If there is one piece of writing of mine you ever read, let it be this one. Perhaps you automatically share my posts across social media outlets, only read the first paragraph, or skim them for funny anecdotes. Whatever the case may be, I hope you’ll take more time with this. I don’t ask for much. Even consider not commenting, if it would mean a couple extra moments to read this. By this point, maybe I’ve piqued your interest and raised your expectations too high. I hope not. This to me is the most important thing I’ve written to date. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I even decided to write it, but I knew when it came to me, during a flood of emotion, that it was the most important story I’d ever want to tell. My only hope is that it would inspire just one person, as this story, my own story, continues to inspire me.
I recently wrote about the sense of satisfaction and completion I had recently felt as a result of the last few months of travel. That moment first came a few weeks ago while watching the sunset on a Costa Rica beach. That feeling of satisfaction has increased with each passing day. So much so, that I’ve decided to postpone my summer trip to Europe and begin making plans for San Francisco. It was partly a financial decision, but it also simply feels right. It’s time for this season of extended travel to come to an end. To end one story, and begin another. But, this isn’t the end is it? What would stories be if they weren’t continually played out over and over in our minds? It’s for this reason there are movie/television blogs that discuss endings, theories, sequels, and so much more. Sure, the movie/show ended, but viewers continue to replay those stories in their minds. Some as a job or hobby, but many because the stories had that kind of effect on them.
Once you have traveled the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.–Pat Conroy
“Finally! I see it. A walk through the streets of suburban Atlanta just doesn’t have the same appeal as walking down the streets of downtown San Francisco, especially when there is no sidewalk or the sidewalk is closed.” I uttered these words this afternoon as I saw the AMC theater ahead. It was such a nice day that I wanted to get outdoors, but also wanted to see a movie. Thus, I made the 2.5-mile walk to the theater.
The movie of choice: Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal. Whether it was the movie itself or just me, there was a moment toward the end, which all at the same time, filled me with a thrill, wander, and hope at the beauty of the world. “What is this. Spencer, get a hold of yourself. Your eyes are watering and your lips are quivering.” Of the hundreds of movies I had seen, this had never happened. What is more, I honestly have no idea what to do when I go to a movie and someone beside me, whether I know them or not, starts balling. I just freeze. I don’t know whether to ask if they want me to get them a tissue, make sure they’re alright, or put my arm around them. Often times a female, she’s just going to think I’m going in for the kill if I put my arm around her.
“That’s it. That is it!” Nobody was within a few rows of me, so I felt somewhat alright saying those words during the final moments of the movie. There had never been a particular reason for the feeling of satisfaction or completion of this season of travel. Despite the philosopher in me, I hadn’t even been looking for a reason. But here, in Atlanta, Georgia, in an AMC theater while watching Source Code, it had come to me. “I needed to see that the world was beautiful again. That there was hope. A reason to smile, to laugh, and to confidently hold my head high. I believed. I can do this life thing. I can do good. I can love.” It was for these same reasons that I was choosing to call San Francisco home and not live as an expat, like I thought I was so destined for. In what seemed like such an insignificant moment, one of the most significant epiphanies of my life had come to me.
I sat in my seat for a moment as the credits rolled. Mostly out of awe of this moment, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of it was because I didn’t want someone to come up to me and ask if I had been crying. I nearly ran down the two flights of stairs. I wanted to get outside. As soon as I got outside, I nearly lost it. I was awestruck. Downtown Atlanta on the horizon, thin clouds above, the sun beating down, a light breeze brushing against my face, a family pushing their kids through the parking lot, teenagers chuckling. There was nothing profound about this picture. I mean I was in Atlanta. I had not two hours prior been bitching about Atlanta, and now I was filled with such overwhelming emotion of happiness. It was beautiful. I wanted time to stop so that I could capture this moment forever. I had left my notebook at home, but had my iPhone, so I started
writing typing tapping all these things down. I didn’t want to miss a single detail.
The world is a beautiful mess. A phrase that rang throughout Source Code was: “It’s going to be alright.” Sure we can say that to ourselves. But when life is more messy, than it is beautiful, sometimes we need someone who loves us to look into our eyes and say it to our face. I’m thankful that almost exactly a year ago, amidst the pizza boxes and clutter of my life, I had people who did that for me.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.-Helen Keller
When those messy times come, I hope I remember back to today and the last few months of travel. It took sleepless nights in airports, countries I had never been to, cultures I didn’t know the language of, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets to impress on me how beautiful the world is. And I’ll let you in on something. To get to that point, you don’t have to cross the globe. You don’t even have to travel. What’s sure, is that the lens through which you see the beauty of the world will be vastly different than mine. This is my story. Maybe you’re a character in it, but it’s still my story and I’m the only one who lives it. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s a certain way of seeing or experiencing the world.
Just as good stories help us make sense of the world and always stick with us, this one too, will stick with me. The great, legendary stories, never truly end, but are replayed in our mind. They are the ones that are told around camp fires. The ones that grandchildren will come up to you and say: “Grandpa, tell us that one story again.” And so it is, one story comes to an end and it’s time for another one to begin. It’ll be one full of travel, writing, adventure, and new relationships. Won’t you join me?
Top photo comes from damaradeaella on Flickr.