She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.”
I can feel it in my bones, in my head, and in my heart: I have not left the country in a year.
My travel bug to get back overseas — to Europe, Asia, Africa, SOMEWHERE — is biting harder than ever, and that bug has motivated me to book two major trips next year — Europe in April and Thailand in November. But while these last 12 months have left me the most domesticated of any year in the past 10, that doesn’t mean they haven’t offered the opportunity to reflect. In fact, revisiting so many places within my own country’s borders has provoked even greater reflection…
Many for different reasons.
It started, as any trip down memory lane should, with North Carolina. To be fair, I’d only been in the Dean Dome one other time since graduating in 2006, but the memory of that one time… with my Dad… evoked a wave of emotion as my two friends and I made our way into the stadium last December. The girl who had entered that arena 3 years prior was not the same girl who was there now, and thoughts of those differences overwhelmed me as I sat there watching my team.
There had been an innocence at that previous game, Dad by my side, my home state team and home school team on the court; that Carolina-clad girl had never known real, unimaginable, undeniable grief then. Now she had…
And she knew she could get through it.
That thought… along with the memories, and not to mention another resounding Tar Heel victory, caused plenty of smiles during the two-hour event and victory celebration afterwards.
Shortly after North Carolina I returned to another place that had almost exclusively left me with smiles on previous trips. Really, I’m sure anyone who’s been to Palo Alto, CA would argue it’s hard not to smile there. Just taking in a whiff of that cool, crisp air gliding off the San Francisco bay is energizing in and of itself. But this time, it also reminded me how different of a person I’d become since my last trip there six years prior.
After a successful “go-live,” both in terms of the IT system installed, as well as the camaraderie of my fellow team members, I’d believed I was in a job that would continue to reward me and make me happy for a long time. Imagine my surprise when that feeling was cut short less than a year later.
In the six years since that last trip to the bay area I’d navigated the path of going back to graduate school, finding a new job in a different industry, and then of course, coming back to that old industry in a different capacity. I’d confirmed my true passion, but also learned that my passion wasn’t something I wanted as a career, and with that, that the Healthcare IT industry really was indeed the one for me–I just needed a different company.
And I’d found one.
A trip to Dallas in late January brought back several memories of each of my previous three trips there to visit my best friend. My very first visit to the city in 2008 was wrought with anxiety over my upcoming first customer go-live; the February dreariness only added to the angst. While still stifled by rainy weather, my second trip proved much more enjoyable, both my best friend and me established in our careers and anxious to celebrate out on the town together.
My third trip in the fall of 2011 finally brought sunshine, allowing for some outdoor exploring that included a run on the beautiful downtown Katy Trail. Here, having just begun my application to graduate school, I’d reflected on my upcoming departure from my company and my excitement for a new career path. Little did I know my next time on this trail now five years later, I’d have done a 180 on just about everything I’d thought then and for those reasons, my run there this January proved quite provocative.
But nowhere near as provocative as my trip Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina this summer. My last trip here had followed my Dad’s death, meaning I was well on my way in my journey of enlightenment. But I didn’t know that yet. Rather, I knew my life was in uproar, and I wondered… and worried… if that uproar would ever subside, even as the band at my favorite restaurant tried to reassure me with the song Let it Be.
Upon my return trip this year, that uproar had not only subsided, but it had given way now to an even better understanding and appreciation for that previous trip. This much calmer person realized how important it had been to go through that journey, and had learned now to trust life just a little more.
One of my favorite quotes states “Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.” In the midst of my trips to well-known cities these past 12 months, I did indeed accomplish adding Santa Barbara, Upstate New York, and even the state of Louisiana to my list. But it’s going back to where I’ve been before that has dominated my experiences this year, and sparked more reflection than any of those new places ever could.
Same places. Different person.
In addition to revisiting old locales, my domestication this year has also left me time to see several of my favorite bands in concert. Hearing American Authors sing “The Best Day of my Life,” brought back a memory of a road trip from Tucson to San Diego with my dog. Similarly, a One Republic concert reminded me of my happy times in 2014 — seeing the band in Phoenix with my best friend, and of course, their amazing concert in Paris.
But no concert could cause as much reflection as NeedtoBreathe. After all, the only other time I’d seen the group live was just after my dad passed away. Wrought with pain — emotional and physical with my injury at its height — I’d sung loudly to the words in one of their most meaningful songs, willing myself to abide by them:
Don’t let the night become the day
Don’t take the darkness to the grave
I know pain is just a place
The will has been broken.”
-NeedtoBreathe, Keep Your Eyes Open
Three years later now, I smiled at those words. The grief of losing my father remains. The pain from what I understand now to be a chronic injury lingers, and had recently reared its ugly head. But I know I’ll get through it.
And I especially know I’m strong enough not to let it break me.
I will forever remain a proponent that you travel to new places as often as you can. Going somewhere you’ve never been before teaches you things you never knew about yourself — what you’re capable of, what you’re made of, what makes you “you.”
But every once in a while, take time to go back to some old places, too. Discovering how far you’ve come, is a part of discovering yourself.
Cause I’m a comeback, I’m a comeback kid
Don’t know why bad things happened, but they did
I don’t think I deserve the hurt I get, but I’m made for it
It’s not the end, no, it’s not the end
I’m a comeback kid.”
-The Band Perry