Today marks one year. One year has passed since I embarked on my Great Adventure! I wondered at the beginning of this year what would happen. Life felt so filled with possibilities that it was hard to imagine what I would discover and encounter in a great big wide open world; about the world and… about myself.
As I sat down to write this post, I wanted to have profound and wise thoughts to share with you. I thought I would sit in the present moment, my cup overflowing with a multitude of amazing experiences, and I would say something meaningful and soulful and ultimately, conclusive. Something conclusive. It’s ok to laugh. I just did. As I sit here staring at my computer screen, 365 days after leaving Portland, I realise that it is hard to communicate exactly how this year has changed me.
I do know that I am a different person in many ways. I now know that exercising my creative self is extremely life giving and imperative to my well being. I ignored this persistent voice until I was 41 years old, and I vow it will not happen again. Art must be a part of my vocation. This is not a new idea, but knowing it in the action-taking part of my self is new, and that has changed me. I now know that I can live a much simpler life with less. I know that I am a person who will sacrifice things for the sake of experiences and that includes sacrificing money for the sake of time. I will choose to live with the risk and uncertainty this brings in order to more fully live life.
In many ways, I feel like this other person was always there, living just underneath the surface of my skin; hiding, waiting, scheming and prompting. I think we all have this second person that follows us around, perhaps like a shadow, moving and darting behind us. We sense it is there, but we don’t really pay attention to it until something BIG happens that forces us to look at life differently. Unfortunately, this BIG thing is usually an incredibly difficult and life altering thing. After it happens, some of us notice our other self right away. For some, it can take time to adjust to a new way of seeing. The bright light is shocking, and can scare us into clenching our eyes tightly shut again.
For me, it took about 3 years for my other self to slowly emerge. The BIG thing happened. DIVORCE. Then a series of events occurred. Walking the Camino. Publishing my book. Getting laid off. Yes, some of these things happened to me, but all of these events were significant moments where I had to make the choice to step into something new; something unknown. The combination of these moments and my choices have slowly given life and breath to this other self. It has been wonderful to walk around in my new skin. I look back at my old life and it feels like a jacket I used to wear that was the wrong size. It feels so good to wear something that fits. I am now able to stretch my arms out into the wide open world, celebrating all that I have experienced and all that I have yet to marvel at.
The girl in the new jacket, however, just bought her ticket home a few weeks ago. Yes. It was a significant decision. I’m coming home at the end of the year, Christmas week to be exact. I am simultaneously afraid and excited and hesitant and… actually …ready. I’m ready to unpack my bags for more than a few weeks. I’m ready to have more than two black tank tops to wear. I’m ready to sleep in a bed that I can roll over in, and to use a dryer to dry my sheets. I am especially ready to spend time with dear friends and family who I have only been able to communicate with through occasional FaceTime connections and sporadic Skype sessions. I am ready to be rooted and known again. It is hard to be truly known when one is always moving. The part of me that values real relationships has not changed at all. After a year away, I realise, more than ever, how vital they are to me.
As I contemplate returning home in a few months, one question always enters my mind. Can I be this different person, this changed self, back home? Or does she only exist in the world of adventure and exciting unknown places? It’s a valid question. I don’t know yet. I won’t really know until I’m home again.
A few days ago, I sat in the sun looking out over the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Great Lake in the National Park on the island of Mljet in Croatia. Mljet is known for its stunning beauty and tranquil atmosphere and apparently both Odysseus and St. Paul were shipwrecked here. One of my favorite things about Mljet is the unique type of pine trees that cover the island and are found all along the Dalmatian coast. I am used to tall and stately Northwest pines, but these trees are Aleppo pines and aesthetically, the complete opposite. Their trunks are curved and twisted and the shape of their foliage can only be described as … ‘Seussian.’ Their fantastic, whimsical forms and glowing, almost florescent lime green needles made Mljet feel theatrical… almost magical. It was hard to remember they were actually pine trees, but when the warm Mediterranean breeze released their rich heady scent, of course there was no denying it.
As I look at the drawing I sketched while waiting for the afternoon ferry to return to carry us to the far shore of the lake, I laugh again. Perhaps I am a lot like these trees. I am still the same in many ways, but I think my life is definitely filled with more color than it was before. I have decided that living with uncertainty is worth the risk and, as a result, my life no longer has a straight, well defined path. I think I am the better for it. Perhaps there is only one conclusive statement I can end with on this post. I am the same but very different. And the difference feels…almost magical.