When all is still, I take it as a sign. It’s time to look inward. It’s time reset that gut.
A few years ago, I was contemplating divorce. Hard. I booked a work conference without my husband. It was the first time I traveled solo.
Sometimes we aren’t very comfortable with ourselves, and I wasn’t then. I wanted to text people I knew instead of talk to the strangers around me or get to know myself.
But still, I managed to spend a day with me. In a high floor hotel room in Denver, I weighed the pros and cons of leaving my husband. This is where and when I decided to get a divorce.
I remember writing in this room. Looking out the window at the far off mountains. Making a pros and cons list. Thinking about a male friend who paid more attention to me and was more interested in me than my husband was.
I remember thinking I could go downstairs in this big hotel and fuck a stranger if I so chose. I’d been faithful to my husband since turning down one of his fraternity brothers the first week we dated, way back in college. And while I didn’t act on my Denver impulse, I knew that at this stage, I was done with this marriage.
I remember ripping the notes I’d written to shreds. I didn’t want to remember this.
I remember crying.
The time and space, the pure attention, I gave myself and my feelings while traveling alone in Denver set the next couple years of pain and progress in motion.
After I’d told my husband it was time to separate, I had the pull to be alone again. Now that I’d given myself a little breathing room, I realized I needed more. Both parents had died. I’d just recovered from several surgeries. I had no idea how to be alone, how to manage my own life, how to be a mom without a sidekick.
I took off on a solo hike through Spain. It was the greatest gift I ever granted myself. I put hundreds of miles on my feet and lifted big weights from my soul.
I struggled and cried and was hurt there. And I would do it again 1000 times. Again, I changed the trajectory of my life. Again, I’d done it by taking a step back from the day to day.
After Spain, I learned to listen. To trust my gut. To have faith, or my version of it. I know myself better. I am an emotional creature who loves deeply. I am perceptive and intuitive as well as reliant on science and data. I can be both.
After my divorce, I continued to periodically travel alone. I learned I can enjoy it.
Sometimes I am still apprehensive. Sometimes I worry no one will talk to me, or I’ll get severely lost (which, honestly, generally happens), or I will just be uncomfortable.
And sometimes I am. But just for a moment. Taking a step outside my regular life to look from a new angle or to quietly consider where I am has never turned out negatively.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve set myself up for major pain this way. But I’ve also set myself up for major growth. Learning alone, struggling through those moments of discomfort, have led me to my highest joys.
A few months ago, I traveled alone to Seattle. It was just to be a quick, fun trip. It was. But I also met a couple cool friends from various places on the globe.
I spent some of my time there realizing I perhaps actually liked the guy I’d been seeing for a couple weeks back home. I think our funny banter while I was away was more establishing for us than the few times we’d hung out before I left.
Right now, today, I am alone in California. And right now, today, I almost chickened out and said no to one of the best solo days I’ve ever had.
This morning as I got ready, I thought of 100 reasons not to do the day hike I’d planned. Once I was out on the cliff, I thought it looked hard and I should turn around. Later, on the edge of some slippery rocks as the sun beat down, I thought the terrain ahead looked rough.
Three times I was scared. Three times, I continued on. All three times, the road ahead was simpler and more enjoyable than I thought it’d be.
Sometimes I still I want my phone to buzz when I’m alone. I want someone — near or far — to distract or entertain me. I want someone to take me out of the rough stuff I’m quietly wading through.
But now, when all is still, I take it as a sign. It’s time to listen inwardly. It’s time to reset that gut.
As I’m here in my hotel now, I’m thinking about my career, thinking about my future, asking myself where I will go. Asking myself who might stand beside me on my journey.
And the answers haven’t shot out at me just yet. But history indicates, if I give myself some time and space — some new experience and new perspective — it will.