Sunday, May 22, 2011

How do you measure a year?

I woke up this morning feeling like I was forgetting something… aside from the fact that I was forgotten in the Rapture which appears to have only claimed Randy “Macho Man" Savage. No, today was significant. And I quickly realized that one year ago today was the day we left our home for The Great Road Trip.

525,600 minutes. Like the song from Rent says, that’s how you measure a year. And what a difference a year makes. One year ago this morning I got out of bed knowing I was going to take one of the biggest risks of my life. With my best friend in the world beside me, I hugged my dog goodbye and climbed into Butters the van and headed east to explore the country. I had a feeling nothing would ever be the same, but I never could have imagined the changes that would follow.

People travel for many reasons, one of them being new perspective. We certainly got more perspective than we bargained for on that trip. I often wonder, at what exact point was it that I knew we were going to leave Idaho and change everything for sure? Was it that long stretch of Kentucky freeway when the Rascal Flatts song made me break down and cry? Was it when we were having our drunken knock down drag out fight on the streets of Nashville and we realized that no amount of time together is enough to truly figure each other out? Was it one of the 500 times I had to drag my six bags of stuff up cheap motel stairs and I realized I was entirely too attached to a bunch of meaningless crap I'd filled my house with?

The signs were there long before we left. Mr. W was miserable at his job, miserable at school and I was beginning to think he was miserable with me. I went from having the occasional wine with dinner (and even more occasional drunken binge) to going out whenever I could and getting tanked, in part to cover up the fact that I felt dead inside and I didn’t even know why. I had a great life, after all. It just wasn’t my life anymore. We weren’t doing well there but we had blinders on. It took the culture shock of a cross country trip to remove them.

There are days when I long to be back on the road. Those are the days when it gets hard, when I realize how much mess we still have to clean up and how far we have to go before we can really relax. During the trip, we were too busy taking it all in, planning the next leg of our journey and experiencing as much as we could to even think about the future. Sometimes I miss the simplicity and the excitement of whatever discoveries we were about to make. And I miss the places we got to see all too briefly. I miss Portland, Maine, Plymouth, Massachusetts and Nashville, Tennessee. I crave strawberry wine from Memphis and I still wish I’d gotten to experience the Maid of the Mist boat ride at Niagara Falls.

When we returned, shit got pretty real and we were launched into seven months of crazy agony, the details of which only Mr. W and I will ever fully know. Luckily, I had some amazing friends (both old and new) who knew just when to swoop in and distract us when we were about to break down. I am blessed. I had an amazing life partner and some angels to help me through the scary times. Some people aren’t so lucky. I sincerely hope I never have to endure what we did again but if I do, now I know I’ll be strong enough to face it.

And while you couldn’t pay me enough to go back and re-live the months after the road trip, the trip itself made it worth it. When the pictures flash by on our digital frame, Mr. W look at each other and smile. The fact that we ended up here in Seattle makes it even more worth it. The last year has taught me the true meaning of “it will all be worth it in the end.”

The future is no longer scary. It’s more undefined for me than it ever has been and I look forward to living it and figuring out each step. Things that used to give me great anxiety no longer bother me. Now I understand that things I want at 25 probably won’t be what I want at 35 or 45. And that’s OK. The point of life isn’t to figure it all out, it’s to be happy and maybe make others happy too. And I have the last year to thank for that invaluable realization.

How do you measure a year?

In daylights?

In sunsets?

In midnights?

In cups of coffee?

In inches? In miles?

In laughter?

In strife?

How about love?

Measure in love.


gatordad said...

I love to travel. I am so glad that you love it too. You are about to enjoy the most wonderful thing about Seattle...the summer! It will remind you that the last year was worth it.

If the rest of the year was like summer, I would never have left Seattle.

Have you read "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac? Kindred travelers will enjoy it...

Peabea said...

Hubby and I have counted 47 years together and I guess I loved counting the roller coaster years the best when I look back. Nothing has ever been the norm for us but we've survived. You will always value that you took the road trip scarry leap when young. As we've aged and began a family, we didn't have the leisure of being as carefree, but then the kids grew up and we were us again. Great story and thanks for sharing a part of your trip and life. Loved reading it.

Genevieve said...

This was beautiful - thanks for sharing your story - I can't wait to read your memoir. I also can't believe it's been a year since we met in Boston

Anonymous said...

Great post Jessica! I love the pic of you and Russ jumping on the motel beds. I know I'm not the most prolific commenter, but you've turned into quite the inspirational writer and I love it!

Stevie said...

Awwww, I love this! I think it's such a testament of a lasting relationship that a) you could travel the country together in a car and still be together afterward and b) that even though you've been through some tough times, you got through it together and are stronger as a result.

You two are SO cute!

sherryrose said...

ok keyboard doesn't like tears and that totally made me cry. i can't believe it's been a year already since the road trip! holy crap that went FAST! it's been the worst year in the best way possible. i'm sure that will make sense to you. you've made it this far and while there's not only good things ahead, i believe that there are more good than bad and you are WELL prepared to handle whatever bad the universe tries to dish out.


JD said...

At 25, I felt I knew more than I feel I know now...but I guess that's key, isn't it? If we ever figured shit out, what would be the point in going on this wonderful, fucked up journey called life?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful piece by a beautiful woman! Love the picture of you and Russ on the bed! Ha! Can't wait to come to Seattle sometime and visit....

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