"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." ~Dr. Suess
It can be anything from the end of a long vacation to the end of a dinner, and my heart sinks a little. I'd like to think it's because I love people so much and want to hold on to the good times as long as possible. I definitely know part of me is anticipating the melancholy I'll feel as I look back on it. Alas, I've already written on the topic.
Either way, I‘m acutely aware that this mournful pre-nostalgia isn't very mindful.
As I sat in my tent at Yosemite on the penultimate day of my journeyman trip, I was waiting for it. I always get bowled over in the waning days. I'm so aware of it at this point that my brain now sends out an early emotional-tsunami warning. Time to prepare for the coming tidal wave of nostalgia.
But the wave never came.
Out of all 7 national parks I visited, Yosemite is the only one for which I was already familiar. I've been there more than a few times. Growing up and now, it’s always been close to my heart.
For most of the rest of the trip though, each park, forest, trail and camp felt foreign and unfamiliar. Some literally felt otherworldly - Arches is like Mars, Zion is Venus, Yellowstone a wooded Neptune, Mount Hood like Pandora from Avatar, and Redwood is definitely Endor.
But as I arrived at Yosemite I was welcomed home with familiarity. The trees, the mountains, the view of valley itself, the smell of the woods, even the freeways and truck stops on the way, all familiar. Yosemite, to me, isn't another world, it's California. It's home.
So I knew the end of my journey was nigh - I could feel it. I should have been upset by this. I waited to turn the corner on a trail and have it suddenly jump out and attack me, like the bears they warn you about.
But the bear never growled.
Maybe my journey was just long enough to make me home sick. Maybe I subconsciously planned it so I felt more comfortable as I got close to home. Maybe absence really did make the heart grow fonder and I missed the loved ones I'd left behind.
Maybe, just maybe, I finally learned to be present and stop giving a shit about the past and the future, which was one of the intentions of the journey in the first place.
I don't have an answer to this, my new reality. I was on this journey, primarily alone, for 19 days...it was the most time I've spent with only myself, ever...it was profoundly different than every other trip I've been on...it taught me a million things and it continues to teach me now that I’m home...I'm still sorting through it in my mind and will for god knows how long.
But there are already two glaringly apparent lessons:
- Confidence... in what I can accomplish, in my voice, in my decisions, in myself. I had many moments of weakness, but in each case I changed my mindset, found my footing, soldiered through, and in doing so I found strength.
- Mindfulness... on the road as in home, this is something I struggle with. It's why I write this blog. But the longer I was gone, the further away from my everyday patterns I got, the more cellphone deadzones I encountered, in each powerfully quiet moment in the company of natural wonders, the more *now* I felt.
Right now is the only time that matters. Your right now could be the beginning of an amazing adventure or a the end of a difficult road, but no matter what, living in it with gusto is empowering.
Somehow, someway, on these pages I will attempt to explain this and all the other millions of thoughts this journey inspired. My new assignment is to contort my mind around the profound rather than the trivial.
This journey has changed me for the better. Hopefully by writing this all down, my journey can help change you for the better too, at least a little bit.