Every time I take a road trip, I learn something more about our country and its beauty. I learn more about myself and who I am. And, I learn more about God and who God is. This road trip was a day-long drive to Florida to see my best friend Merideth. I was going to stop in Atlanta and camp at a state park, but then I remembered that Mer was off of work on Sunday, so why not just drive through and go to the beach with her instead of by myself. Sweet. So 16-hour drive. That was on Saturday, then on Wednesday, I left Florida at 4AM and drove through to Cincinnati to see my other best friend Amy. The trip culminated in lunch with my beautiful sister-in-law in Dayton before returning home to a going away party for my love. The week was excellent, contemplative, beautiful. I made new friends, was helped through the long hours of the drive, and experienced the beauty of this fine land. Here are some things I learned:
- If you listen to the radio for long enough, you’ll hear a song that reminds you of every person you’ve ever loved. Some of them will make you cry, some will make you laugh, and some will just piss you off. One was the Sarah Mclachlan song that reminded me of a convicted felon I once loved. Yeah, bad judgment. One was LaBamba, reminding me of a boyfriend I’d love to forget. One was a Mariah Carey song that Kristen and I used to sing to each other in our dorm room dance parties. One reminded me of the first crush I ever had on a woman (don’t have crushes on straight women, it never works out well). Finally, I listened to The Doors, which, of course, reminded me of Jaymes and the way he opened out my mind and my musical interests to bands I’d never heard before. And, finally, every cheesy country song reminded me of my beautiful wife. Thanks, Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean. Really, music forces so many emotions, I’m not sure how people stand listening to it for long periods of time.
- White Castle can be the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten when you’ve been in the car for ten hours. White Castle is not good for you, nor does it provide any kind of sustenance. White Castle gives you gas. White Castle serves Big Red soda. White Castle is a road-trip disaster, but the miniature cheeseburgers slide right down and taste good on the way.
- I shouldn’t spend 16 hours inside my own head. When I left Muncie, I had lots of things on my mind: the impending move, lots of grading, planning, wedding planning, Bec’s leaving next week, my spirituality, and political stuff. If you can’t tell by reading this blog, I always think about 80,000 things at a time, so this isn’t new, but I’m usually thinking about small things. This trip was sort of a trip of mourning the loss of comfort. I’m ready to move to Minnesota, but I have lived in East Central Indiana for 40 years. I needed to drive and mourn. I won’t drive down 75 to Florida to see Merideth again. I won’t be able to bop over to Ohio to see Amy or Susan. I won’t be within a stone’s throw of the Smoky Mountains. I won’t be within decent driving distance of Niagara Falls. I won’t be around my biggest support system. And, quite frankly, I am terrified about recreating all that at 40 years old. I know that’s not old, and I know I have no problem making friends, but Minnesota seems like a whole new world. What if people don’t make friendships in the same way there? What if my sense of humor doesn’t fit? What if I can’t find a job? What if we can’t find a house? Basically, I spent about 13 hours of the way down to Florida being freaked out about my future. On the way back, I spent my time dreaming about what an amazing future is in store for me and Bec, but I remain vexed about the move anyway.
- I shouldn’t listen to praise music while I drive. Ticket for me. I shouldn’t let 18-year-old drivers rear end my brand new car. Ticket(s) for her.
- No matter how clearly I lay out my plans, they’ll never work. They’ll always change, and I’ll never get everything finished that I intend to get finished. But life is for enjoyment, not for stress. Sorry, students, some things didn’t or won’t get done.
- I need to eat healthy food (refer back to 2). I feel like shit, and I have giant circles under my eyes. I know my body doesn’t tolerate gluten, corn, or soy very well, and yet, that’s mostly what I ate on my trip. I need to get back to the basics, and since it’s training season it shouldn’t be too hard. I got on the scale this morning, and I’m officially the fattest I’ve been in 3 years. Yay, me. I’ve officially gained 35 pounds since last July 13. Thirty-five mother fucking pounds. Thanks, stress eating. I might need a psychological intervention.
- I am in the right place in the Episcopal Church. I feel God’s presence there, but I can also think. I’m not asked to blindly follow along. I’m asked to have my own thoughtful consideration of who God is and who [Their] church should be. What is my role in God’s church? I still feel called to ordained ministry, but I’m not sure how that will look. I don’t want to move all over God’s green creation, so I am prayerfully considering something like chaplaincy or the like. Amy is a handy resource in this regard, since that’s what she does and where her passion lies. If I did follow this vocation, I’m leaning toward prison or juvenile detention chaplaincy. My heart always lies with those people who seem unlovable. Or, as a friend pointed out, is my ministry precisely what I do now? Teaching feels like ministry, but I’m not sure that it fulfills what I believe is a different kind of call. I am keeping my options open in this regard.
- When I walk on the beach with my Merideth, people look at her like she is a hero and they look at me with pity, like she’s a great person for taking her cancer-ridden friend for a last walk on the beach or something. We just kept laughing. Seriously, I just have no hair. Save your compassion, or empathy but not pity, for folks who really have cancer. And your praise for folks who really take a last walk on the beach with the friend with cancer. I don’t look at all like a person who’s undergone chemo. Not a bit.
- The ocean heals everything. The mountains heal too.
- Nothing feels quite like coming home to your one true love.
I thought there were other things I learned, but I don’t remember them right now. I do know I feel more settled now than I did before. I do feel like I learned more about myself. I do feel like I learned more about God. I’m trying to find myself inside the confines of my relationship with God, rather than just willy-nilly looking for myself. I don’t know. Maybe when I think about this a week from now, I’ll have more insight.