Brian and I are back in Portland now, catching up with friends and enjoying the good life for a few days. I still have lots of stories to tell about our U.S. road trip. We fly to Ecuador in less than a week!
Inevitably, now that we are back in Oregon, friends have been asking what my favorite part of traveling throughout the U.S. has been. It’s a hard question to answer because Brian and I have done and seen so many things.
Years ago I watched Oprah interview a ten-year-old girl and her mother. The mother had terminal cancer and knew that she wouldn’t live to see her daughter grow older. In a touching act of love the mother decided to have as many new and wonderful experiences with her daughter as she could in the time she had left. She wanted to give her daughter a bank of happy memories to draw from in the years ahead.
The mother and daughter traveled a lot. They went to the ocean and the mountains. They went to Disneyland. They went shopping and to movies, to parks and to museums. They did more new things in one year than many people do in their lifetime.
Oprah commented on how lucky the little girl was to have had so many great experiences with her mother. “You’ve done so many wonderful things with your mom. What is your all-time favorite memory?” she asked the girl.
The little girl didn’t hesitate with her response, she knew exactly what her favorite memory was. “Eating cereal with my mom in the mornings,” the girl said.
The little things are the big things.
Brian and I have done a lot of amazing things this summer. But when I think back on what my favorite thing was it’s not the big events or expensive hotel splurges that stick with me.
What I think about is meeting my mom for dinner at a restaurant in my hometown and talking about everyday things. I think about visiting my little sister’s college apartment and eating ice cream with her and her boyfriend.
I think about Brian’s face when he saw the Tetons for the first time. I think about writing and reading at a picnic table as the sun set behind the mountains. I think about waking up at 3 a.m. in the Grand Canyon to a sky filled with a million stars.
As we drove around the country this summer I thought a lot about how this road trip compared to the last time I drove across the country eight years ago. Eight years ago I’d never been to the Pacific Northwest. I’d never driven west of Colorado. I’d never seen the desert and I’d only seen the Pacific Ocean once.
Eight years ago the country felt huge. I remember seeing the red rocks of Utah for the first time and knowing that there was so much beauty in the U.S. that I hadn’t seen yet. My own country felt foreign to me. It was invigorating, but I also felt small and alone in the world.
This time around the country felt much different. I was still blown away by her beauty, but I was also struck by how familiar she felt. No matter where we traveled, I always felt that I was home.
That’s how I know that I’m ready for this next step- to not only travel through the world but to live in it. I’m ready to learn other countries in the same way that I have learned mine. I’m ready to walk through new mountains and meet new people and find out if I can be at home in the world.
I’m scared. I am freaking scared! I’m scared of all the unknowns. I’m scared of the pressure that traveling puts on my relationship with Brian. I’m scared of feeling small and alone in the world again. It’s so nice to be back in Oregon, where everything is familiar. I keep thinking: Let’s just stay! Life is so nice here, why not just stay?
But I know that if I let everything that scared me stop me I’d not have lived half of the experiences I’ve had in my life so far. I’d never have moved away from Ohio, I’d never have started running, I’d never have left a career that made me unhappy so that I could do what I love.
How do I end this post? Maybe I’ll tell you this: I am writing this on my 31st birthday. It’s a Thursday, right after noon, and I am sitting alone in a coffee shop in southeast Portland.
If you’d asked me on my 21st birthday or my 27th birthday or even my 29th birthday what my life would look like today I never could have guessed that it would look as it does. I keep surprising myself. I’m proud that I have listened to my inner voice and followed the path that felt authentic to me.
Still, I frequently disappoint myself. I act as I shouldn’t. I hold myself and those close to me to unfairly high standards. I tend to push things too far.
As I grow older I am learning to work with my faults. I know what I struggle with and I know there are certain things that will always challenge me. I’ve learned to be easier on myself about the things I don’t excel at and to celebrate the things I do.
I’ve learned an important thing, too, about being the best I can be.
There are times in life when you fail, sometimes miserably. In fact, if you don’t fail you aren’t trying hard enough. This is a common sentiment.
Other times, though, you succeed. Sometimes your success is even bigger than you thought possible.
When you fail, know that you have tried when you could have simply watched. After you’ve failed, if your heart is still in it, try again. Then again. And again.
But when you succeed, in those moments in life when you glow like the blazing sun, it is absolutely critical that you not fear your own light.
When you shine, keep walking towards that thing that lights you up.
The sun shines through the clouds in Central Oregon