Yesterday was the first day back for the students at the day job. For me, it was the 22nd time I have seen the first day of classes. Four years as an undergrad and now 18 years as an employee at the same university. Each year brings new things, with a similar theme. New students, wandering around campus looking for their rooms. The last good haircut they will have until probably their first job interview or maybe graduation. Courtesy of their parents. New clothes. Pegged cuffs, bell-bottoms. Leggings and boots. Heels and shorty-shorts. The hemlines get higher and lower, the waistlines go up and down, from mom jeans to hip-huggers and back again, like the tides, they roll up and down over the years. The young men in their t-shirts and cargo shorts are the constant of the polar ice caps. Dull. Static. The “dudes” change to “bros” the “cools” turn to “sick.”
Not much has changed in 13 years in this office. “Where is room blah blah blah?” or “What does the L mean for my lecture hall class?” I smile. I say something friendly, I point them in the right direction. After the third day, this eases up as everyone become familiar with the rhythm of things here.
This time of year for me is a time of reflection. Compare and contrast. How far have I come?
Last year, I had found myself at the beginning of the end of a relationship. I listened to a lot of old hair bands, I found myself behaving in a certain way which optimized the chances I would get to spend with that person, always fitting myself into her busy schedule, in spite of my own obligations and responsibilities. It was exhausting.
Now, I don’t listen to hair bands so much anymore. I have moved on from those days, as nice as the mid to late 80s were to revisit. That relationship ended and with it so did the flavor of that nostalgia. My playlists are soured by the taste of what was lost. I had suppressed a lot of what I was to be someone I wasn’t. I started drinking coffee again.
The months rolled by like Colorado storm fronts. I went to another continent and in a weird way, I had my own Razor’s Edge moment. I went into the Wilderness myself, as I have wanted to do for twenty years or more, and came out again, having found a better understanding of what I want, and what I need to do about that.
I found contentment in solitude. I found that I was likable, and that I could love myself. That I was smart, easy going, compassionate, and resourceful. I could meet people and make friends easily. I was anything but what my previous sad choices had pegged me as–former relationships. They never really saw me for who I was. And it didn’t help that I really wasn’t who I was, but trying to fit a role they wanted me to fill. You can’t really love someone who isn’t who they truly are. It’s just chasing illusions. So, in a way, I cannot blame them. I blamed myself for a bit. Then I stopped worrying about it. I really just started being and feeling comfortable in my own skin. Making good boundaries. Listening to my gut again.
I met myself for the first time in a long time. Then I met someone else. Which is a big reason the travel blogs have been slow-coming these days, because we have actually been getting out more together. She has a pretty good idea of who she is, and knows me for who I am too. We fill the hours with new experiences, and the funny thing is we are usually having such a good time we forget to take pictures or document our adventures. So, I think I need to get better at doing that.
Travel writing is a difficult gig to get into. With no shortage of competition, it might be nearly impossible to do, but I keep trying. I have a goal in mind, to do better a year from now than I’m doing now. Because a year ago, I was a mess. Nothing I did was going to fix anything. And nothing I did should have fixed anything, because it was already broken a long time ago.
And now, I’m feeling much better about everything.
Five years ago, I was on the precipice of starting a new life. Leaving a failed marriage. About to start completely over with nothing and only beginning to understand how much sacrifice I would have to make to get healthy and live the life I had always wanted to live.
Looking back gives us perspective to see how far we have come, when there are already so many miles left to go. And sometimes it’s okay to just let things go. To shed your skin like a snake or one of those noisy cicadas that won’t shut up on a hot summer night. Because the weight of things is holding you down and its time to try out that new self that was created by metamorphosis.
One day will come when I don’t care about the first day of classes, because that is no longer my world. Maybe I’m long past due.