It looks like it is time again for me to pack up and drive a few hundred or more miles to a new destination, a place I will finally try to plant roots, this time offering commitment + endurance, hoping to build a life of more balance and authenticity. I assume I will need a constant reminder of gratitude, quelling the entitlement that can bubble up when I think “this should be easier.” I’m not sure when, why, or where I’ve picked up that refrain, but I see it in others and myself and wish for an alternative.
With the help of several people, I’ve secured a full-time college teaching position on a beautiful college campus of a kind of institution I am certain is doing its part to heal the world. At least that is what I feel when I serve at a community college, a place where I feel inspired and challenged by students who have a diversity of needs. I’ve been teaching in such institutions for so long, I’ve fallen in love and know, by experience, that I can help in such spaces.
But the journey, the drive itself is what I hope to enjoy and not miss in the rumble of my loneliness and anxiety, with the eagerness to get settled and comfortable, to survive through the month and a half while I don’t have a paycheck.
Also, because this journey, like so many of my others, is timed at what feels like the last minute, I’m leaving with open wounds that I’ve created in myself and others. I didn’t try to treat others badly when I left last time for Europe. I thought I was trying to rearrange relationships to put them on my own terms, to create better boundaries, to be more casual and non-attached so I wouldn’t feel I was always vulnerable to being convinced one way or the other. But people who are hurt don’t always understand why we leave or have to adjust or separate. This time, though, I’m not running away or escaping from something. I’m moving toward a life that I will actually start building.
I’ve made strides recently to be more honest with others. I’m watching the final season of Orange is the New Black, and in most of the episodes the main character, Piper comes into a practice of embracing all the parts of herself, mostly becoming courageous about telling people about her past in prison. Her wife comments that it must feel like coming out relationally all over again.
That honesty, for myself and perhaps Piper, has to do also with treating others well. Offering our truths is only one part of truth, as I have found. Just as I am getting better at one, of course there is another element to juggle. And that is the element of observing and reassessing our perceptions of others to see the truth of who they are, to appreciate their goodness despite their limitations and despite our own in relating to them.
How to we continue to heal our own wounds and those of others when we must move on physically and geographically? I need to say goodbye to my life as a nomad because I want to. Because I am older and tired of groundlessness. But there will be a different kind of ground and -lessness.
Sometimes I wish we could halt our judgment and criticism, that we could be more gentle. I feel sick and traumatized with certain energies and I find myself missing what could be more joyous occasions because of my own spiraling mindlessness.
These days before departure have been stressful and also filled with gratitude. I have had a bit of time to practice morning yoga and work out. How do I find the yoga on and in my roadtrip? How do you? Any advice?
Is the spiritual part of a solo road trip journey to think about these recent lessons and practice them on the road? Because there are always people we meet on the trip via petrol stations, cafes where we stop for a late lunch, and in the Airbnb’s where we sleep. I think we can also take times of waiting or journeying for compassionate self-talk. When we internalize and listen to others, we need to not just consider whether or not what they say to us and tell us about ourselves, but we need to create or remember lovers and mothers who would give us encouragement.
I think we tend toward people when we like the way they make us feel. When we sense they are being kind but in authentic and sincere ways. We should remember that. It is not about us when we want to influence others. And it is about us, and what is in our power, when we want to influence ourselves.
Elisabeth S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She has an MA in creative writing and teaches college composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. She also writes poetry about food, self-exile, the balance between love + freedom, and navigating the world while female. She has a new micro-chapbook on food from Ghost City Press.