The Miles We Travel in Search of Ourselves

A Long Road Home

Image via Wikipedia

When you drive alone in a car for 8 1/2 hours it gives you a lot of time to think.

Of course, you can distract yourself by listening to the stories of other people or music. But that distraction only works if your mind isn’t constantly connecting what you hear with what you think or believe.

I learned that as tears poured down my face while listening to “The Tornado Prom” story on This American Life.

I learned that laughing my way through Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me¬†and thinking, I would love to be a reporter on NPR.

I learned that listening to the podcast about Pop Culture from NPR (I’m not sure what it’s called, but it is connected with Monkey See. The discussion of books led me to think, “Oh, I should read that” but even more “How do I get paid to review books.”

When I lost the ability to listen to the podcast, and went to music, every song had a message for me . . . about life, about love, about following your dreams.

And the miles passed.

I thought about the millions of miles that I have traveled throughout my life. Sometimes the miles led to adventures, sometimes the miles led to comfort, but rarely have the miles led to home. I mean, I am technically “home” now, but I haven’t found the home that makes me stop wanting to following those miles.

Will I ever?

I’ve found temporary sanctuaries, but not permanent homes.

I was talking to the cook at the Summer Theater where I left Nathan and she asked “Where are you now?” I answered, with my usual “Kansas face”; the face that says I’m here for now, but hopefully not forever. She answered, “Oh, I thought you would be wandering gypsies” and then told me about this family she met in Florida that were travelling the country just to see if they could.

Part of me thought, how cool is that.

My journey is long–both the metaphorical one and the physical one. I wonder if and when I will ever come to rest.

Fear of Flying

I remember the first time I was ever on a plane.

Photo by Steve Kramer

My Junior year in high school, I went with the French club to spend 10 days in France. I remember sitting in the airplane seat, absorbing every detail. I gripped the arm rests tightly as the plane gathered speed. My stomach lurched as the plane defied gravity and pulled away from the earth. I sat mesmerized as we flew between cloud layers, the sun reflecting colors on a completely different world above and below us. I began creating stories in my head about the people who lived in the clouds. I squealed a little in terror as we hit turbulence, feeling my stomach drop with every bump. My heart beat grew faster as we approached Paris, a combination of the excitement of landing and of entering a land I had dreamed about. I gripped the armrests more tightly waiting to touch down, unsure of what to expect.

The landing was smooth. The whole plane applauded.

People don’t do that anymore. We should, but we no longer applaud for the pilot who just safely brought thousands of pounds of metal filled with hundreds of different lives across the country or across the world and safely landed them in a different place. I always applaud quietly, even if my neighbors look at me funny.

Since that flight I’ve flown thousands of miles to different places. I’ve had long flights and short flights, smooth flights and bumpy flights. I flew on a day when the air was buzzing with an accident that had just occurred (thankfully I didn’t really know what the buzz was about until after I landed). I flew as we waited for the results of who would be president, and we had to wait even longer as they dealt with Florida chads.

I’ve flown alone. I’ve flown with people. I’ve had conversations with strangers, including the man who asked me out on a date after one flight. That was an unexpected and unusual occurrence as I am not exactly known for attracting men that easily. I’ve hidden myself behind books and earphones.

I used to love going to airports and making up stories about my fellow travellers. I still try to do that, but now airports don’t feel as carefree and exciting. They used to vibrate with the energy of people going into the unknown, whether for business or pleasure. Now tension and animosity fills airports whether from the security checks or concern over luggage. I miss the airports of before. I try to stay focused on my own adventure, and ignore the building of tension around me. But it still makes me sad. I also think I was less afraid when the energy in the air felt positive, but now the general negativity brings me down.

I used to always make a phone call to my parents before I flew. It was an unconscious admission of my secret fear. Now I make sure I talk to Nathan before every flight, and often during the layovers in between.

I am flying to Seattle today.

Send good thoughts.

Photo by Steve Kramer

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