i've always liked being on my own.
i was the girl who would wake up early to ride her bike while the neighborhood slept, sneak off into the woods behind our house alone, who'd ask her friends not to sit next to her at lunch sometimes so she could just enjoy her food and think... (somehow, yes, i still had friends).
it was always clear to me that the only way to really think, to process, to understand what was happening - at home, at school, at all - was to get out of the house and just be, alone, where no one would think to look for me.
i used to feel invisible in the woods, or outside at all. i felt safe, even if i wasn't. i'm quiet, i'm small, people don't always notice me.
but i remember the first time i was catcalled, when i was 13. i remember learning that people did notice me, that i wasn't always safe outside alone.
my sailor father got to travel the world, wandering through foreign cities without speaking the language, or knowing anyone at all. he'd go in groups of men but he'd wander the sites alone too.
i remember him not liking the navy so much, or at least, saying as much to me. how he hated leaving for months at a time (especially in the pre-email days when he had to wait in line to call home and send letters through airmail). but i envied him.
he was traveling to places i had never heard of or thought to want to see. he'd bring back gifts - thimbles and magnets and dolls and all of the random things they still sell in souvenir shops in every city that ever appeared in a travel mag. and he maybe meant well but i didn't want the things.
i wanted to see the world too. i wanted souvenirs of my own adventures. and i didn't want to have to be afraid.
but i was. and the older i got, the more reasons i learned to be.
in my second semester at uncg, i met with someone who had just come back from a semester abroad in france. he laid out all of the things i'd have to do to make it too, the steps to take, the money to save, where to go and who to talk to and i just freaked out. it was overwhelming. i didn't think i could do it on my own. i told myself i couldn't.
and i had this boyfriend, who was already super serious about me. i'll go with him, i said. he'll make it easy, he'll figure it out. and eventually, i did.
i'm so not proud of this part of my story. i resented myself for that choice, for putting off a dream because i was too afraid, for asking someone else to fulfill it and i resented him for doing for me what i had always wanted to do for myself.
i had given in to fear and felt that the moment for seeing the world in a spirit of adventure, not vacationing, for traveling as i wanted to, it was gone. i was someone's wife, someone who liked a lot of things i didn't. someone who planned and spent on his own dreams and knew i didn't think i mattered enough to take away resources to build my own.
have you read milk & honey? it's a poetry collection, and its so beautiful. my favorite goes like this:
was the becoming
the world fell apart, something scary ended. and the ending itself was scary too, in part because it gave me the second chance i never thought i'd have - i got to be brave. i had to be. i got to make those old dreams come true. i get to dream new ones and make those happen too.
on sunday, i'm leaving to see just a little bit more of the world. i'm not bringing a man and i'm not hiding out in a hotel in fear, and i'm not putting the burden of my dreams on someone new. in vulnerability, in hope, in awareness of all of the things that could go wrong, i'm getting on that plane alone.
i'm going to think, process, regroup, and, i hope, more clearly understand, not where i'm at but why i'm there and where i'm going and what i'm seeking too.
i'm going to leap, to see a bit more of the world, in spite of the fear, for me and for the girl i was who hoped she'd one day grow up to be this brave.