One year ago.
October 22, 2014. It was a big day for me. It was the beginning of an adventure of exploration, personal growth, and teaching myself to be myself. It has taken me a year to write this. Perhaps I am a slow processor, but I think that I am still realizing the effects of that adventure.
I vow to use the word "journey" minimally. But if I do, just think of The Bachelor/ette drinking games and take a sip of wine.
The months prior to October 22, 2014 were, to put it as blatantly as possible, pure hell. The emotional roller coaster I had been on was epic. A year and a half before, I had quit my secure job as a special education teacher for a period of *funemployment. That was fun while it lasted. Then I started graduate school at LSU. I liked/loved my classes, but had a job that placed me in the roll of Anne Hathaway, and my boss being the Meryl. I realized that the program and the situation was not for me, so I decided not to return the following year. Instead, I worked for my dad (thanks for keeping me in groceries, Daddy-O) helping with the books for his biz. When I needed a little extra cash, I went to work at a local company that makes custom drapes a few days a week. Y'all... I could have worked there forever. Those middle-agers were my jam and I loved seeing the results of my work hanging at the end of the week. I had a cancer scare, so for a couple of months I shut down, even though I knew deep down that nothing was wrong. Most of my family and friends still don't know about that. Also, specialists and biopsies are The Dumb.
Then I decided to leave. I prayed about a departure and a return date and booked my flight. I sat with my friend Malu and planned out who I would stay with on my trip, and ideas of what to do while spending two months in Holland.
Disclosure: I abhor trip planning. Just get me there and take me places. Travel books and websites are not my idea of fun. My fun is the experience, because I prefer to be surprised in that regard, rather than build up my imagination and then be disappointed. Disappointment prevention, if you will.
My flight from Baton Rouge didn't leave until noon, so I had an easy morning. Momsies brought me to the airport and we both held it together until the security check point. My biggest worry at that point was if the Post-It I had left on the dishwasher with operation instructions for my brother would stick there for the entire two months. It did.
I landed in Amsterdam at about 8am, got through baggage claim and customs, and Malu's mother, Lia, was waiting to pick me up. I was exhausted and had not slept a wink on the plane. My bags were heavy and I was flustered the entire time with all of my crap. Solo travel lesson: if you can't manage your stuff yourself, then you don't need it. My first true experience with jet lag was starting to set in, and would last me a solid 4 days with some serious side-effects. And y'all, finding a restroom at 1am driving back to The Hague from Belgium is a bitch. Trust me.
A year later, and I can easily recall the terrorizing effects of my two months spent away from home. The emotional roller coaster that comes with being so completely away from your family and the familiarities of your life likely isn't up to safety regulations. The things I missed most were: my bed, my own shower, cleaning my kitchen, my family, my couch, DRIVING MY CAR, having the grocery store to myself at 7am on a Saturday morning, Bunny Bread, country smells, and open spaces.
Actually sang this song when I got home. Plus a full on opening of The Sound of Music hilltop dancing reenactment.
The things I loved while being gone: walking everywhere, public transport (sometimes...), the sound my boots made on cobblestone streets, cheap croissants from the HEMA every morning, hearing a new language everywhere I went, the way everything smelled like coffee or tea, cutting through The Passage to go anywhere in den Haag, picking up white chocolate hazelnut treats from Leonidas once a week because... chocolate, discovering Milka bars. There are so many that I could spend hours listing the small things I miss.
I do not miss the girl I was before my trip. She was more timid, more unsure, even with an ungodly level of confidence in herself. That girl was terrified of the unfamiliar. When I have a day when my students drive me completely bonkers and I want to quit life, I think about the day I survived The Train Torture Incident of 2015. I did not claim defeat and cry then, so there is no reason to claim defeat and cry now. I do not have time to dwell on the issues and get a case of the mully grubs over things that will not matter in a year, or even a week.
What I do have time for is more adventure, more exploration, and more growth. I have time to dedicate to improving myself and learn how to actively engage in what is happening around me. I have time to sit and enjoy things both small and large. I have time to participate in my own life, rather than act as a bystander. I have time to build relationships with people and allow them into my life to see both the good and the bad. I have time to figure it out, whatever that "it" may be.
But mostly I have a life to have, to make, and to show.
*Funemployment: A period of time in which you Do Whatcha Wanna. Coined by the best, Juley Le.