At times we need to leave our environment when life seems a little crazy, hard, or when we seek a different perspective. This could mean going to a nearby town, a museum in our own city, taking a long drive, or having a conversation with a stranger.
I was feeling like I needed to recalculate my thoughts, so I followed my own advice, and packed my bags 15 days ago. I embarked on a friends and family re-connection trip. I started off in Maryland determined to see new things and gain perspective. I also needed to revisit California, and most importantly San Francisco, a city that I have avoided for the last seven years. It is a place where I spent many happy Christmases with my aunt Isabel and family since childhood. Yet, once my beloved aunt passed away seven years ago from breast cancer, I could not go back. I felt emotionally displaced not knowing which family member to stay with. I have also held deep resentment towards a family member, and I have not been ready to see him in twenty years. I decided that it was time to reset my mind, but most importantly my heart. I could not let those feelings continue to keep me away.
The last 15 days have been amazing. I reconnected with old friends from high school, college, and my previous job. New souls also crossed my path, and whether they stay or not is less important then what they contributed to my life in the last three weeks. They gave me gifts, trusted me with their stories, and took me out to see their home towns through their eyes. It was as if they were expecting me.
Throughout this trip, I have listened to confessions of drug addiction, prostitution, violence, sexual abuse, money struggle, sexuality, immigration issues, homelessness, betrayal– to so many other horrific things that such great souls have gone through. Some of these stories came from strangers, and others from close friends and family. I listened with an open heart, and also shared my own life obstacles. I have recently become conscious of language and words that we use when we are in sharing-mode, and so I try not to say that “things happen for a reason,” which has become one of my least favorite lines. It’s not my place to tell that person the meaning of their experiences. At times, things don’t always happen for a good good reason– they just are what they are. I believe that it’s up to that person to give meaning to that life lesson by using their own perspective. Relativity is unique to everyone. “It can be worse” is another line that I try not to use. We are not other people and we exist in our own environment, and should not wish “worse” situations upon ourselves or others.
We are all on a road, and guided by our own internal GPS. At times it takes us down the wrong path, but we can always recalculate. Sometimes we have to instruct our GPS to take the scenic route or go a few miles back in order to find another way to propel us in a different direction. Hopefully towards a better destination.
This trip was solely to reconnect with stories of struggle and perseverance including my own. I was able to see success in all sorts of forms and how we come to make choices from having families, making career changes, to taking risks. Not everyone is in a pretty situation, but somehow they manage. It was also key to my moving ahead as I released my anger towards the person I have been avoiding. I realized that I can’t punish him, and that I already confronted him a year ago. So, I leave it behind.
As the wise Rumi once said, “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” As we move forward, look over to others on parallel roads, but continue on your own journey. Stop, take a different route, ask for assistance if need be, but keep on going.