There is something so special about jet setting, a notion that not too many people take advantage of. By removing yourself from day to day life, free from stresses and obligations, from the people and places you come into contact with regularly, you are allowed time to reflect on your storyboard and make plans to tweak areas that need improvement. You resolve to relax more. You find out who you miss most, which relationships are toxic while not in everyday presence. You get into the habit of avoiding the interactive buttons via email, on social media, and learn to enjoy more simple pleasures. My favorite part about vacationing is the life coaching phenomenon that I experience when I am away; The revelations I receive, the new opportunities I uncover, the lasting memories I make. With every long drive embarked on, with every plane ticket in hand, I feel alive with the idea of breathing new life once I return.
This trip to Michigan was one that I booked last minute to see a longtime friend in her hometown. She moved to another region years ago and I’ve long been reluctant to pay for high fees due to flying into a tiny airport. Last year, we met in Chicago and had the time of our lives, but I couldn’t help but notice the sadness in her eyes every time she talked about her then two year old daughter and husband back home. I resolved to bite the bullet and book a flight of my own this year, stay at my best friend’s house and get to know her daughter and husband for the first time. I figured that it would be the perfect way to unwind after a grueling climb season and put my own life on hold, live in someone else’s day to day for a week.
I was not prepared for the reality check that this vacation would reveal, though. I got off of the plane in Traverse City, Michigan and I saw this beautiful brunette whip around to get approval from her mother before running toward me, homemade sign in hand and arms outstretched. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes as I fell in love with this incredible toddler for the first time.
Someday I will tell Miss Lilianna Grace the story of how she shaped the way I view my future. Weeks prior to the trip to Michigan, I babysat my other best friend’s three children while her and her husband went away to Las Vegas. The kids are older, but I’ve never had so much fun watching Glee on the living room couch between two beautiful girls, or witnessing Catie’s teenage boy light up in excitement when I mentioned eating out rather than cooking. Dinners were made together, four spoons dipping into taco meat and chips taste testing the guacamole before sitting down at the dining room table and chatting about the school day. I slept in a Cali-King bed between the twins, with a dog and cat at my feet each night, I drove slowly with them in the car, I made clues as to how they could remember their quiz answers.
And when I completed my duties, sent them off to school on my last day and headed back two hours toward the city for work, I reflected that entire car ride. I drove with a coffee in hand, bagel in the other after two mornings of homemade breakfasts… and recalling that notion allowed a sense of longing to settle in. I realized then that my life wasn’t a mess, but different than the one I had just experienced. It was coffee and bagels in the car, meetings and pencil skirts, dinners for one and Pinterest before bed. It was concerts and peeing with the door open and plans made on a whim.
When Lili hugged me, it was as though she whispered in my ear, that she was going to reinforce that feeling of longing I had experienced just a few weeks prior. She was going to let me into her life, guide me as I witnessed a loving marriage, two parents who are blessed to exercise their passions on a daily basis… she vowed home-cooked ham and egg sandwiches and dancing on the bed to techno music, twirling around with a flower tiara on my head, singing Life’s wonderful praises.
I learned Lili’s tricks, I soaked in her facial expressions, I lit up with every curious question that she posed. And when I boarded my plane at the end of my stay, bidding farewell to a family that I grew to adore in just five days… I spent the rest of the commute doing my best to let go of the empty feeling that emerged with the absence of three incredible human beings.
I got a vox that night from my best friend John, a long distance message from California, asking how my trip was. After a light-hearted catch up session, he left me once last message.
“Maybe you’ve been experiencing this lately, It’s something that I’ve been thinking about and I know you are kind of in the same place. Almost all areas of my life are in good standing; I like my job, my bills are getting paid, I can say that I am genuinely happy about my day to day. But I think that things being good… are different than things moving forward in a way that you are excited about or working toward.”
John hit the nail on the head. That emptiness I was experiencing on the plane back home was due to the fact that I was returning to a life of good standing… whilst standing on my own.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I was ready to become a team player in my next relationship, find someone who was willing to do the same and strive toward perfection in every way possible. After my last love-life disappointment, I resolved to taking my time, not settling for anything less than a sure thing… and then pushing forward with the finish line vision of a lasting partnership.
With two months of solo nights and whirlwind days in the rearview, after two instances of family life captured before my eyes… I think I am ready to at least make myself aware of the people around me. I feel comfortable and confident and sure of what it is I want and don’t want.
This trip gave way to my tipping point. Lili brought out a new sense of maturity in me, and also unleashed the child within: Something I needed in order to shed my callused skin and come out on the other side with less baggage, with more optimism. My best friend and her husband have endured the push and pull of stormy seas together and it was so wonderful to witness the calm tide, their apparent adoration for each other and such small gestures of love exchanged while in the company of a bright eyed, wild three year old.
I learned during my stay that love can remain in the honeymoon stage with effort, and though the grandiose vacations and lavish dinners out and mornings intertwined in bed don’t always last, the winks from across the table and the stolen kisses from behind the refrigerator and hands held in the car do.
I went on vacation to spend time with my niece… but what I got was a desire for the next phase of life and all that it entails. In one week I will be back on a plane, venturing the Dominican Republic with my family for our annual Spring trip… and I look forward to the true R&R that will take place before I return home to this new frame of mind.
The best is yet to come.