that stand between me and seeing all 48 contiguous states on this one road trip.
But the last few days have given me a lot to think about. Not just since my trip is slowly, but surely, drawing to a close, but about what awaits me after I’m done. Or rather, the uncertainty of it all.
I only briefly mentioned the visit with my grandmother’s sister (my great aunt?) because I wanted to expound on it in its own entry. I believe she said she was 82 but out of everyone I’ve seen or visited along the way, she’s pushed me to find myself more than anyone else. At first, she asked about my tiny piece of the family – how my mother’s writing was going, what my brother was up to, etc. But once she got into my trip portion of her questions, it’s like she asked all of the right things that no one else has asked up until this point. Or maybe I’m just now finding myself comfortable enough to figure the answers out and share them with someone else.
“Are you ready to go back home?”
Almost everyone has asked me what I’m going to do once I finally get home. But she led with if I was ready to even go back, not assuming I was ready to move on to the next list to conquer or step in my life. When I hesitated to give my answer, it didn’t slip past her and she called me on it.
“Come on now. Be honest.”
And honestly, I don’t know if I am. I gave her the honest answer. I miss the company of my family. Living with parents, especially at an age like 28, there are going to be major annoyances just from a clash of where everyone is at in life. But a lot of the time, it’s nice knowing you can wake up in a house and have a conversation with 2 or 3 people without having to step foot out of your home. And while I like being alone, there are times it gets lonely out on the road. Just like there are times it gets claustrophobic living with 3 other people. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
But I’m not ready to go back to South Carolina or Chapin. It scares me more than I ever anticipated that I’ll just wind up going back home, getting comfortable in a predictable schedule, and never get out. I want something that’s my own. South Carolina is my home. But it was given to me. I didn’t seek it out. I was born there. I grew up there. And my family, for the most part, has stayed there. I feel like it’s theirs, not mine. I didn’t choose to live in South Carolina. I chose to live near family. And as much as I love my family, I want something that’s only mine. For me. And I’m okay if you want to consider that selfish.
“What have you learned about yourself?”
Another hard hitting question. People have always led with “Oh I’m sure you learn a lot” or something similar. But no one ever asks me what I’ve learned or picked up on. They assume I’m finding myself. Or something along those lines. Or I might even go as far as to say what I think I’ve learned or what I expected to learn.
And it took me awhile to come up with an answer for that one too. I’ve learned a lot, but what I’ve realized is that for every answer I seem to find along the way, two more questions pop up. So it just seems like I never make any headway on this whole “finding myself” process. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far though is that I really want to help push other people. I had to push myself… and push hard… to be comfortable with quitting my job, leaving my comfort zone (both emotionally and physically), and take off without a plan, schedule, or agenda. That was so foreign to me six months ago. And now I live it every single day. Because I’ve pushed myself, I’ve learned so much. But it isn’t just information I’m learning about myself, it’s the process of learning about life and the situations I’m in to learn new things. It’s so more than just basic answers. It’s learning how to live life differently.
And I want, so bad, to be able to push other people to learn that too. I know how much it’s helped me out and changed me as a person. I want to share that. It’s why I’m pushing two cousins of mine to take a trip alone or with me. Just to get out of the area and see something new. Do something they haven’t done before. One of them told me what I was doing was so inspiring, but when I asked what it was inspiring her to do different, she didn’t have an answer. And that’s not good enough for me.
It’s why I’m bummed that my closest friend from work is quickly becoming the type of person we used to make fun of on a regular basis. The type of person who has no life, always works in their spare time, and takes work home on nights and weekends. We scoffed at how sad it must be for work to be the only thing they lived for. That they lived to do their job and nothing else. That they had nothing to look forward to at home. Now she’s right there with them. And that kills me because that’s not good enough for me. I can’t be friends with someone like that anymore. Life is much too short to be caught up in something you don’t enjoy. And as much as I love her to death, there’s got to be a newly-discovered distance put between us because of it. I refuse to talk about a job I no longer have that I didn’t enjoy in the first place. Yet that’s all our conversations ever revolve around anymore. It sucks.
I also met a new friend right before my trip who I really related to and connected with. I felt like we saw eye to eye on so many things, both important life issues and the trivial, meaningless topics that almost mean more than the important things to close friends. And almost overnight, we went from talking every day to not having talked in weeks. Because of tension that mounted from this person having since gone back to only what’s comfortable and what they know instead of taking a chance. I’m to the point now where I don’t even know what to say anymore, given the opportunity. And that’s rough because I really miss having someone around who gets me.
Just those few examples though are what Aunt Doris made me realize. I want to help people learn what I’ve learned so far (answers found!), but I have no idea how to incorporate that into my life at all (more questions popping up). I know everyone can’t swing quitting their job and traveling the country. But getting someone to do something out of their ordinary lives to put them in positions to learn more about themselves is exciting to me now. I’m excited about telling stories in my blog that gets my mom looking at trips to take. I’m excited about my dad telling me he’ll have to go to more of the National Parks in Alaska so his passport can have as many (or more) stamps than mine will have. Because it means I’m doing something that’s impacting their lives to get out and do something new. That’s an amazing feeling when I can inspire other people (especially my parents) to consider new things.
Aunt Doris kept on too. Where did I want to live? What do I want to do when I’m home? How am I going to keep pushing myself further? What’s next? Will I keep in contact with where I’m going and where I wind up? And best of all…
“What about a girlfriend?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Good! Keep going!”
So thank you, Aunt Doris! You helped more than you’ll ever know. And everyone else, bear with me. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve figured a lot out, but I’ve got a long way to go too. There have been hard times. And I’ve been an ass to some special people along the way during those hard times. Sometimes I wish I had done things differently. But I don’t regret much of anything on this trip. I’ve learned so much about myself, others, and life in general. I want to share that. I want everyone else to see in themselves what I’m finally discovering in me.
And I’m just getting started!