Day 18 of Blog-tember, ladies: we’re officially on a roll! Today’s prompt is:
Tell a tale of traveling
I was always a traveller: Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Vietnam and more during my undergraduate days (funded by extra shifts at my two jobs); cycling around England during the summer of my Masters (whilst cycling anywhere and everywhere every weekend all the time: London to Brighton overnight on Friday, a lazy Saturday morning on the beach, a fish and chip lunch and the train back that afternoon in time for a short sleep before the obligatory Saturday evening student frivolities – oh what it was to be young and carefree!). Then Mexico for my graduate research. And one particularly memorable stop-over en-route to my first field season in Mexico: New York.
I was young. I was impressionable. I was impressed. I walked and walked for hours on end, for days on end, soaking up the energy that is New York, walking up and down from The Bronx, to Brooklyn, to Harlem to Wall Street and back and round again, multiple times. I have never felt so alive as I felt in New York that summer for those few days. I remember seeing the swing dancers at the Lincoln Centre, my heart thrilled with the joy of it all; being invited to the Opera by some random chap I met in Central Park (dressing for that was a challenge – they were front row seats! – and I was a poor, poor, student ‘travelling light’); dancing to Sinatra on the Sunday afternoon with a widowed gentleman dressed elegantly in his suit and tie, shoes so shiny I could see my own smile radiating back up at me, making me smile even more; seeing Matisse’s Bather in person for the first time, its blinding blue searing deep in to my core; blowing all my day’s budget on a mojito on the roof of the Met, the whole of NY spread out before me, Rodin’s sculpture standing right beside me, not caring that I’d have to eat light that night because, my God, nothing, literally nothing, has ever tasted as good as that mojito at that moment. The Gospel choir on the Sunday morning, pouring their hearts and souls up to God, filling me with a still-present faith in humankind. Calling my Dad from the top of the Empire State to tell him I love him and that I hope I made him proud. Him telling me, yes, I did. He couldn’t possibly be any prouder.
I have so very many vivid memories of those few days in New York and, recently, I’ve been replaying those days in my head with high frequency, reliving all the beautiful moments, all the beautiful images that stayed with me. I’m waiting in line at the bank, I remember the lone basket baller, doing hoops, with the sun setting behind him over all NY. I’m waiting downstairs for my daughter to arrive back from nursery and – boom! – the slam poet jazzing his words echoes around my head. I’m brushing my teeth – whack! – I’m back in Central Park, listening to the jazz, happy summery voices all around, people all around me playing frisbee and catch, or chasing their dogs or kissing, just sat kissing in the blissful afternoon sun. I’m asleep, I dream I’m in MOMA, walking through the inspiration-laden galleries, or I’m lost in the Natural History Museum, pacing, in awe, at the beauty of Nature. I’m obsessed, my psyche is obsessed, with New York at the moment.
Why, I ask myself, why? I remember that trip as a period of blinding happiness, of a happiness that knew no bounds, of a mind that was open only to possibility. As I walked I tapped out words, as I laughed I drank in life, as I danced, I was filled. And, slowly, that fullness has been eroded. As I cry for my former self – for it’s rooted strongly in mourning, this recovery process – I remember who she was, what she was, all the hope and joy she had. I believe, am convinced, that my psyche is showing me glimpses of this former me, showing me glimpses of my pure happiness in those few days, because that’s who I’m meant to be and still can be. That Helen not this Helen. That strong and powerful Helen. The Helen that said ‘Yes’ to everything, with the confidence that those ‘Yeses’ would always work out, would always lead to something positive and amazing, some new experience to enrich my life, in all its senses, emotional, physical, spiritual. The Helen that wouldn’t beat herself up, wouldn’t let the negative self-talk and the awful memories wrangle her positivity to the ground. The Helen that shone. And my, did she shine. So damn bright everyone around her used to light up too, in brightness’ wake.
So, I’d like to say a ‘thank you’ to my psyche, to my soul, for showing me, for giving me hope in these dark days. Re-travelling travels from times past is helping me to rediscover myself, to rediscover me. Sometimes, when you get so lost you can’t find your way back, that’s when you find yourself. All it takes is a little faith in yourself. Walk with yourself, re-walk your path: you’ll find moments of greatness there that will light your new path and illuminate your new life.