yesterday i left denver. i was fortunate enough to get a few hours of sleep despite all the nervous energy coursing through my body, and even more fortunate that i was able to spend my last couple hours hanging out with one of my best friends, micah. a seasoned traveler himself, we chatted about where my head was at and what sorts of ideas i had for route options, etc. over burgers and milkshakes (i wanted to make sure my last meal – for the foreseeable future – in america was thoroughly american). a very intuitive being, micah could sense a slight unease within me, so rather than dumptruck me with typical advice about where to go and what to do and what to see, the usual things people offer when they find out you’re going somewhere they’ve been, he opted for less-traversed but just as – if not more -important topics. things like how to combat feeling like a tourist. how to get away from the things your guidebook tells you to go see, and how to escape the crowds. how to find peace and natural experience off the beaten path in the random and unexpected. it’s something i greatly value about micah and about our friendship. he has the ability to move the conversation past the easy, routine topics and provide thoughtful insight in a way that others may not even notice.
micah dropped me at the airport and as i approached security, i was selected for the TSA pre-screen, where you get to go through security without taking off your shoes or belt, you don’t have to remove your laptop from your bag, or any of the other annoying but necessary security procedures. it’s never happened to me before, and i must admit, if i was traveling a lot more in the US, i would probably spring for the cash so that i could do that from now on. it’s worth it.
anyway, being selected for pre-check distracted me from all the thoughts that had been barreling down the wide hallway of my mind all morning. a distracting amalgamation of last-minute paranoiac gut-checks like “oh man did i forget my headlamp?!” or “i definitely forgot underwear,” mixed with bigger picture contemplations on the significance of this trip in my life, or whether or not i was going to find what i was looking for, or if i was going to waste my hard-earned money and fall flat on my face and somehow end up on an episode of “locked up abroad” or some youtube video demanding a ransom, hoping that liam neeson would come to my rescue. i’d like to say that i’m competent enough that my confidence wouldn’t even entertain such doubts, but i can’t. also, i really hope i didn’t forget my underwear.
after i gleefully skated through the pre-check, glancing over at the poor souls removing their shoes and begrudgingly searching for their laptops in their oversized backpacks, i slung my own small carry-on pack over my shoulder and headed for the steps down to the denver airport shuttle train to take me to my departure gate. as i stood at the top of the first step (i have a rule that i do not allow myself to use escalators or elevators if the option for stairs is present… within reason though. i’ll not be running up flights of steps to get to the top of the eiffel tower in paris), a sudden overwhelming wave of emotion gripped me and knocked me back. a thin, icy cold thread of confused adrenalin snaked its way down the veins in my arms and legs, the hairs on my neck and arms were suddenly standing on end, and my skin began to tense up and form “goosebumps.” my stomach formed a small knot in it, the same sensation i used to get right before my first trip to the plate in an important baseball game when i was younger. the same reaction i’d get right before taking the stage to play a show or an open mic night back when i was still performing. the same feeling i’d get right before painfully attempting to ask a girl that i really liked to prom in high school (or really on any date ever in my life. even today. it’s hilarious).
i paused at the top of the stairs, confused by what it was that i was feeling. was it uncertainty? was i suddenly regretting my decision to venture out and leave behind everything comfortable in my life? there was a vague recognition of these feelings, as though my body was telling me that this had happened before, but it had been so long that we had completely forgotten what it meant.
i’ve heard people describe me as unshakable before, and often, especially when i am working, i play that card well. unflinching, i make decisions and i hold to them. i try not to show emotion. a boss of mine once pulled me into a room and gave me the worst verbal brow-beating i’d ever received because he wanted to see if he could rattle my cage and get my attention. he wanted to get a response. i didn’t break. i spent the entirety of his shouting tirade trying to calm him down, confident that he had made a mistake. (in fairness, there was more to the scenario than just this, but the point is still there). in my life, i’ve become very good at controlling my emotions and not letting them betray me, especially in public.
and there i stood, flummoxed by these strange new feelings i hadn’t felt in so long. i didn’t know what to do with them. i couldn’t even define them. as i stood paralyzed at the steps, people all around me rushing to get to the escalators to make their flights (nobody ever takes the stairs anymore!), i became aware of my surroundings and the fact that people might be looking at me. i immediately forced myself to push forward and down the stairs.
as soon as i took the first step, the dam broke. the emotion rushed over me, and everything changed.
the icy adrenalin in my veins quickly turned over into a warm rush of blood to the head, my face became flush. the knot in my stomach suddenly burst into “butterflies.” the same sensation when that heavily anticipated at-bat in the important baseball game results in a double in the gap, standing on 2nd base triumphantly looking back to your teammates in the dugout and your family or friends in the stands, seeking their approval and wanting to celebrate with them, but maintaining composure with the knowledge that the game is still going on. the same reaction when the performance on stage results in applause, and people voice their approval, acknowledging and confirming the hard work you put into your art. the same feeling when the date is over, and the chaotic internal war of schizophrenic dialogue in your head over what-to-say-and-how-to-act-and-maniacally-and-desperately-hoping-that-she-is-really-liking-you-because-you’re-really-liking-her-and-she’s-way-too-hot-to-be-going-out-with-you has all subsided because you just jumped off the ledge and leaned in, and she kissed you back. and you confidently help her into her car and walk back to yours, calm and cool like it’s no big deal, when inside your heart is exploding and all you want to do is splash puddles and swing from street poles and dance down the street like a rhythmless gene kelly, because you know she likes you.
i tried my best to hold it all together as i slowly descended the steps. i suddenly had tears in my eyes but i refused to let them escape onto my face. i got to the bottom of the stairs in a dizzy relief, and realized what i was feeling. it was joy. it was a nervous euphoria that my body and soul were creating to tell my mind that for once, finally, in a long time, i was doing the best thing for me. i’ve wanted this trip for years, but i’ve also been terrified of it. i’ve made plans but pushed them off for short vacations with friends because they were safer and easier, or i’ve abandoned them altogether because i couldn’t work the courage enough to quit my job. for years i’ve been both tempted by and held captive by the same idea, and now, today, at last, i was doing something about it for better or worse.
i don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s okay. i’m learning how to let go.
today’s ear candy: