These contrasting black and white words in front of you were written and rewritten a million times in those unpredictable moments of reflection that inevitably sneak up on me while on or en route to public transportation, or just sitting alone in general, wherever I happen to be. But until now, the words never made it on paper (well, actually, my iPhone notepad) because the more time passed, the harder it was to come back to you guys. Thankfully, a recent conversation with an old friend finally gave me the inspiration I needed.
You see, I’m back in America now. Since last May – May 18th, to be exact. I’ve gone from Bologna to New York, and finally, back to San Diego. And this is my first blog post since returning to the United States. Let’s just say it has been a long few months. The good news is I’ve traded in my exotic travels for the chance to finally be able to enjoy my old friends and family. They are the highlight of being “back.” Being able to say “we knew each other when” is a luxury that I’m loving indulging in.
On one such visit recently with an old college friend in Las Vegas, my friend said offhandedly: “Boy, you sure do have a lot of stories.” I don’t remember which story in particular inspired his remark. Possibly it was the one involving the sombrero and the bus (definitely a crowd-pleaser). We were standing in the living room of his beautiful home, and I stopped and took in what he said, agreeing. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
Believe it or not, I’d never thought about it. But his point was true. As his house was growing, my luggage was shrinking, but my ability to entertain groups of acquaintances at cocktail parties was growing exponentially.
The conversation awakened my deep-rooted pangs for a more “normal” life. Getting older and acquiring more stuff of increasing value feels like the expected life progression. My annual trips back home to the U.S. used to make it easy to spot the transitions that my friends, family, and colleagues were going through. With a few exceptions, I noticed their gains in weight, wealth, and family clearly, since I missed the gradual daily changes.
My life path has been a bit different. So far, I’ve spent all of my 30s on the road. Instead of engagement parties, I’ve had tearful goodbyes in Milan with my now ex-boyfriend. Instead of Christmas with my family, I’ve lived (as my father said), an Agatha Christie novel of hopping from Venice and, in the same week, ending up in Paris during the terrorist attacks. Instead of settling down and enjoying home ownership, I have memories of frantically signing the final documents to sell my condo, located in San Diego, at 5pm on December 31st while sitting on the floor of a mall in Budapest using their wi-fi with my laptop and having a mall security guard yelling at me indecipherably in Hungarian to – I’m guessing here – get out.
I have managed to spread my friends and possessions across the globe, giving the illusion of less friends and less possessions. No gaining weight, wealth, or family for me. On the bright side, I save on gym membership. And wealth, as they say, is relative. It just depends on what we each want and need, right? But what is that, exactly? Wouldn’t it be nice to know.
Being home and attending the baby showers and weddings and funerals that I normally glimpse from afar via Facebook makes me wonder when my next milestone will be. Or if there will even be a next milestone in the foreseeable future. I am struggling to regain my footing in my own country. But, as a good friend of mine reminds me, so is she, and she never left.
Somehow, holding onto my traveling ways gives me a sense of stability. I still live out of a suitcase because, oddly (or not so oddly?), I’m more comfortable that way. My most important possessions include my pink LL Bean travel toiletry case that my dad bought me when I was 25 and I scoffed at, naïvely unaware of the future that awaited me. My second and third most important possessions are my laptop computer that my computer nerd ex-boyfriend bought me in 2008, and a small stuffed toy that once belonged to my old dog. And the rest of my “prized possessions” are wound up somewhere between my heart and my head – memories of friends, of things I used to have, and memories of experiences. A lot…of memories.
Not what I expected I would be using to measure my life by at this point. But in those inevitable moments of doubt and loss of perspective, I force myself back to a moment ten years ago when I was overhearing a colleague on the phone with a travel agent planning her second vacation to Italy with her husband. While I sat at my computer at the next desk, I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Oh, that will never be me. I’ll never be lucky enough to visit Italy.”
Ironically, I never doubted my impending milestones back then – it was the vacation to Italy that seemed unattainable. Well, it is true. I wasn’t lucky enough to visit Italy. Instead, I was lucky enough to make a life there. But I wish I had never taken the normal stuff for granted.
I should just start creating my own weird “milestones” to quench my need to measure my life in a more mathematical way. I’m wondering how Hallmark might handle the increased demand for cards for non-traditional life events. But I can rest assured my friends will know how to help me celebrate, even if they can’t find a card for it.
The good news is, I have enough material to keep you all entertained on this blog for a very long time. And I’m lucky to be a part of this blogging community, full of other adventurous spirits and wandering souls.
It is nice to be back. 🙂