"Lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it." -Tanya Davis
I figured it out. That primal, intuitive drive that awakens to override conscious thought at the exact moment you arrive at a crossroad. Action jumping the gun on logic just when you need it most, whether you know it or not.
Ever since I was a tween, I've been the proud owner of something I've come to call my "Inner Horse" - a young, unbroken mare whose ear-swivel flashed in my mind's eye whenever something caught my attention, whose full-body flinch I felt when I was spooked, and whose fiery rear warmed my blood when I felt defiant. This free spirit, like any equine, survived on instinct. And instinct was precisely what had spurred all of the most important turning points in my life. Now more than ever, I would have to trust my instincts. Now, for the first time in my life, I was breaking from the herd, striking out on my own.
In the two days leading up to my solo stint around the globe, winter finally loosened its hold. Forgotten hues of blue and green softened interminable shades of grey, mild temperatures massaged the tension out of hunched shoulders, and the world seemed to heave a deep sigh of relief. Like a barn-sour horse desperate to get outside at the break of Spring, I thought, That's my cue.
My last shift at the Casino had been markedly merciless. As if to punctuate how taxing the last few weeks, months, years even, had been, the room service office was slammed more brutally than it had been since I started working there, and I was the only order-taker on duty. By the end of it I was near tears, having been yelled at more times in one shift than I had been collectively in my entire life (incalculable orders had been lost, delayed, mixed up or never rung in, and guests were vexed to say the least). When it was finally over, one of the servers, unbeknownst to him, effectively summed up the entire last chapter of my life in four words: "That sucked," he said. "Good job."
It was more than just the end of a chapter, though. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the end of a whole volume. As I said my goodbyes to people and places whose purpose in my life back home had run its course - and mine in theirs - it occurred to me that this was the end of life as I knew it. I already knew this trip would change me in ways I couldn't yet imagine. More than that, I planned to become a new person while I was away. Of all of the advice - both solicited and not - I'd gotten before leaving (be sure to take broad spectrum antibiotics, don't carry all your cash in one place, make photocopies of your passport and other travel documents...), the best without question was this: Don't look back. Leave it all behind. Forget everything and everyone that once defined your existence. This trip promised to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life, but only if I got out of the way. Too often we miss what's right in front of us by focusing instead on what's not. This was the beginning of a new story, and I had to make room in it for new characters. It was time to start over.
Rolling my suitcase through the airport entrance alone, I felt the weight of what I'd done begin to settle in my gut, but to my surprise, it was a weight that quickly dissolved, like an antacid tablet that hits a churning stomach hard at first, but then melts into a soothing neutralization. Close on the heels of the sinking fear and loneliness I felt was a bolstering lift of freedom. As my plane galloped down the runway, I felt its wings catch the wind, boosting it airborne, and I experienced a sense of weightlessness. We hit turbulence as we broke through the cloud cover and, instinctively, though of course logically I knew it wouldn't do me a shred of good in the event of a crash, I gripped the armrests. After a moment the ride levelled out, and I realized the man in the seat next to mine was speaking to me. "It's okay," he nodded to my white knuckles. "You can let go now." And just like the server who congratulated me on my last day of work, he had no idea of the effect his words had.
I glanced out the window. No matter how many times I fly, it never ceases to amaze me how clear the skies are above the clouds.