It was one year ago, December 30, 2016, that I drove home from Kansas through Oklahoma and New Mexico. That trip was a defining moment of my personal journey and the perfect beginning to what would become one of the most transformational years of my life. This trip is what helped me realize that I was truly free to do what I wanted to do and that spontaneous changes of plans now wouldn’t have to go through the bureaucracy that often accompanies decision making when in a relationship. It was that trip that I learned that I can comfortably use my Subaru as an impromptu hotel room, which was quite a bit more comfortable than I had ever imagined. As if to fully symbolize the new found openness of possibilities, I saw the stars in the most beautiful way that night, fully filling every direction I could look, vast, infinite and and I felt overwhelmingly bare and free. It was as if I was truly among them, no more separated from the heavens than I was separated from my car, or from my hand. For me, it was my first step beyond the confounds of the reality that my marriage had ended. I had, for the first time, allowed myself to step outside the limits of what I knew as home for nearly a decade before this, realizing that I am fully equipped, and actually quite eager, to travel on my own terms and to embark on new and exciting adventures as I mold myself into the man I wanted to become. I consider that night the true beginning to my 2017, two days early, and there wasn’t anyone to tell my otherwise. This trip signified the openness of following what comes up, and allowing for plans to change and evolve that marked every moment of the year to come.
Time seems to flow like tides on a shore, each year similar to the one before it, some bigger, some smaller, some bring treasures of lands unknown and others only bring trash and debris. This last year was one that I will look back on as a pivotal and transitional year for me. This year was a tidal wave. It began with the road trip back from Wichita where my family lives. I felt, for the first time I can remember, that an entire week with my family was not enough time. I had spent the week between Christmas and the new year with them and if filled my heart in an unexpected and lasting way. With the anticipation of missing everyone, I started my trek home, choosing a different route at the recommendation of my brother in-law. He mentioned that the best place in the world to see the night sky was in northern New Mexico. I decided to go this way, and add nearly 500 more miles to my trip to verify this grand declaration. This was a great choice and served well to remind me that the open road can be the most effective form of therapy. I spent that time lost in thought, and moved by the what seemed to be a divinely curated playlist coming from my speakers. The stars lived up to their praise, as I gazed at them from the back window of my car on a forest road somewhere deep in the lonely open ranges of Wild West. I returned to Denver charged with a new energy that surprised me given that I had spent the last 36 hours on the road with little sleep. I attribute this to the thrill of adventure, filling a long neglected reservoir of life that occupies every heart. This would only be the first of several road trips, planned or otherwise, of this year, from short weekends in Colorado, to a week long road trip to Mexico and back. I then had the pleasure of bringing in the culturally approved “New Year” with some of my dearest and longest time friends, and then snowshoeing the next morning with new ones. Again, this further filling the opening in my heart to new experiences and the possibilities abundantly floating within my grasp. I officially filed for divorce that same month, closing the book of our relationship on a Friday the 13th, just as we had began nearly nine years earlier. Life sure has a beautiful poetry about it sometimes. I’ve never felt anything as strongly as I felt everything during the first few months of our separation, and turning in those papers had given a clear ending to that chapter of my life. Melancholy and fear sat side by side with closure of old and openness and wonder of the new and unknown.
By this time I had become good friends with a woman I would fall deeply in love with, and ultimately let go before the current revolution around the sun would complete. We would talk for hours and laugh so hard our stomachs and faces would hurt, even a day later. We shared an otherworldly connection. We could feel each other’s energy, we knew what each other was thinking. When we were intimate, there was nothing in this world but the two of us. We burned hot, and fast and completely. All of this felt so unreal, and at the same time it felt like the most real thing I’ve ever experienced. And within the span of a long weekend trip to Seattle, the relationship crescendoed and dropped as dramatically as the plane touched down in Denver. It was as if for the first four months of our relationship we had been flying in space, unencumbered by the laws of gravity and space and time, and when we landed, our love had come back down to earth, bringing with it all of physics, chemistry and history that would serve to end us. The next day, we moved into an apartment together, and the next four months we lived in constant turmoil, fighting for ourselves and fighting for our relationship. Both of us feverishly trying to put back the pieces of our short past that had shattered without explanation. What began as a friendship of serendipity on the days leading up to the Winter Solstice, had ended as a failed experiment of loving fully and without abandon shortly after the fall equinox. I have no regrets from this. I learned what real love could feel like. I learned what it felt like to fully engage with someone with unbridled passion. I learned to value myself and trust my gut. I learned so much about what I have to offer as a man, and the things I still have to develop. I had a feeling in the beginning, deep within, that this relationship would be a transitional one, and forgot about that completely while giving myself entirely to it. This was the most beautiful tragedy I had ever experienced. It was Shakespeare played out through us, as we carried on, unaware of anything but what we were feeling in the moment.
Throughout this epoch I had, by necessity of coin and of spirit, worked a second job at a restaurant. I had worked at this restaurant before and had been a frequentl visitor even before that, so I knew a few of my new coworkers, which made it an easy transition into 70–80 hour weeks. What really got me through the long weeks, though, was that I found that I have a passion for people and food and acquainted myself with the source of belonging and certainty. Restaurants are where I grew up, and where I feel the most comfortable. It is a special breed of person that works in a restaurant, and I am cut from that cloth. Everytime I worked, even if I was dog tired, I would feel a strong vibration, as if being fueled by the same reservoir of life that I had become familiar with after my adventures at the beginning of the year. I felt truly alive, endlessly confident, sexy, strong and electrically charged. I fell in love with my customers, laughing with them and treating them like my best friends, I worked hard and gave my all during those few hours of my shifts. This energy was strongly felt throughout the restaurant as I worked my way from bussing tables and hosting to waiting tables and then eventually managing, with a strong prospect of moving up even further, all within a couple months. I felt like I had found my life’s work, like I was put on this earth to make people happy when they come in to enjoy a meal. I thought I could pursue this to wherever the top would be, and then I let it all go at the request of my new partner. This wasn’t the first time I had let another person persuade me to leave a path I had chosen for myself, but it certainly will be the last time. I only partially regret having quit the restaurant. It wasn’t the right time to continue down that trajectory, it would have been a terrible position financially. Quitting did throw me off course considerably though. I had put so much faith in that being my path forward and away from my desk job I had grown to detest, that I no longer had a map or a compass and I was stuck, floating in the middle of the sea with no bearings of where I was or where to go. Even six months later, I am still feeling the residue of this.
The day I ended my relationship, I was still lost at sea, and because I had moved in with her and she wanted the apartment, I was now without a ship. I had never felt true loneliness until that point in my life. I had nowhere to go (how I felt) and no way of getting an apartment, without incurring even more debt. So I drove. I drove for the entire weekend, sleeping in my car and wandering with no real destination. I had anxiety attacks and tears and rage and calm and laughter, but above all I had my freedom back. I was, again, under the stars, in the back of my car lost in the possibilities and plugging back into adventure. Once I came back to reality and swallowing my pride a bit, I reached out for help and ended up staying with a friend who luckily had an extra bedroom. I cherish the moments when we are forced to be vulnerable enough to not only ask for help, but to accept it, even though it’s so hard to do. As I stayed at her house with her boyfriend and roommate, we had several movie nights and late night, booze fueled conversation about anything and everything. Through this last year I have become to value friendship in an entirely different way than I had ever before and this was more evidence of the power of friends. After a month of requests to the HR department at my job I was given the go ahead to work remotely for a few months while I gather up the pieces of my life and reassemble them, which leads me to Wichita, Kansas, living in my parents’ Pineapple Room and building a van.
This year took me from single and scared, to hopelessly in love and in a relationship, then to hopelessly reaching for love and ending the relationship to again single, but stronger, happier and wiser. I end this chapter ready to start the next, curious and hopeful. I am more prepared than I ever have been to take on what comes, even when everything is uncertain. I have no idea what is in store for where I am headed, but I fully trust that I can handle what comes and am charging headfirst into the unknown.
Here’s to an amazing 2018