I’ve never been great with milestones. When I left New York after five difficult years of college, the friend with whom I was driving cross-country asked if I had anything I wanted to say or do to mark the occasion. I said, “yeah, get in the car and leave.”
Setting intention isn’t historically my strong suit, and sabbatical-ing around the world was no different. As I mentioned way back when, I landed in Bogota with a four day hostel reservation, an around the world plane ticket, a six-year-old copy of South America on a Shoestring, and two weeks to get to Bolivia. Advance planning: not my strong suit.
So how do I mark today, the momentous last day of freedom before I return to work? With gratitude, with friendship, and with adventure – the same way I spent my time out and about in the world.
I walked the dog this morning the same way I have most days I’ve lived in this neighborhood. I happened, today, to see the owner of a home that I have watched, dog walk by dog walk, be lovingly restored and re-landscaped in a neighborhood where homes are more frequently torn down and replaced with McMansions. I got to tell her how much I’ve loved watching her house come back to life – and see how happy she was to be thanked.
I went to the Broad Museum, just opened last week, and saw amazing art with a friend who took the same semester off from college in 1991; the last cultural thing we did together was use my dad’s tickets to see La Traviata at the San Francisco Opera, which we left after one intermission because we were both crying so hard we couldn’t take anymore. But even today, we both remembered that evening for its beauty, which I believe is how I will remember today. Something old, something new, something inspirational.
And then I delighted in the mundane. I went grocery shopping. I cleaned my room. I changed my sheets and unpacked my suitcase from last week’s adventure. I hardly remember how to go to work, despite some contract jobs here in LA (like that time I worked on the Oscars, which I’ve yet to report). So I’m trying to remember what I need at a desk, what one wears to an office, and to bring my paperwork to prove I’m a legal, able to work, resident of the USA. Thank goodness my passport is close at hand.
This transition – this last day of ‘freedom’ – is one of many lasts I’ve had since I packed up and hit the road over two years ago. There was my last day in Dallas , my last day ‘out and about in the world, which took place in Turkey, my last drive in my beloved Bessie. But this transition also marks one of many more firsts on this adventure my life has become: my first visits to 16 countries, my first published piece, my first new car in 15 years, my first time (and second, and third) in the Eastern Sierra in 25 years, and tomorrow, my first day at a new company since 2005.
The struggle with this transition is the looming question, “Is this the end?” Is the adventure over? And while, of course, I’ve had moments of panic at this very thought, the reality is no, of course not. The adventure began where, somewhere along the way, I learned to let go of fear and let in life. To take risks that were previously unimaginable because I would have rationalized my way out of them, before even starting. Quitting my job was a risk. Moving to LA was a risk. Taking this new job is a risk – it seems safer than the wander but the truth is, I will be measured against or among a number of incredibly competent people while undertaking new and unfamiliar tasks, and I may not measure up. But at least I will have tried.
What I have learned these last two years could fill a book – and hopefully, it will. In the meantime, I will be toiling away at something new – at a desk, or on a page, or here in LA – and storing up time and resources for the next great wander. And I will be doing it with a degree of gratitude and compassion that I’ve only discovered in myself because of the amazing trip I’ve taken.
(PS: This isn’t goodbye. There are at least three half-written blog posts on this computer crying to be published, not to mention that in looking for that picture of Turkey, I realized I never wrote about Turkey (or Morocco, or Patagonia, or…). So check back…)