Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vacation Recap (which incorporates some lists, for the organizationally inclined among you)

So let's talk about where the heck I've been for a month, shall we? 

And before we do that, let's share this piece of work that my nerd...I mean winner friend Tom made to document my recent travels:

Yep. He's a winner. 

I would feel more than a little conceited making this on my own, but Tommy just made this of his own volition and thus I can just think it's funny and fun. I also have a red winter coat and I believe it has been mentioned by some that it possesses a rather Carmen quality.


So I took a vacation. A long one. An all-over-the-place one. 

And I have to say: 

It was actually a crap-ton of fun. 

While I am more or less a fun person, and while I have my moments of being obnoxious in a good way, I also have this really annoying habit that involves worrying and being anxious. And here is lesson #1 that I learned on this recent vacation I took:

Vacation Lesson #1: When you're moving really fast and every few days getting on a new bus or in a car with a friend(s) to drive to another city, and spending most of your time talking talking talking to your college friends, it's kind of hard to over think things involving your self worth, employment status, and general life-is-messed-up-ed-ness. You don't really have time, what with the beers being poured and the Cubs games to "watch" [read: ignore while you talk] and the dancing that begs to be danced. 

Which brings me to a quick recap of the general list of activities that were undertaken while on this vacay: 

General List of Activities Undertaken While on Vacay:
  • Dancing
  • Singing (in a car, in an apartment, in my parents' basement, along the edge of Lake Michigan)
  • Talking talking talking
  • Cooking (Tuscan veggie soup and Middle Eastern beans & rice)
  • Eating (lots of grilled cheese, notably and interestingly)
  • Drinking of beer
  • Developing beer gut
  • Watching 80s movies
  • Celebrating G'ma's 95TH BIRTHDAY
  • Playing volleyball with new-found Romanian friends on beach in Chicago
  • Surprisingly enjoying the playing of the volleyball
  • Surprisingly enjoying being in Chicago (we have a history that is not all parts pleasant)
  • Spending very reasonable and sometimes ridiculously cheap amounts on Megabus tickets
  • Smooching the faces of very cute and tiny cousins, niece, nephew, and surrogate niece
  • Shutting eyes with head on pillow at very early a.m. hours
  • Teaching friends about #TheWaysOfHashtaggingAndTwitter (apparently several of them were eager to receive this lesson)
Regarding the talking talking talking category, this was an interesting time to visit several of my old friends, as many of the friends I caught up with were people I met in college, a journey which many of us began 10 years ago last month (the primary month in which vacaying occurred. Convenient. Sentimental. Nailed it.). 

Talking to your college friends exactly 10 years after beginning your freshman year together is really a good, and fun, sometimes tough, and revelation-y experience. Not Revelation-y like the book in the Bible, but revelation-y like you realize stuff as you talk to college friends 10 years after starting college. 

I mean, in general, some of it's just fun talk. Laughing about former crushes, former make out partners, class projects, things one of us said that the sayer doesn't remember saying but that the hearer totally remembers. 

It's also really interesting -- and sometimes tough, if you're of the jealous bent on occasion, like moi -- to see where everyone has landed for the moment. The last time I saw my friend Dan, for example (who I met as a freshman, studied abroad with, and have kept in touch with since graduation), had been about a year and a half ago, and I remember talking with him then about a vision he had for developing an urban ministry that doesn't fit traditional church norms, so as to meet people in a way that is comfortable for them before talking to them about Jesus and how great Jesus is. 

Well this time seeing Dan...I learned that he's made it happen! I have a business card to prove it. Dude realized his dream!

I'm kind of blown away by this. I'm so proud of him. Jealous that he has focused and made something really big and impressive happen? Yeah. But proud and so excited for him. 

All my other friends are so talented and accomplished and caring and I just love having our relationships. As I saw each of my girlfriends again I thought how beautiful they are (dudes aren't looking half-bad, either). I love that so many people I know are aging well and not just aging but maturing and being beautiful inside and out. Winners.

I discovered on this trip

[Vacation Lesson #2:]

that there are people who I haven't seen in a really long time but who I still have a really strong connection with. I mean I guess I knew that, as I've been able to pick up where I left off with people at several points in my life, and in no small part have done this in Los Angeles, where high school and college and grad school friends have landed before and alongside me. 

I continued to bond with my friend Karina's husband, Tommy (yes, the maker of the beautiful art in this post), on this trip, whom I had only met a few times before. I always felt close to Karina, and now I feel so connected to both of them, even with an entire country between us. 

Also, and I will say this briefly: while I generally felt like the Mess among friends, I was glad to be home during some moments in which my friends actually needed a listening ear for moments of roughness in their own lives. I don't mean that in any way as "I'm glad I'm not the only one with a mess" but just in the sense that I was glad to be there for them and be a listener and quit thinking so much about me. I could have been there over the phone here on the Coast, but it was nice to be there in person. 

Let's see, what else can I tell you to wrap this up relatively quickly?

We can talk about The Number of Places I Slept on This Trip
  • 12 beds
  • 1 couch
I won't bore you with the details of each bed's specific location. But I will segue into the more generically geographic

List of Cities Visited:
  • [Greater] Kansas City, MO [region]
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Viroqua, WI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Chicago, IL
  • Iowa City, IA
  • Columbia, MO
By the way, this conglomeration of cities put me in six -- count 'em -- states over the course of six -- count 'em again -- consecutive weekends (CA, NE, WI, IL, MO, KS). Remember that thing I said about moving too fast to think? 

As you can imagine, stopping after all of this moving has been a bit of an anxious shock with over thinking eager to make its appearance again. I am trying to run off my beer gut, catch up with friends in Cali who were not a part of and likewise sorely neglected during the #MidwestTour2013, and, oh yeah, WRITE again. I maybe read 15 pages out of books during my entire vacay (I usually read at least that per night) and other than jotting quick notes for people on pads of paper or updating Facebook statuses at 3 a.m., I basically didn't write during the vacay. 

Which brings me to Vacation Lesson #3: It was really good to take a break from stuff. (Per the writing, I believe in regular practice, but this was a unique opportunity to vacay and put writing in a "later" category). 

During the reception of college friend Kari's wedding, college friend Brad told me to push Grandma (aka me) down into my purse. Translation: quit being a boring old person and just enjoy yourself. He said it out of love and I winked in response. (He's really adorable. You would wink too).

And then, as I have done many times in life but had not done recently enough, I danced my ass off. For like four hours. And sang a Celine song, obnoxiously and loudly. And a Journey song. And then we went to a bar where I didn't drink because I was being old and I was dehydrated, but I went along for the outing and watched my friend Lisa get hit on by a stranger -- work it, girl. 

It was good to take a break -- to be forced, really, by the pace of activity, into a break -- from all the over thinking. From the I'm-a-mess, my-life's-a-mess, what-is-going-to-happen-next-(and-when?)-in-my-life thinking. 

I was gratefully able to recognize during this trip that I may never have a trip like this one ever again. 

I may be able to someday travel for a whole month again, and travel on the cheap, and see old friends, sure. But I doubt I'll find another vacation where so many of my friends are available and still single and still able to remember things from freshman year of college (because my memories, for one, of a lot of those moments I thought I'd never forget are fading). If I tried this vacation five years from now, probably half of my friends will have kids. I might have kids. MIGHT. There won't be a lot of air mattress sleeping and singing of 90s pop tunes when toddlers are sleeping in the next room and when we ourselves are falling asleep due to toddler-induced exhaustion. 

I don't say all this to be a downer, I say it to note my gratitude for this most recent trip's great degree of specialty and awesomeness. After all, there's something indeed special and awesome and a little romantic about something that only happens, just as it happens, once. 

So where in the world is Bailey Sandiego? For the moment: Los Angeles. Not (at the moment) wearing a Carmen Sandiego style coat. It's like 90 degrees, friends. 

SO MUCH LOVE to all the family and friends who helped make this trip possible. For feeding my face and my beer gut, for giving me places to sleep, (Mom & Dad) for purchasing air travel, for showing me new places, for making old places seem fun again, for dancing and singing with me, for being beautiful, caring, powerful, helpful and inspiring You, and for getting me out of my anxious head for 4.5 weeks and cheering me on as I headed back to life as I know it. XOXOXO

Hey look at that, I wrote a blog post. I'm back, baby!