Category: Love

1274.7 miles

“I’m not trying to hit on you or convert you,” the rabbi assured us as he amiably gathered up his things. “Are you from around here?”
Mel grinned, her curly blond hair flouncing as she turned her hair to look at the gentleman who had been sitting at the next table over. “I am.” He glanced at me, then. “I’m from out of town.”
“Nice to meet you,” he responded. “I’m the rabbi at the synagogue right around the corner and my wife and I just came for a coffee. I just wanted to say hello!”
Nodding his head in a final farewell, we watched him disappear out of Zanzibar.
For half a beat, we tried to return to our conversation that had been interrupted.
“Nope,” I said. “Gotta talk about that.”
“I love everything that just happened there,” Mel agreed. “Absolutely everything about that.”

That’s one of the best things about travel, I’d say: simply the people you meet along the way.

In seventy-six hours, I traveled an absurd 1274 miles visiting with friends that I have known ranging from six months to seven years. I once couch surfed through the formal website, but this was my favorite style. A futon one night, a wooden floor the next, a proper couch the next. The temperature soared from the 60s to nearly 100, and my mind was happily engaged in audiobooks about science and history.

Three days, four states. Friends who love languages, friends who love nature, friends who love aviation, friends who love Des Moines, friends who love wanderlust. People with souls that are larger than life.

We sat outside new restaurants and watched the sun go down. We watched meteor showers from untouched observation decks and plotted the (un)likelihood of a tornado that day. We drank coffee. I chuckled at my Polish friend’s disgust at Americans’ use of ice in their drinks. I successfully navigated Kansas City, but hit a snag in Des Moines less than a mile from where I’d spent a summer (it’s okay, I forgive your directions!). We laughed, we were serious, we learned from each other and of each other.

It was a whirlwind, and even though I am utterly exhausted (and will not try to do such a long trip by myself in such a short time frame again), it was worth it. It makes me feel so alive.

travel always does.

 

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To love at all is to be vulnerable -C.S. Lewis

March 8, 2013

My roommate is one of the most profound people I know.

One of our ongoing conversations is the idea that we live in a fanfiction.

You see, neither of us are what you would call “Main Character” material. People aren’t innately drawn to us. We pass quite peacefully under the radar and can be entirely invisible in the midst of a conversation. Perhaps we don’t even register as “supporting characters”. We’re simply the wandering minstrel, or the wise hermit, or even the local baker. (For pity’s sake, I’m a barista! It’s essentially the same character in modern worlds: everyone knows of me and depends on my craft to survive the day.) Our lives give depth and reality to the Main Character, but even the author doesn’t really care about our history.

Enter angsty teenager.

Perhaps in canon, the author mentioned us briefly. This teenager extracts us from our epic novel and plops us into the 21st century. Bewildered, we look around and try to figure out what’s going on.

She writes in adventures and impossible happenings, connections and unreal similarities. (Am I presenting too much of a stereotype, assuming that our fanfiction writer is female?) For a brief, wild moment, these side characters are thrust into the limelight. Seen. With dimension. With purpose.

And just as suddenly, as Angsty Teenager discovers a new topic, the fanfiction comes to a screeching halt.

Where does that leave these characters? Scrambling desperately. Fighting to keep striving in the direction they were headed. But that’s what it becomes. Every friendship is a fight: pursuing, initiating, trying. Reality weighs heavily. And the souls grow wearier and wearier.

Is it worth it? I just want to hide, says one, looking for a comfortable hole. I just want to flee, says the other, searching for a way to escape. “It’s all my fault,” they both sigh. “Not worth fighting for. Not worth protecting. Not worth chasing.”

The weary soul. Lonely. Afraid. Bitter. Angry at this Angsty Teenager for giving them false hope. The scars, so carefully disguised as beautiful tattoos, are ripped open. Not nearly as healed as we gave them credit for. The wounds, still infected, are so painful to clean out that we pretend they don’t need to be.

“What if we could build a time machine? Go back before it all began.”

Well, what if you could? Would those scars really go away? Or would your demons just bare another name?

It is at this point in our conversation that we look at one another. And the fear creeps in. Realizing that this, right here, is vulnerability. That without meaning to, we let someone in, past those walls. Those paper thin walls, painted to look so strong, but no one ever drew near enough to put them to the test. And that right here, if we had that time machine, we would give it away. For our own scars, painful welts smarting with new attacks, are nothing. But you… you don’t deserve this. Take this magical machine, go back, and be free. I’ll be fine: you, though, you need to be free.

If you dive in your hole, I’ll dig one next to you. For what it’s worth: don’t run. For you see, I don’t need you. But I want you to stay. I want you to come. I can survive without you. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

Maybe we are in the wrong story. Maybe it hurts, and we are weary. Maybe we’re tired of fighting for others when no one ever fights for us. Maybe it’s okay to cry. Maybe it’s okay to be weak. Maybe it’s okay to be lonely. Maybe it’s okay that this story has no plot. Maybe it’s okay that the embers are fading. Maybe it’s okay that Gaston really thinks he’s doing what’s best.

Maybe it’s okay. Because someday our angsty teenager will try again. She’ll scrape away all the stupidity and her pen will be fresh with new experiences, new skills, and new perspectives. A more mature writer, she’ll bring us back on track. And we won’t have to try so hard. We won’t have to die to feel alive. We can just be. We can be alive.

Friendships– relationships– are painful.

But maybe, just maybe… they are worth it.