There was nothing so extraordinary about the diner itself.
The walls were white. The food was decent. We ordered breakfast. We caught the diner barren during one of those strange hours that sit between brunch and dinner on a Sunday. There was nothing so peculiar about the diner itself or the red-seated booths but I’m just the type of girl who likes to describe the details of the days that change her life.
We swooped from conversation to conversation as we scraped our toast around the plate. We talked about the things we wanted. The lives we hoped to lead. The wildness of letting people go, of giving them permission to walk away. And maybe I’m just in a pocket of letting go upon letting go but the only thing I’m holding tighter to these days is God. And there’s something wild and strange and okay to me about that. I never would have been comfortable telling you that before.
We talked fast. About wanting to go places. And wanting to live the types of lives that demand explanation. And for about an hour or so, we built a metaphor with our bones: the life you want to step inside of is like a road trip. And one thing must happen before any trip begins: you pack.
You plan. You clear out. You let go. You pick things to take. You leave things behind. And, like I’ve written before, I’m always the girl who packs too much. I still can’t figure out how to pack lightly. It’s like a disease. I pack books I’ll never read. I pack love letters for no apparent reason. I bring too many shoes. I convince myself I need a stuffed animal though I don’t and probably never will. And all the baggage I tuck and fold probably serves no purpose at all and yet I bring it with me because maybe it makes me think I can still be a person I let go of yesterday.
My mother would say it first— you got it from your father. You got that packing gene of yours from the man who bought a car to take on a month-long roadtrip across the states and managed to fill the whole thing up before the adventure even began. He filled the whole thing up, as if to say, “The road won’t give me more.” Oh, but the road will always give you more.
And that’s the hardest mindset— the hardest space— to live inside of: you are not full. You are whole, but you are not full. There is a difference. Wholeness is the art of missing no parts. Fullness is like running in the rain— one time won’t ever be enough. You have to let the water wash you every once in a while as a reminder to yourself of the truth: still, you are alive. Wild and alive.
I thought the journey to get here would stop at 16 hours.
Maybe you knew this or maybe you didn’t— I moved to Atlanta a month ago. I kissed goodbye New England and the GPS told me the whole of the trip would take me 16 hours. Sixteen hours and I’d be done. One car-ride, a playlist created by someone who knows me well, a few stops along the way and I’d be home. And I’d fumble over that word— “home”— for a good bit but it wouldn’t take me any further from the truth: I am home. I am home and unfamiliar with the stitching of it. Because wherever my feet are, that is home.
The journey didn’t stop at 16 hours though. And maybe that’s the pinnacle and the pricking point to any transition: we want to be the ones who get to cry out “enough” when we’ve reached our tipping point of breaking, and bending, and learning, and growing. But even when we say “enough,” life still reminds us that we don’t have that much control. Life is just a series of mapless moments. And there still is much to learn.
It’s like I am waiting for the map though. Still, I am waiting for the direction. It’s like I’m waiting on Siri’s sweet robotic voice to whisper through the speakers of my car: This is not a matter of left or right. You don’t need to reach a destination, you need to reach a breaking point inside of yourself. You need to reach the spot in which you face the things that had the luxury of being buried when you stayed in the comfort zone of other people and familiar places: You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of what it takes to sit with yourself. You are afraid of the stories you’ve told yourself about yourself. You are afraid to find out that if you stopped fighting yourself, you’d actually win.
This journey belongs to no one else.
I’m the traveler. I’m the one with the backpack on my shoulders. And even if I pack this or choose not to take that, I must always travel with myself. She— the girl inside of me— is always with me on this journey. And that’s the hardest part. Because part of being human is wanting to abandon yourself sometimes. Even if no one will give up on you, you want to be the one to give up on yourself. And that doesn’t work when you’re the lone traveler, when you’re the one who must pave the road. When you’re the one who whispers words to the trees and the stars and the points on the maps, “I will go. Wherever I am led, I will go.”
“You will never leave yourself,” I whispered into the dark of a new bedroom last night.
My hands were pressed into my notebook. I was sitting indian-style on the bed. My eyes were closed, as if the whole thing were a prayer to me. The room felt holy and cloaked in the kind of light only Christmas lights in June can give you. You will never leave yourself.
Even if you want to leave yourself, you never will.
I’ve wanted to pretend that with enough miles and enough distance and enough distractions, I’d never have to face the girl inside of me who is weaker than I’d prefer she’d be. I thought I had fully abandoned that girl in the process of book-writing. I thought I’d said goodbye and meant it. But it’s like she showed up at my door, after a few months of being gone, and she knocked until I came to let her in.
And it’s like she stood before me, in the doorway of my new home, looking like a hungry traveler and waiting for me to pay attention long enough to hear her say, “One-way tickets don’t always work. You can’t just send me away. You have to learn to live with me and you have to learn to understand me. And if you could just understand me then you could very easily undo me. And that’s the only way to let me go for good— make me come undone. Undo me and unravel me and get to the root of me. Face me fully and I’ll lose all my power. Face me fully and I’ll turn and not look back for you. ”