80+ tortillas, 2 jars of peanut butter and 20+ energy drinks
A handful of new friends made
5 bagels, 7 muffins and 4 bananas taken from a Hampton Inn
Countless new experiences, lessons learned and adventures had
I’ve had a couple of days back in Maryland to try and settle back in and look back again on this trip. I did the math, mostly out of curiosity to get the stats from this trip. Miles and hours driven, gas used, states crossed, tortillas eaten… After having done all of that, it just became even more evident to me that the trip as a whole was absolutely unquantifiable. No set of numbers can describe this experience. No maps or data can really convey the nature of this journey. The way that this trek made me feel was both emotionally and physically draining and yet revitalizing. The adventures that we went on, everywhere that we explored. The gourmet meals we prepared, such as campfire pasta and an array of tortilla combos – peanut butter and Nutella, bananas, potato chips, granola, Taco Bell hot sauce… Any and all combinations you could think of. Sounds good, doesn’t it? That became our comfort food. All of these things (and more) formed every experience and every day on the road. I don’t have words to describe what an experience this trip was. I can try, but I don’t feel like anything I could come up would stand up to what it really was. I’m just happy to be back home (and in a real bed) so that I can begin a whole new adventure.
“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
– Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
While on this trip back to Maryland, I’ve really come to realize how much of a hindrance expectations can be to an experience. Regardless of if it’s a positive or negative expectation, it’s unnecessary. There’s no reason to base what’s to come from past happenings or maybe on something that you think may occur in the future. Then, the concept of remaining in the present comes back. I’ve written about that before, but everything I’m learning and unlearning is connected. That’s starting to become apparent more and more to me; everything is connected and everything has a balance.
Whether it’s something as basic as a seemingly silly stereotype or something more complex like “What am I going to do with my life?”, I feel like I need to start letting go of those expectations and attachments. There were several instances on this trip where Bryant and I would find ourselves in potentially unfriendly and uncomfortable situations, based on where we were in the country. Granted, it was usually a bit over-exaggerated and done somewhat jokingly. However, being the only people of color and the only ones without camo and confederate flag embellishments wasn’t the most welcoming of atmospheres. That being said, we had gone into a couple of these environments hesitantly, with a “let’s just do what we have to do and get out” kind of mentality and were proven wrong in the best ways. The clerk at a gas station in Texas went out of his way to make a fresh cup of coffee for Bryant when we stopped late one night. We were in the middle of a 700+ mile trek from New Mexico to San Antonio and were beyond exhausted. Not only did this guy offer to make some coffee just for us, he also gave it to us for free for being patient for waiting. That definitely wasn’t my first guess at how that would go, us walking into a tiny gas station in the middle of Who-Knows-Where, Texas at 10 o’clock at night. Just the other night we were so hungry on the road and had gotten sick of tortillas and peanut butter – which we were running low on anyways – so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Tennessee. We had just passed an area on the highway where we just saw one confederate flag after another, which didn’t feel like the town would have good vibes. We walked in and were immediately greeted by the host and manager with big, genuine smiles. It was such a warm, friendly and fun environment. I’ve still got to remember to write them a good Yelp review. Those were just a couple of small instances where my expectations and the stereotypes that have been ingrained in my head were proven wrong by some really good people.
Situations like that have shown me that you really never know what might come of a situation and to go in with an open mind. When looking at the bigger picture, I often question myself and the possibilities for my future. It’s a pretty daunting thing, the future. I overthink and stress about it way too much. But why? It doesn’t even exist. I could set expectations or create scenarios of how things will go, but to what end? That will be of no benefit to me. I’m trying to learn to release some of the anxiety and tension that I have and be more open-minded and free in every facet of my life right now.
After an extended pit-stop in Corvallis, we’re back on the road. As I’m writing this now, we’re leaving Sacramento on our way to Yosemite. We’ll be stopping in Arizona, Nevada and Utah to explore the national parks, New Mexico to make some alien friends and then onward through Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee… Wherever we end up is where we’ll end up. Eventually, we’ll make our way back to the East Coast. Until then, it’s time for all of the adventures and exploring we can manage and more.
Remember that one time that I was like “I moved to Oregon!!” and now I’m referring to my time there as an “extended pit stop”? It’s not that there was anything wrong with Corvallis or with Oregon. It’s not that it didn’t feel like home. Corvallis was a cool place and it gave us the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people. So then why did we leave? Nice place, nice people, good jobs, a nice house… Nothing was wrong. But it just wasn’t right either.
Leaving Oregon had nothing to do with my physical, geographical location, but rather with where I’m at in my own life. In my own mind. As much as a part of me wants to settle down and make somewhere home, I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that. The things I want to learn, discover and grow within myself are infinite. Although my physical location isn’t what really matters for this journey, I feel like going back home to Maryland is the best way to facilitate the process. I am so grateful for my sojourn in Corvallis and for all of the people I’ve made friends with. I’m just as excited that we’re back on the road and get to experience so much as continue to trek across the country. And I truly am excited to go back home to Maryland. I miss spending time with my parents, with my pup, with my friends and really spending time with myself. These past few months have been a whirlwind and I’ve made some of the greatest memories in that time. I’ve learned a lot too. I feel like I have some direction I want to go in now, but I haven’t made the effort to really focus on it. At least not in the way I think that I need to. I plan on doing so much when we get back to Maryland and I am so eager to continue this grand odyssey.
In the meantime, I am going to continue to chronicle this pilgrimage back to Maryland, where the next chapter will begin.
Yesterday was the first time that Bryant and I went on any type of hike since we got to Corvallis. I don’t think that I realized how long it had been. I was so used to doing something every day while we were on the drive over from Maryland. Even before we left we tried to take Lionel out somewhere every day. Getting outside, exploring and adventuring was something we’ve always done together. Adjusting and getting settled here kind of distracted us from getting out.
As excited as I was and still am to be here in Oregon, there’s so much change going on that it’s gotten to be really stressful. All of the angst and worry had been building up and I didn’t really let it out in any way. I was so overwhelmed, feeling such turmoil and chaos inside. I felt like there were so many things and so many factors going into everything that I couldn’t couldn’t control and I couldn’t keep myself organized. It was overcast and chilly out, which made it harder to leave my safe, warm bed, but I’m definitely glad that we made it out of the house. Once we got there, I immediately skipped/bee-bopped/sashayed from the car to the trail and soon enough found my way off of the trail and into the woods, as usual. We took this path up a steep hill and into the woods. It looked like something out of some sort of fantasy. I feel like Bryant and I should have been dressed like woodland fairies.
After walking through at least 14 spider webs and falling 3 times, we finally made it to a clearing. That clearing turned out to be someone’s backyard littered with somewhat threatening “NO TRESPASSING” signs, which obviously we paid no attention to. We somehow made it back to the actual path and I immediately threw off my shoes and started cartwheeling and I climbed every tree I saw. All of that stress was gone and I felt so carefree.
I know that getting out into nature will make me feel better – it always does. When I feel like I just want to dig a hole to hide in and sleep for an eternity and a half is when I most need to make myself get outside. I absorb a lot that is going on around me and that can be really exhausting. Even right now there’s so much going on, just sitting here in the living room. It appears to be nice and calm – which it is – but at the same time, there’s so much more. I hear a fan in the other room, there’s a cat climbing into a box across the room, the sun is shining into the window in a weird way. Bryant is on the sofa tapping his foot, I hear someone biking by outside the house. Whether it’s something I notice intentionally or subconsciously, it’s there. Yesterday I was feeling that, plus everything in my head and all of the external things going on right now that I can’t control. Sometimes my thoughts get so crazy, they’re like those little bingo balls flying around in that cage or like radio static while trying to tune into a station – any station, just something that comes through clear. I really just wanted to hide under the covers all day, but Bryant and I decided that we should do what makes us happy and explore. We headed to Philomath, which is about a 20 minute drive from Corvallis to check out this spot called Fitton Green.
When we’re out in nature, I still notice and take in a lot from my surroundings. The grass blowing in the wind, there’s a bird flying by, little ants are making their way through the rocks and dirt… Even though it seems just as busy as any other setting, it’s a different kind of busy that’s hard to describe. There is so much movement, so much sound, so many sights and smells. The trees are just being trees. That bird is just doing his little bird things. The sun is doing all it knows how to do and is shining down on us. It brings such an overwhelming feeling of peace. Everything is just being, as it was meant to. Simple as that. It reminds me of this excerpt from The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello about unconditional love.
“What is love? Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?’ Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to one who seeks to cut it down.”
If only we could all embrace and practice that indiscriminate kind of existence. Just being who we are and what we are for ourselves and towards everyone else. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? I think that might be one reason why being out in nature is so soothing – everything just is. All of the confusing, stressful happenings in our everyday lives just don’t matter anymore. It puts everything into perspective for me. I’m thankful that we were able to get out yesterday and hope to continue to do so more regularly.
I thought that I would be writing this post while waiting for my flight to DC. Instead, here I am; slouched on a futon in our friend’s living room typing up this post. Things happen, plans change – that’s life. We’ve been running with it from the beginning and it’s been working out pretty well.
Bryant and I traveled over 3,500 miles in 14 days. That’s 12 states, 3 time zones and way too many hours in the car. We did so many incredible, exciting and new things. This definitely was a trip of “firsts”; from Bryant’s first boat ride in New Jersey to my first time at a hot spring in Oregon. We visited some great natural wonders and just about every flea market in between. We now have plenty of memories from this trip that will be with us for this lifetime and the next.
The plan was to leave Maryland on July 26th and drive across the country. We didn’t have much of a plan, except for a few things we definitely wanted to visit along the way. Just so long as we arrived in Oregon in time for my flight back to Maryland on August 9th, we were free to do whatever we wanted. We made it here with a couple of days to spare and spent it with friends, exploring the town. We had all of yesterday to spend with our friends, so we planned an outing and game night followed by an early bed time so I could get up in the morning to head to Portland. A couple of hours into our outing, I felt a pang of emotion. I didn’t want to leave Oregon. But I just said to myself that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to and that’s life. I’d be back later in the year anyways. Hopefully. So I was going to do what I had to do which was get on that plane back to Maryland in the morning. Almost the same moment that thought went through my head, another one came up – I really don’t have to get on that plane back to Maryland. And now here we are.
These past few days have been a whirlwind but I am so excited for what’s to come. Instead of spending my entire day at the airport, waiting in Denver for two hours on my layover back to the DMV, I get to be right here. At home.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past but we can’t relive it; and we hope for the future but don’t know if there is one”
– George Harrison
Time truly is misleading; it can be complicated and confusing. But when it comes down to it, it’s really pretty simple. All we have is right now.
I was originally going to call this blog Sempiternal Ataraxia, meaning an everlasting and eternal feeling of emotional tranquility. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s an impossible and unattainable ideal. Nothing lasts forever. We all wish that some things could and we also wish that some other, less pleasant experiences and feelings would disappear. We can’t control those things and so they’re not worth wasting our energy worrying over. It’s also not worth spending our limited time and energy striving to achieve this non-existent feeling of eternal peace. I think that what really matters is that we try to realize what we have right now. I spent a lot of time – and still spend too much time – worrying about all of the “what ifs” of the future and the regrets from the past. It’s not worth it. You can’t change the past – what’s done is done – and the future doesn’t really exist. I’m working on channeling that energy I would be spending on worrying into experiencing the present. Into right now. Love, beauty and life are multi-faceted. In order to fully experience them, we must feel both the ups and the downs, the joy and the pain. Sometimes we just need to put aside the stress and negativity. Today is a beautiful day. Take the time to embrace it. Live for right now.
Sometimes, we might feel lost without a sense of direction or purpose. I was feeling very stuck and unsure of the future for a long time. We all need to find some sort of light to guide us and to ignite our passions. As cheesy as it might sound, I found that light in Bryant. His confidence, energy and spirit are so beautiful, strong and contagious, even. He has always and continues to inspire, motivate and empower me to better myself every day. The more and more time we spent together, I soon came to realize that the light I saw in him wasn’t what was powering me to move forward. It was the light inside of myself. Little bit of a nerd alert, but one thing that it kind of makes me think of is a particular scene from Lord of the Rings – go ahead, start laughing if you want. Galadrial had given Frodo the Light of Eärendil, saying “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out”. Later when Sam and Frodo are entering Mordor and come across the spider, Shelob, they used that light to drive her away and to guide them through the web. What I’m getting at is that the light was given to them by Galadrial, but they were the ones who made use of it. The light served as a valuable tool to get them out of that situation, but they would never have escaped if they themselves didn’t have the courage and strength to fight through it. We all have that light, that fortitude. It just might take some time to find it and we may need some help now and again, but it’s always there.
We are all capable of so much and I don’t think that we always give ourselves enough credit. Saying “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so and so” I think is still a valid statement. Over the last several years, I have had amazing support and love from some very important people in my life. I don’t know where I would be without them. But one thing I needed to realize and to remind myself is that even though they were there for me through everything… so was I. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for me. I vividly remember the night that I finally came to that epiphany. I remember hanging out at Bryant’s house, word vomiting all of my feelings. Really just spewing my train of thought and all of a sudden I said “Oh my god… I’m the reason I’m still here. I got myself here. It was me“. Once I realized that, it was like a door to a whole new world opened up. Warm, fuzzy feelings and light spread everywhere, angels started singing and there were butterflies and rainbows, too. That thought was almost like in the movie Inception – Leo DiCaprio’s character said it perfectly… Yes, I’m about to quote another film. I used to watch a lot of movies, okay? He said that “an idea is resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Sounds a bit scary, especially if it’s referring to people who are planning on bouncing and poking around in your brain trying to manipulate your dreams and influence your thoughts, but that fine, whatever, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Once I was able to verbalize and form that idea into a coherent thought, that shed light on an entirely new perspective and way of thinking for me.
Finding that light within ourselves is vital; becoming educated on awareness and enlightenment is kind of what helped me to see that light in me. I still barely know anything when it comes to all of that, but I have already made such a huge change in my life and I’m eager to keep improving and learning as much as I can. Something that I’ve learned over the last several months and on this trip is that facing fears is also a huge part of it. I have become more adventurous and I have rediscovered that sense of curiosity that I remember having when I was younger. I’m scared of heights but I’ve climbed mountains. I don’t like certain foods but I’ve been cooking meals for myself and Bryant that I normally wouldn’t even think of going near. I have always been pretty shy when it comes to people, which is still true to a point. I’ve been able to get out more and put myself out there more than I ever have before. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and proving to myself that I really can do a lot more than I thought I could has really boosted my confidence and given me a sense of accomplishment that has fueled me to keep doing more and more.