I never expected to be here. I didn’t know where I would be, but this is the one place it wasn’t supposed to be.
One year ago, today, I sat in my apartment on approximately two hours of sleep [after a very long last night out] and watched two movers wrap up my furniture and load all my belongings into the back of a moving truck. After they scurried away, taking my things to a storage unit, I handed my apartment keys over to my landlord. Two suitcases and a backpack in tow, I got in an Uber and headed toward the airport. I was saying goodbye to Chicago after one year. It was expected to only be away for four to six months. As of today however, it has been a full 12 months.
These past 12 months have been filled with a lot of family time, an enormous amount of soul searching and internal battles, and some travel, too. I fulfilled a dream of mine to travel on my own, to multiple countries with nothing but a backpack (a very hefty backpack) over an extended period of time. When I started to plan this trip, I only told a few people. At first I spoke of it as an idea, although I had a lot of it planned out in my head already. There were two people who really encouraged me to go for it and without them and their support, I’m not sure if I would have gone through with it. I owe many thanks to my friends Sean and Julie. They may not have seen their words as significant, but it meant the world to me.
My parents’ did not have near the reaction I thought they would when I told them what I had planned. It wasn’t as dramatic as I assumed it would be nor as shocked. However, I’m not sure either of them truly thought I was going to go through with this plan. I’m always changing my mind and coming up with new ideas on things I want to do and careers I want to have. If I had a dollar for every time I have changed my mind, I’d be a billionaire right now. So my parents probably thought this was another one of those times.
The job I had before this year long break was getting worse and worse. I was miserable. On September 26th, 2017 I finally decided I had had enough and wanted to make this trip I had been planning official. Because up until this point I had been planning everything [for two months], but hadn’t put it into action. A couple of glasses of wine helped change that. I searched for flights to and from Europe and found one for cheap. I didn’t hesitate and I booked it right then. I knew if I waited any longer I would talk myself out of it or the price of flights would get too high for me to be willing to spend the money. Hands down the best decision I have ever made.
Two days after I booked my flight, I no longer had a job. The lease on my apartment was up the following month. It seemed as though everything was working out perfectly. Of course when I told my parents that I booked my flight and wasn’t working anymore, the flood gates opened and out poured a thousand questions and concerns. I didn’t have all the answers, but I tried to ease their minds the best I could.
I spent a month exploring Chicago and went to Denver for a week over Halloween. After I was moved out of my apartment, I flew back to Arkansas where I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and NYE with my Arkansas friends. A week into the New Year I left for Europe where I spent the next two months travelling by myself [mostly].
Two months in Europe taught me that I get lost easily. But, that I don’t always have to know where I am going either and I will still have amazing experiences and eventually find my way to where I am supposed to be. It also taught me exactly how independent I am. I grew comfortable being stared at as I ate alone. It’s really not as bad as people think it is. Except when a guy watches you scarf down a large piece of cheesecake and then uses that as a pick up line. That’s was a first time for me, but what can I say, I like dessert. Lastly, Europe taught me how insanely important time to myself is. It’s sometimes uncomfortable being alone with your thoughts, but also very necessary.
My intentions after Europe were to immediately get another job. However, after getting back, I realized I hadn’t really spent time figuring out what I wanted next. In Europe I lived in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about what next, I was simply enjoying my time exploring new places. Over the next several months, I spent time in Chicago, went to Portland, went back to Denver and travelled to a few other places. Each trip was for a purpose, but were also a distraction from me having to figure my life out (food-for-thought: can we really figure our entire life out in a few months and never expect change to interrupt our plans? no.). I continued to postpone thinking about my next step. I assumed when I got ready things would automatically fall into place [overnight]. Surprise, this doesn’t actually happen overnight.
By the time I finally decided it was time for me to start looking for my next job, I began getting overwhelmingly stressed. Mostly because I knew I didn’t want to get back into the same industry or spend 8+ hours behind a computer and I most definitely didn’t want to end up back in Arkansas long-term. This made my expected overnight achievement that much harder to achieve. At the same time, I knew if I wanted a job soon I would have to sacrifice doing something I enjoyed or else I was going to have to get real comfortable remaining unemployed and staying with my parents for longer than I wanted. Quite the predicament I was in.
Things started to feel like they were spiraling out of control. One day I had a definite plan, but then I’d go to sleep and wake up with a completely different plan. I started confusing myself. I was focusing on two narrow paths instead of looking at the big picture. As much as I was determined to leave Arkansas as soon as I could, I didn’t realize I was actually happy being here surrounded by my family. A couple of months of deep soul searching and some medication, I finally started to relax a bit and come to terms with the fact that I was going to end up in Arkansas again. Something I never expected to happen so soon. It’s not forever though.
Needless to say, this past year has been the most amazing year full of new experiences and endless memories. However, it has also been the most mentally taxing year of my life. It’s a weird feeling knowing the same year holds some of your best and worst experiences. It also goes to show that you really don’t know what to expect and that you cannot rule out the unexpected. I didn’t foresee myself moving back to Arkansas so soon [or ever]. I do believe the universe knows better than I do at times and manifests things to happen for me. Even though it’s extremely hard for me to always accept those things sometimes.