This weekend I went to Florida to visit my cousin. It was decided about three weeks ago, while I was at work running around and stressed, that I needed a vacation. Amidst all the chaos of the dinner rush, I was worrying about my ex and my feelings and the upcoming school year…just worrying, freaking out, stressing out, and doing it all at the wrong time. Fuck, I thought to myself, this is how I’ve spent my whole summer. Just working at this mediocre job and putting off all the things I’d say I’d do. So instead of working on promises I made to myself like reading a book or trying my hand at painting, I decided to take up my cousin’s offer from March to come visit her in Florida. I texted her right then and there, and we planned my visit for later in the month.
The next morning I woke up and thought, Oh god what did I do? It’s not like my cousin and I were close—there’s almost a ten-year gap in our ages, and the only real time we had spent together was when she helped me get her old college job when I decided to go to the same university she went to. Shortly after that bonding, she packed her bags and moved to Florida, and we hadn’t talked much since. So what was I doing, going to stay with her? What would we do or even talk about? I shook my head and cursed my impulsiveness…this was one plan I couldn’t back out of.
Luckily, I found a cheap round-trip flight that lasted the weekend. I was able to take off work, and my cousin was able to pick me up at the airport. Before I knew it, I was on a plane. Just like my trip to Central America, I had zero expectations and told myself that no matter what I’d make the best of this trip. So that was Friday. And now, in the wee hours of Monday morning, all that is left of my mini vacation is the trip back home.
Surprisingly, this trip has given me a lot of fresh perspective. I thought I’d use this time to think, sort out the jumble of feelings in my head and figure out what I’d like my future to look like, but instead I was a sponge absorbing the life my cousin has built for herself.
To give you some background, my cousin moved to Florida with her boyfriend about two years ago. One year ago, the relationship dissolved and left her in a state where she hardly knew anyone, in a lonely apartment, and in a relationship status she hadn’t been in for ten years. But she stuck around, because she had a good job and a lease to maintain. Basically, she had to rebuild her life and figure out who she was again. (Sound vaguely familiar?)
I’ve come to witness her strength and resilience despite all the crap that she’s been through. It’s pretty inspiring, though she still remains unsure of herself and what her future will be. She still gets lonely and sad about the whole thing, for sure, but she’s also very determined, and it’s damn impressive. On her fridge is a message she wrote to herself about remaining positive…in her apartment is a bunch of decorations she’s recently bought to make the place seem more homey and like hers…all weekend she practiced training with her dog because they are in an obedience class…on her counter is a routine of exercises she’s working on in order to become more fit…in her stories is a new family of friends that she’s grown close to and relies upon—she is moving forward and trying new things, for her. Watching it all in front of me, I wondered, when was the last time I did something I wanted to do for myself, by myself? I never could come up with answer.
On Saturday night we took a walk on the beach. Moonlight guided our bare feet through the sand as we discussed things like traveling abroad and surviving our teen years. I realized that everything I was talking about with her was actually about myself and my own private experiences, and not something I had done or shared with someone else. Her stories were very much the same. It made me feel like my life was my own, like I felt back in high school before I had ever dated or back when I went off to college. Why don’t I feel like this all the time? Just because I’m in a relationship doesn’t mean my life isn’t my own…why does this feel different from my everyday life back at home? Suddenly all the personal baggage I imagined revealing to my cousin didn’t need to be poured out…I didn’t want to confide or be consoled…I wanted to make new experiences, just like my cousin.
From the time I was seventeen, I have hidden myself in the security of relationships for fear of loneliness, depression, and asking myself the big questions: what do I really want? Why am I not doing it? What is holding me back? Subconsciously, this effort to protect myself has been the backbone of almost every problem in the last three years…every moment of uncertainty, of choosing a path, of moving forward has been about protecting my relationship with someone or developing my relationship with someone. And where has it gotten me? Scrambling inside my head, still questioning whether all of my decisions are the right ones. Fuck, I thought, maybe I should just quit the mental dialogue and just do the things I want to do. Sometimes life doesn’t need to have some big fairy tale lesson or conclusion.
Being on your own is harder than relying on a partner during the everyday issues we encounter in life. But on your own, you learn so much more…this weekend I learned that I like eating fruit in the morning and doing puzzles while a movie is on in the background. I learned that I like reading before bed and that snacking on cheese, meat, and crackers with wine is sometimes preferable to eating a regular meal. I learned that I love walking on the beach barefoot at night, and that walking around outside in the afternoon breeze can be just as relaxing as staying indoors. So when I go home later today I’m going to try to take some of this with me. I’m going to make more of an effort to take care of myself, for myself. I don’t want to keep waiting until shit hits the fan—until I’m forced to—to take some time out for the things I want. I’m going to go out and find what I’m looking for…status quo be damned.