This past New Years, my sister and I and a friend of ours went to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones play at the 9:30 Club. It was an amazing show, but a few minutes after midnight, the crowd got to be a bit much, so I went the bar to grab a drink and some air.
As I was standing there, a guy approached me and asked if I had gotten my New Years kiss yet. I stared at him sheepishly and said no. I actually hadn’t kissed anyone since leaving my ex-husband more than a year before and desperately hoped my face wasn’t turning beet red. Generous as he was, he offered to remedy the situation and leaned in. When he asked me afterwards how it was, fueled by beer and honesty, I responded “Crappy.” Seeing his face, I knew I needed to explain. “I can do better. It’s just not my best work. Let’s try again.” He, of course, was happy to oblige and and the second go round was much better, as I suspected it would be.
There’s not a lot of times in life that we get a redo. Or think to ask for one. But I’m 2,700 miles into a nearly 7,000 road trip and being in the car alone with your thoughts for that long causes you to reconsider some things you always assumed to be true.
When I think about it, I guess that’s what this trip is all about anyway. A rewrite of my story. The only other time I drove cross country was when I was 22 or 23 years old, madly in love in a blind-to-everything way that you only really experience when it’s your first, and full of naive optimism. I got over the end of that relationship years and years ago, but I’ve never really got over that experience. Or how such an incredible series of memories was inextricably linked to someone I didn’t want them to be.
So I am rewriting. I don’t think you should erase experiences a la Eternal Sunshine. I am a firm believer that every gut wrenching breakup, every failure, provides valuable foundations and lessons. But so many times in life, we are handed a sloppy first draft, full of plot holes and shitty grammar and we say, that’ll do. I’ll accept this one as mine.
Same with my layoff. In 2009 I was also laid off and it was a devastating experience. I took it fiercely personally and ended up moving back into my parents house. It was nine full months before I found another job. But when I did, it was incredible. I had wanted to be a humanitarian since I was like 7 and my new job was everything I had been dreaming of for so long. And I promised myself that first day of work that if I ever got laid off again I would do it completely different. That I would trust everything would be okay in the end and take advantage of a situation that doesn’t dictate being in an office in Washington, DC at 9 am every morning.
And you know what? It is.
So far, it’s been unbelievable. This trip far exceeds anything I ever experienced as a 22 year old baby who didn’t have the nerve to say I WANT TO STOP HERE. And here and here and here. I have swam in lakes surrounded by dinosaur bones in Utah, cried at the sight of Kansas wind farms, slept in a hammock under a blanket of stars, ate killer apple pie at Al’s Chickenette, bought ruby slippers at the Oz Museum. And I’m not even halfway through. I’ve also gotten two flat tires and am currently waiting for a tow after being stuck in a sand bank, but that’s all part of the experience and I’m embracing (or trying to) every moment.
I was recently at my 20 year reunion and a well intentioned friend asked me if I was nervous for my return to Covington, Louisana with neither a husband or a child. I had to laugh at the question. I have written my life to look like this, I thought. Now I know unplanned things happen (hello fake boobs), but I firmly believe that the things that you put your energy into is what ends up showing up in your life. And this is everything I have hoped for.
One day I’ll have a partner and kids perhaps. But only when I decide to write them in. It makes me sad to think about living a life that you’re not authoring yourself. For so much of my life, somebody gave me a mediocre draft and I accepted, no questions asked. That’ll do.
But it’s different now because I’m different. I have a chance every single day to wake up and rewrite. I’m not going to quit until every single verb and adjective flow in such harmony that when I say, “That’ll do,” I couldn’t mean it more. And I hope that will be my last breath. I’m going out in a blaze of rewrites.