Tears form behind my eyes as we climb into the tiny aircraft on the last day of our fifty-day adventure. I make sure that my sunglasses are covering my eyes so that my friends can’t see. “It’s not over yet,” I remind myself. “Don’t cry just yet.”
On this blog, I’ve written a lot about excitement, about fear, about risk, about joy, about happiness.
But I haven’t written about sadness.
I guess it seems strange that I’d put down a post about “sadness” when writing about something as rewarding as a fifty-day cross country trip, but I promise, it will all make sense.
However, let me first point out that it’s extremely difficult to put into words everything that I felt as we returned to New York City, two weeks ago today. So let me try and do this in a simple, concise manner:
Returning to New York City, from fifty days of continuous stimulating adventure was hard. Going from a fifty-day trip with rarely any sleep, back to the city that never sleeps suddenly felt like going on an exotic trip to a foreign country. As Kim drove me to my apartment, after dropping David off in mid-town Manhattan, I suddenly felt lost in my own home.
And as I arrived back at my place, I felt even more lost. For a few days, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function. It wasn’t dissimilar to the feelings I had or the culture shock I went through when I returned to America from studying abroad in Italy back in 2008. That semester abroad had been my first real shot at exploring the world, and when I returned to the states–I was devastatingly depressed. I spoke in Italian to strangers, I imagined sprinting through Piazza Navona while I ran in the gym on a treadmill, and I day dreamed of going back and galavanting down the cobbled alley ways. It took me months to readjust. I didn’t want it to take that long back in New York.
But as I continued to mope in my apartment, my mind began to race with questions:
“How will I acclimate back to the city life?”
“When did New York City get so many people?”
“Why is it so loud?”
“Will I make back the money I spent?”
“What will sleeping in my own bed feel like?”
“What will cooking my own food feel like?”
“When did I get so concerned about alone time–I spent a year focusing on me?”
“What happens if my friends in the city have forgotten about me?”
Suddenly I was more fearful of being in a place I recognized, or now seemingly didn’t, than I had been in the new novel nooks of the country that I had gotten to experience, and that was an overwhelmingly strange feeling. Now, the the routine of the train which I’ve written about enjoying in the past, suddenly felt like a nuisance. And don’t get me started on the feelings I had about interviewing for jobs and returning to work.
I actually considered packing up a suitcase–renting a car–and driving off again.
For a few days, I couldn’t snap out of it. Everything I saw reminded me of the trip–of the beautiful world that Kim, David and I had the opportunity to explore full-on. Everything made me think about that freeing feeling of hanging out of the car in the Badlands:
Of laying out on The Wave in northern Arizona:
Of waking up early to catch sunrises:
Of seeing old friends:
I asked someone if they often felt sadness when they returned “home” from traveling. Their response was that they had wondered how long it would take the sadness to kick in for me.
Then I let myself cry-a lot. And then I kept crying. –and then I cried some more, texting a friend here or there asking, “How do you cope with sadness?”
I’d felt a large amount of sadness in my life before–but this sadness was different. It wasn’t a depressive sadness. It was it’s own breed of sadness–one that stems from all those other feelings I felt throughout the year: excitement, fear, joy, happinss.
As I wiped away my tears, I wrote another text to another friend: I am okay with this sadness.
I continued, “I respect this sadness.”
It reminded me of one of my favorite Winnie the Pooh quotes:
“How lucky I am to have something, that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Pooh’s right. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes, when sadness is all we feel.
I looked at the quote one more time and then decided to paraphrase it to match my exact feelings:
“How lucky I am to have had the chance to experience something so wonderful. How lucky I am that the sadness I feel now is because of an overwhelming feeling of joy that I was privileged to feel, that we can all be privileged to feel, if we just let it happen. How lucky I am that the sadness I feel now is because of the world I let myself see, the chances I let myself take. the obstacles I let myself face, the fears I let myself overcome, the challenges I let myself defeat. the life I let myself live. How lucky I am to look back on the moments I lived–with tear drops in my eyes and joy in my heart.” --Again–I learned to respect the sadness.
Over the days that the sadness had escalated, I told myself that I had to think of returning from the trip–not as an ending–but rather–a transition–but more so as a landing.
So often, we get caught up on the words “ending” and “finale.” But there was nothing final about this trip–this hobby year. Both adventures opened up incredible opportunities for me to learn about myself, to challenge myself. Both adventures allowed me a chance to grow. Both opportunities allowed me to experience meet new people from all walks of life and to build long lasting friendships. Most of all both adventures allowed me to live a life I’ve always wanted to live: one that’s filled with genuine happiness.
The flying lesson that I posted a video of on this piece may have been the final day of the travels, but to use that word “final,” just seems wrong. That last day gave me a chance to look back on not only the trip with two of my best friends, but also on the year that I said “yes” to–the year that allowed me to overcome my fears, to tackle things I never thought I could–the year that allowed me to live life in an abundantly, exciting way. The year that went from a project–to a lifestyle. The year that was my navigation to true happiness.
That my friends is not an ending. That my friends is much bigger than an ending–and much more rewarding. That my friends, is what I call a landing.
And what’s the best part about landing?
Getting to reflect–Getting to refuel. And getting to take off again soon.