Part 1: Maps, Mishaps, and Making the Most of the Moments We Are Given

If there’s one thing that makes me more anxious than waiting, it’s uncertainty. And when that uncertainty is directly related to waiting, I can become quite the mess.

Unfortunately there was a lot of waiting and uncertainty involved with the departure of this trip, and there were times I honestly thought it might not happen.  But now that I’m sitting on my hotel bed in Orlando, I think it’s finally starting to sink in that it actually is.

So much preparation.

As of 8:09 pm on August 20th 2014, our journey had begun.

All packed up.

All packed up.

Nearly two years of whimsical planning had brought this trip from a passing remark to an encompassing journey. We would make mental lists of things we might do; always dreaming, and never quite serious, until this summer when everything suddenly started happening.  Soon I had a passport.  We started buying random supplies.  We marked a route in a road atlas and booked a hotel.  I packed up my things, and then all that was left to do was wait.

It seems there always has to be a roadblock.  A challenge.  Something that gets in the way to test you and make you almost give up on things. For us, this came in the form of a hindrance in a pretty key component of a road trip:  the car.  

Our original plan, to take Philip’s own Honda, was conceived in our spirit of spontaneity and unintentional avoidance of practical notions (like the fact that its less than ideal pedals leave his knees in quite the painful state). So, as our trip approached, we agreed to wait for his family’s Volkswagen Jetta to return from the shop.

What we didn’t know is that the mere body tune ups to be done were going to take days longer than they were supposed to.  And that we would be left in the testing hands of time (and slow mechanics) as we anxiously counted down the days toward the seemingly inevitable cancellation of something we’d worked for so long to make real.  .

The thing about any trial we experience in life is that, no matter how unsettled it makes you feel, things do always work out in the end. And, although three days late, we were finally on our way to Orlando.

And so we were off, with adjusted hotel reservations, eyes keen on the road ahead of us, and bodies oh so ready to feel the Florida sunshine.

Adventure Awaits

I guess the essential downside of living in your head is the impermanence and uncertainty that cloud your mind every day. 

The delicate traps of habit, routine, and tendency toward pattern within the human mind have found me both in love and in terror of the things I’ve constructed, not because they were necessarily lovely or terrifying, but because they were constant. 

When a scenario finds a place in my mind, I struggle to ignore it.  Whether it is an example of daily interaction that I anticipate will happen, or a once in a lifetime memory that I can only dream will one day exist, my mind has become very familiar with the notion of daydreaming; and reverts to it very often.  

The problem with familiarity is it can bring along either comfort or distress in its presence. 

As my life continues to evolve into something much more technical, with a lot more numbers and a lot more things to mess up (yay to being an adult), I’ve found myself reminiscing about memories and pieces of my past.

I’ve been reaching for feelings that I haven’t felt in far too long and investing all I have to recall the way my heart sped up with excitement when I felt music in my chest; or slowed with a calm feeling of purpose, and home, when I knew there was no place I’d rather be, and no person I’d rather be with. 

Times when I felt my life was finally on the right track.  That things were good, and they were going to only get better.

How sweet it truly is to feel that way, for even a second, when I can somehow navigate the clutter in my mind for a moment of clarity to transport myself back to those thoughts and feelings.  

But then the after bite comes.  

I realize that I often can’t decipher what actually happened from what I had imagined.  I feel like over half of my memories are infected or enhanced, and what’s left are those so clear that I can smell the fire or feel the cool summer grass, and am only reminded of things that have ended.  

I realize that all of the adventures from my past, are just that: the past. And I’ve been so fixated on trying to relive them that I have neglected to entirely recognize and appreciate those that I have experienced more recently.  I’ve ridden tidal waves, conquered dragons, and flown through the sky with some of the best people in the world. (Who knew Canada’s Wonderland could be such a reviving experience?). The triumphs of that day should hold a nearer place in my heart, and a more notable place in my mind, than those thoughts that only make me wish I could go back in time.  

I have to learn to live for the present and look to the future with my eyes open, my mind open, and windows wide open to all it has to offer.  

This song has particular resonance with me as I am working to focus myself on the adventure that awaits me, rather than the things I’ve left behind. Especially now that I will be embarking on my first grand adventure within the next twelve hours.  I would quote the lines that mean the most to me, but this post is already too long to insert multiple stanzas of lyrics, so instead I leave you with this empowering song and accompanying video by a band that means a whole lot to me: Paradise Fears. 

It’s called What Are You Waiting For? and it’s message is one that I hope to embrace as I continue to make my way in this world.  

So what’s next?

Firstly, I’ll be embarking on The Grand Adventure: Florida Road Trip Edition which I will be documenting both by text and by video on this blog and my YouTube channel.  Then, I’ve got my first year of university to tackle.  

Whatever happens, I know this year will be a big one for self-discovery.  And I hope it is one that you will share with me.  

 

Endings, Beginnings, and the Musings in Between: The Next Chapter of My Life Awaits

     Twenty-one days ago I set foot in my high school for the last time as a student.  After stretching that title out for one extra year after graduation, and three extra school days following exams, it was a bittersweet goodbye.  One that was heavy on the sweet, and with a hearty side of that strange sort of nostalgia for the brighter future you have anticipated and dreamed about so many times, in such detail, that you’ve practically felt every butterfly in your stomach on each new adventure that you have yet to embark on.  

     As you may have gathered, it has been one heck of a time for my emotions and my thoughts running wild.  That is why we have crossed paths on this: the first post of the blog I’ve wanted to create for years, within which you will find an inquisitive mind and an impassioned heart contemplating things that have ended, and what is yet to come, as I move on to the next chapter of my life: University.

Closing Doors  

     Saying goodbye is something I have very little practice with.  So little in fact, that when I find myself having to look an ending right in the eyes, and confront the inevitable farewell between us, it turns out that there is a part of my brain which constantly tries to console me with confident imaginings or scenarios that illustrate the temporary nature of the end…while the other half of me knows that, aside for chance encounters, the goodbye really does mean goodbye.  

     Unfortunately, this realization came to me three days before my time as a high school student was up, right in the midst of a Calculus and Vectors exam.  

      It was on a Monday (which was really just the cherry on top).  Not only was I closing the door on my high school career, I was also seeing someone who had been my anchor for nearly four years of my life, for the last time.  The relationship may have ended before this thought crossed my mind and inhibited my math skills, but it was in this moment that the goodbye became painfully evident.  And as they walked out of the exam room, the door seemed to close so impossibly and unbearably slow.  

      When I was younger I learned that sometimes doors can slam so hard, and so tightly that you feel its shock reverberating for days, weeks, even months.  It feels like every possible source of light: smothered.  Every outlet to a better reality: sealed.  Every pane of glass in every possible window around you: shattered.  

      I also learned that although these feelings are powerful, they do not tell the complete truth. There will always be a window that can give you a way out of even your darkest moments. Especially when that moment is just you, sitting alone, in a calculus and vectors exam after 3 hours of work and a battle for your concentration. 

Opening Windows

      I owe every defining moment of my life to the acceptance of hardship and the change it brings.  I owe them to windows that opened when the only doors I knew were shut;  bright windows of opportunity that became the sole possible focus because, no matter how much I wanted to dwell on the closed doors behind me, their light drew my eyes away from the dark.  

     That Monday was an end of a monumental part of my life.  It had some painful moments that, even to this day, have demanded to be relived and felt over and over.  Yet, it was the day that I took control of my feelings.  The day I requested my university classes. And the day I gave a presentation that made school board executives tear up, as I found myself at the finish line of another defining experience.  

      I accepted the closed doors, no matter how difficult it was, and I found my windows of belief that everything would be okay.  They don’t have to be things of great importance.  Simply letting yourself appreciate the window that opens with each new day can be your anchor during the times when everything seems unstable. 

A Fresh Start

    If my life’s most influential experiences truly are metaphorically bound in windows, then University has to be the largest, most extravagant, multi-paneled window I have ever beheld. Even now, it is only ajar enough to give me a taste of the change that is to come, but it is already the sweetest most invigorating breath of fresh air.  

     The beginning of University marks the beginning of a new lifestyle, new hobbies, and even my first real job.  On top of that, I have been honoured with a position as a First Year Blogger for the University of Waterloo (an open window that I have been able to use to convince myself to take a leap with this blogging dream I’ve had for so long).   

      I can’t change the fact that doors are going to close as I write my next chapter of self-discovery and memories made on the way to becoming “Me”. Things are going to end, and that is simply the circle of life (cue the Lion King soundtrack playing in your head. You’re welcome). Just remember that the cyclical motion of things means that every ending is also a beginning.  

     Live with your eyes perceptive to the possibilities, and your mind welcome to the changes life may bring.  You will soon find yourself with windows wide open to that brighter future you’ve dreamed of…but this time they won’t be metaphorical vessels of opportunity, because your dream will be your reality.  

The musical representation of my feelings over the last while, and also my soundtracks while writing this post.  Give them a listen if you’d like 🙂

http://8tracks.com/everglow/soul-searching  (my favourite of the two)

http://8tracks.com/inmortevita/i-am-free-and-slightly-lost