Happiness is the joy you feel moving toward your potential.
I wasn’t ready to go home. And that surprised me. I love to travel, but I also love to come home. The idea of sleeping in my own bed, getting back to my morning routine of drinking coffee and writing in my journal normally outweighs the letdown of the end of vacation. Shit, even seeing Sadie didn’t cancel out the deep sadness I felt about leaving Africa.
I’d been away for 24 days, and I could’ve kept going. At every twist and turn on this trip, I’d faced myself – good, bad and ugly. In doing so, I’d discovered so much more about who I am inside and out. I felt wide open and freer than I had in a very long time. This wasn’t just a vacation – it was a journey. And journeys are deeper than just seeing the sights and posting pictures on Instagram.
On the flight back, I devoured Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. How appropriate to read about how she found her path. As I read, my resistance to returning gave way to anticipation and excitement. There was no way I was the same person who boarded a flight to Namibia almost a month prior. I was looking forward to seeing who I had become.
Seeing Sadie was the best thing ever. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel instant guilt over not wanting to come home – even for her. But she was as thrilled to have me home, as I was to have her curled up on my lap again.
I’d still had two weeks to go before returning to work. What a gift to have some time to process and just be for a while.
Sixteen hours on a flight required two things: food and a shower. It was 9am and I wanted a burrito. (Thanks, jet lag!) A shower was a good solve, as it would kill some time. (You can’t get a burrito before 11:30am, even in Brooklyn.) I suppose the Universe wanted me to kill MORE time, because my shower pretty much exploded when I turned it on.
And just like that, I was back in the everyday. Thank you, Target, for being a short walk from my apartment and having an order online/pick-up in store option. It felt strange to be on the streets of Brooklyn. It was felt surprisingly unfamiliar and urban. As I walked to the store, I noticed a sense of unease bubbling up inside.
I am done with this.
The thought was jarring. Brooklyn was my home. I’m from New York. And yet it felt all wrong.
I spent the final two weeks of sabbatical filling my journal with thoughts, feelings, reflections – everything that I hadn’t had time to process while I was so deeply in it. Save for a couple of lunches/drinks with my friends, I mainly kept to myself. When I talked about the trip, I stuck to broad strokes and photos.
I wasn’t ready to share. My time in Africa, particularly at Na’ankuse, felt sacred, almost private. I wanted to savior every minute and protect it in a way that would preserve every single moment in my memory. I loathed the idea of going back to the everyday grind that accompanies living in New York City. Doing so would inevitably make me forget, and I didn’t want that.
But I was thrilled to see my family and friends. I had a newfound appreciation for the people closest to me. I hadn’t realized it while away, but many of those relationships carried me through some of the most difficult times. Never underestimate the power of knowing people are rooting for you—even from over 7,000 miles away.
I was also happy to see that my plants did well in my absence. (Thanks, Allison & Bettina!)
“That plant needs a bigger pot,” I muttered to myself one morning.
And then it hit me. I, too, needed a bigger pot. I had stretched far beyond my emotional and physical limitations while away. The things I experienced, the people I met, and (even) all the mental bullshit I endured forced me to grow. The life I left in Brooklyn for Africa no longer fit. As the realization settled in, I was surprised to discover a deep peace inside.
I had no idea what would come next. I just knew there was a next. I was tired of making choices that didn’t feed my soul. All my adult life, I had lived two lives: the Creative and the Survivor. I was tired of the latter. My time away reminded me there is so much more to life than survival. I was ready to thrive, and that, my friends is my next. I don’t know where it will lead, but I have a few ideas that will hopefully get me closer. Until then, all I can say is this: There is a whole world out there. Run, don’t walk -- and see it ALL.