In the summer of 2013, I embarked on a road trip with my older sister Julia. Though close, we had never really traveled together, nothing of this caliber at least. Entering this trip I was a ball of nerves and pity, there was not only a dim light at the end of the tunnel but I was losing the will to search for it anymore. Lately I’ve been going through the journal I kept along the way and it’s really fascinating to see what that trip did for my mind, even after the first couple days. I returned a completely changed human and I certainly was not the only person who noticed. Confidence made it’s first appearance in my adult life, I took my time more and allowed it all to slow down and fall into place around me. Embracing the extra few minutes here and there to breathe it in, I’d essentially realized that anything is possible. I’m transcribing the entries and photos here, as the feelings I was having are pretty much splattered on the page.
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art & Kansas City Sculpture Park in Kansas
Journal: 5-17-13 :
Tomorrow Julia and I venture off to New Mexico and every state in between. I should be filled with joy, yet I am so heavy with depression. Last night I was told by ______ what he actually thought of me. It was as though I was speaking to a whole new person. It leaves me with a whole world of worry, as I dwindle down the time until I’m off. I’m at the Pub opening and its officially on.
I feel like an old rag ran through the ringer and it is a horrible feeling to be honest. I feel pretty worthless to everyone around me. I’m loosing my patience and grip. The circular and obsessive thoughts kill me inside. Enter “the server”.
This trip should be a spiritual journey for me, for us both. It’s beginning to feel like more of a hassle, again I seem to be more in the way than riding the wave with the rest of the world. Attempting to get to the bottom of my emotions, but it seems to be broken gears. Maybe just too bent to line up again. This is one of two shifts today with a fresh hand of tattoos.
Marked by impulsion. Looked down by all of those around me. That seems to be where I fit best. Somewhere in the purgatory in between. My love for life is strong, but is constantly questioned. I my have lost love again. I fail to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Beatles “If I Fall” is on, so symbolically because Julia loaded her Ipod with them for the trip. This journal itself is a sad victim of circumstance. Maybe I am incapable of love. Who’s to say I am wrong? Patience must stay or I cannot. It’s a decision I fight with almost everyday. The classic question. Should I stay or should I go? The calm nature of the bar while open but empty is totally indescribable thing. Love songs crooning to a crooked beat, sun shinning outside, yet dark inside and in my heart.
To sit and ponder one’s existence, sober, in an empty bar; these are the times I cherish. Julia and I should focus on that. Side worry floods my mind as I’m sure it does hers. What are my meaningless worries compared to real ones however? Death and it’s ideas surround me. It’s odd hoping the day will begin in my head and not drag!”
Santa Fe, New Mexico: 5-20-13:
It’s the closing of the third day on this, so far captivating cross-country drive. There is a sadness in me that I cannot place, yet I can strongly feel it’s purpose. Traveling is for me, in all ways. Thriving on it’s vast moods, weathers, situational oddities, opportunities taunting you with the “what if’s” of life.
The sadness is situational and personal, obviously ultimately stemming from a severe case of depression I refuse to properly treat. The passed 60 plus hours have been sorely needed. I feel as though I’m in a relationship that dances boisterously on a rotten tree branch. Tonight, 1776.5 miles from my home, I didn’t get an “I love you” and I’m pretty certain it’s a subtle beginning to a not so subtle end. Again, I wave the white flag and I will again end up alone. As we passed through PA, OH, IN, IS, MS, KS, CO and now New Mexico, I allow my mind to wander. Whether it is the long winding roads, The Amanda Knox book on tape, the minimal blank silences or the random tunes, I am slowly piecing it together by pulling it apart. A chance of a lifetime. I am ankle, knee and hip deep in something I will probably never have the opportunity to do again, yet my mind is churning and my heart is sagging inside my chest. I feel as though I am telling jokes to myself, keeping my giddiness internalized, attempting to diminish any chance of embarrassing my sister. I can’t help but feel as though maybe she may have gotten more satisfaction out of going with Kelly or my mother, maybe even alone.
The trip has been wonderful, not to downsize it’s monumental girth and beauty through trivial and certainly tiresome anxiety fueled worries. As the drive began, something in me fled. I felt freed almost immediately. I believe that it was both the conclusion of my relationship and excitement over the idea of the lengthy vacation in itself. The days leading up to it were bleak, full on angry confusion and cluttered with work and poorly delivered insults.
A fire burns beside our bed and I can’t help but be reminded that this is a rare opportunity and I must take from it all that I can. As I agree and my weighty depression worsens I guess I begin to contemplate what is on the horizon. This thought also occurred to me today while I was climbing one of the dunes at The Great Sand Dunes National Park while making a ridiculous internal reference to Spaceballs. “It’s just over that dune/ You said that five dunes ago”. From that spawned a vast landscape of obsessive thinking. One more dune, weary , panting and using all of your strength to reach the top, only to arrive, peer over the picturesque and molded edge to find miles of dunes, unfolding like an endless dress dancing on an endless breeze. It was how I felt about my progress; Steadfast and honest, yet no climb was the highest, no dune deserved a rest, each peak was just a reminder of what’s next, that there will always be more work to do. My Poppa’s mantra.
Crackling flames are so soothing right now. As we neared Kansas and began our slow march, the ran began. We had stopped for gas, I was outside filling. It was my turn. As the rolling thunder grew and the cool cleansing breeze slithered through the wide gas lanes, I felt the same excited fear I’d known as a child. Realizing that you cannot fight nature, it fights you. I smirked incessantly at the idea and quickly hopped back inside the car. Little did we know as we zipped through the beautiful rolling plains of Kansas that a tornado was passing north to south over the path we had just laid. It leveled sections of Oklahoma and other states. Both Julia and I were reminded of the odd circumstances of timing. What if we’d stopped for coffee or to use a bathroom, etc. The fear still remains as we will be entering the same hell on our route back home, back to the reality of my life, my job, my solid loneliness that I’ve known to carry me.
More than I can process floods through my mind, jamming up like sorting machines on the week before a holiday. All with good intent but a few that fell through the cracks. I am willing to let a few thoughts get “lost in the mail”. Photos of old churches bleaching in the hot, Southwestern sun, line the walls of the room. The soft crackling calms me as I stare at them. This land is ancient and flooding with culture, beauty and an overwhelming abundance of poverty. Poverty decorated with festive colors and broken down vintage treasures speckled upon a backdrop that not only cannot be captured in photographs but can barely be described in words. A mountainous sprawl of indescribable glory, freedom and above all a constant reminder of how incredibly small we are. Each day is a reminder of the thinning time we retain, the changes needed to meet our goals or the utter disregard to hold onto dreams stemming from the familiar stench of failure; unbecoming yet gently comforting.
There are silent moments on this trip. Although I cherish and acknowledge them, there is a fear flowing inside them. Am I a bore, too goofy, too juvenile to match the wits of my hip traveling companion? Another sibling that, in the underbelly of my mind leads me to think terrible thoughts, in this hypothesis of their total disapproval in my lifestyle, humor, appearance and demeanor. Who knows what anyone thinks for that matter.
The surging lights across a darkened field stretched for miles and miles simultaneously flashing in red blinks. They caught my eye and after researching what created this cosmic dance, it was proven that my attention wasn’t the only one grabbed, anyone who had driven through it or flown above its trancing sprawl. Large white fan blades kissing the night air slowly, in a cool, crisp breeze.
As the morning draws closer my eyes are heavy with discovery and age, I find myself turning in. Tomorrow resumes the cultural and “enchanting” discovery of the country and this beautiful city.
Albuquerque, New Mexico: 5-22-13
Poolside at our hotel after 15 minutes or so of being stuck in an elevator. Today is our last full day in Albuquerque. It is really a beautiful city. So much larger than we’d expected and not a bad view where ever you look. It’s really surreal. 84* right now with a breathtaking sunset. Our drive tomorrow will be to some Aztec ruins and then to the alien district of Roswell, then off to Dallas at night. Today was very relaxing and also pretty culturally satisfying. We started off with sunbathing, of course my sunburn caught up with me as we neared the evening. Last night was one of the best sleeps I’ve ever experienced. Hotel life ain’t that bad. The last few days have been pretty indescribable. Spending time with Julia has of course been wonderful. Her telling me she wants family nonchalantly while walking through The Great Sand Dune National Park. Witnessing some of the most beautiful views, sharing these meals and conversations are things I wouldn’t trade for anything on the Earth. We just ordered “authentic” New Mexican pizza (green chillies). All for now.
Oklahoma City, OK- 5-24-13
We stopped through Oklahoma city, at a coffee chop, super swank in appearance, called Element. Tornados scares prevented us from reaching our set destination of Dallas yesterday evening. Stuck. Torn on what to do, in the middle of no where, we headed the only safe way out which was to head North. After a few scary, stormy hours using radar, when we could, along the way to track the speedy storm. We had two people watching radar and mom helped us rebook along the way. We ended up staying at an unbelievably dated, yet spacious hotel straight from another time. After this stop over we will be back on the 40 East to Little Rock Arkansas, then through to Memphis, TN.
This trip has been an incredible experience. An adventure with a sister whom I always long to see more of, but also an unbiased character in my immediate life. The unlimited space and time to let my thoughts wander. We’ve had nothing but time to learn, discover, roam and rediscover. Sensations I feel as though resonate through us both, just at different frequencies. I’ve learned more about my sister in the passed five days than I have in the passed several years. As we whip passed all the varying vegetation, my thoughts wind and twist through every cavern of my head. It’s as though I’ve never had these thoughts. Even though I have, suddenly they seem dearer.
Maybe they are being felt for real and truly connected. It’s as though the layers and levels of each individualized idea has officially shown me a blue print. The idea that I am an adult with validity in my thoughts and ideas both petrifies and excites me. Seeing the openness where there is nothing, I begin to feel weight of travel and my mind begins to fill those spaces. When I’m overstimulated by others formulated ideas and morals I have less space to invent, but then have the opportunity to connect and scheme. As each day clicks into the next, like a misshapen pile of multi-colored legos, an end design starts to take shape.
The people I’ve seen and some of whom I’ve interacted with:
-“The Mayor” bus boy/Amarillo, TX (he said “I think I’ve been to NY once, I think it was called Manhattan” like the young mayor from BTTF)
-The Spanish Truck Driver/Tatum,NM (Huge language barrier during the tornado, wasn’t afraid of the storm)
-Women covered in sores/South of Colorado Springs,CO (Stopped to get an iced tea and she was working overnights at a gas station)
-Staff at Succotash/Kansas City, MO (awesome folks, ate an amazing garbage plate called The Kitchen Sink)
-Cowboy in elevator/Amarillo,TX (Hammered cowboy in the elevator in the strange dated hotel trying to hang out with Julia and I)
-Starbucks duo/Albuquerque,NM (Super nice and beyond attractive pair of New Mexican men, who made me feel ok reeking like weed even though there was a cop in there)
-Heavily tattooed cop outside of Whole Foods/Santa Fe, NM (Never have seen such a tattooed cop, he gave me his nod of approval)
-Old Woman at alien gift shop/Roswell, NM (super nice and probably sees the strangest things in that already strange town)
Each of these people have inspired me in their own odd way. It’s almost as if I have a new lease on life. Even the books we’ve been listening to have been expanding my thinking and have lead me into different venues of thought and questioning. On top of it all the time with Julia as an adult has been the most gratifying part of maturing. When I was a child I never felt as though I was like anyone else, which isn’t uncommon for creative types, however it worsened as I aged. All of the bad events compiled and I slipped deeper into my pity pit. I took every look and phrase personally, compiling each feeling onto the last and then dragging them along like Jacob Marley’s chains.
Those feeling continue of course, but being conscious of these thoughts was the first step towards seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This symbolic purity, the one that I have dreamt of day and night since as early as I can remember. I feel more grounded and connected, not only to the country in which I reside, but most importantly (risking a narcissistic stamp) to myself. Understanding your flaws and accepting them is almost as important as fixing them. Learning your own personal demons, mannerisms, changing values and acceptances are life long challenges. Perhaps you don’t fully get it, until you check out for good. In any case I am coming back with forced confidence and some feelings to mash into some good songs, or even just rants.