These past few weeks I have been traveling, wandering, and gallivanting via planes, trains, LIRR’s, subways, and good old-fashioned one foot in front of the other. It was weird. Awkward. A downright mess a few times. But I learned a lot in the process, and that made it all worth it.
I got lost.
I was finally in areas where I didn’t know north from south, much less what road I was on. And, in the most dramatic case, what state we had crossed into as a result of one deceptively innocent very long bridge. We had to rely on the accuracy of a stranger’s directions, enough maps to make you dizzy and the belief that, sooner or later, we would get to where we needed to be. And we never once folded our cards early and called a cab.
I got annoyed with my travel partners.
And, in fairness, my co-pilots got annoyed with me. But I challenged it to reshape my thinking and realize that this annoyance spoke to the amount of time that my friends had chosen to spend with each other, and me. And maybe I learned that, in some cases, I’m not always as easygoing as I like to think, despite multiple protests otherwise. I learned to admit that. And own it. And yet I never doubted that we’d still be as great of friends after our adventures. It was when I realized that not many people have this luxury that annoyance unveiled itself into simply being grateful.
I learned about government.
I learned that even the ever infiltrating government presence in D.C. cannot get those stupid $1 coins to be freely accepted and used, even when spit out of every automated machine in the city (and there are A LOT).
I was reminded that people are good.
Working where I do, with the fabulously jaded coworkers that I do, we often gloss over this. It makes our job as correctional officers easier. And it keeps us coming into work everyday. But it’s also why our vacation package is so generous and allows us time off and the ability to step away. Because we forget. Start to believe otherwise, even. But I was reminded daily that people are good. And honest. And polite. And still, even 1000 miles away, psychotic in Starbucks about Earl Grey tea bags. Which keeps us a little human, too.
I remembered to learn.
I became reinterested in learning. I have always said that if I could afford to go to college my whole life, I would. I fear nothing more than becoming uncurious, and complacent, and taking the knowledge that I have and deeming it “good enough” to get me through the day. One of the things I have meant to do for nearly 10 years now was to learn sign language. I could never get into a class at the U as an undergrad, and it has remained on the back burner ever since. But one night, in Union Station, I sat through most of dinner impolitely staring at an ASL conversation and I was reminded that I still held a fascination with a seemingly fleeting thought from the previous decade. And I knew then that it meant so much more. “Oh yeah. I have been meaning to do that.” took on a whole new meaning. So to the blonde and brunette in ridiculously baggy sweatshirts, no more than high school age, THANK YOU.
I was silenced.
Nothing really phases me, which in a way I have realized is maybe something that should make me sad. (More on that later.) But I was silenced at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And at the Lincoln Memorial. And at the Vietnam Wall. The enormity of it all reminded me that I am a solo person in a world that was given to me by people who I have never and will never know. People that I can never really thank in anything other than a fleeting notion, which doesn’t ever seem appropriate.
All these realizations, at different times and at different moments in the journey, made me cry. And I don’t cry hardly ever, so I saw the moment as tapping into something amazingly important. Of just as important to note, I also laughed until I cried.
I learned that I’m right where I need to be.
I realized that things fall into place back home when you leave. Calls come in to you to schedule an interview about a job so fantastic that you had to forget about it the moment you applied just to maintain sanity. I learned that you miss people more than you expected to, despite previous preparations. And I was reminded at how amazing coming home feels. I learned that, as much as I needed to take this trip, and as much as I berate myself sometimes for never moving out of the MSP, that it is, for right now, exactly where I need to be.