Monday, June 27, 2011

A Quick(ish) Update from Concord, CA

I am on Day 6 of my trip and finally stopped for a long enough internet-capable second to update:

I arrived in Seattle on Tuesday and spent a fabulous night out in Ballard with a local friend. Flying in, I had the most amazing clear views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades. Leaving Boston was, obviously, not without its challenges: leaving meant ending my routine as I know it, leaving my job and my apartment without the chance of returning to them, organizing all my belongings and finances and then saying goodbye, at least temporarily, to people I love dearly. I arrived in good spirits, however, bolstered by that delicious Bloody Mary, the beautiful scenery and a warm welcome.

Seattle has always appealed to me, and this short trip through was no deviation. I had amazing local oysters, excellent local beer, strong and delicious Stumptown coffee (grounds of which I bought to bring for the rest of the trip) and an absolutely perfect brunch, all with the Seattle vibe and views I'm coming to recognize and adore.

Leaving Seattle on Wednesday, I took a bus to a bus to a ferry to a bus to my parents' property out on Whidbey Island. There, I picked up the Dodge van with the bed in the back that will be my home for the next few weeks, organized the extra supplies they so sweetly mailed to me, packed my stuff in road-safe slip-proof spots in the van and hit the road, destination: Berkeley.

The drive down is about 14 hours, so I planned to do it in two days and stop somewhere for the night. I made it just South of Portland, where I stopped for a burger and great local beer (Double Mountain India Red Ale, to be clear, which I would highly recommend), and then slept in a hospital parking lot in the van.

Thursday, on the recommendation of a very road-savvy friend who once traveled across the country on his motorcycle, I stopped in to Ashland, OR. I found an excellent local food coop and got some supplies, debated but decided against trying one of the local breweries and wandered around the picturesque upscale crunchy downtown. This, my friends, is a very cool Boulder-esque town and I really enjoyed the stop there.

I arrived in Berkeley Thursday evening and met up with my friend Dylan, with whom I would spend the weekend. He showed me around his adorable neighborhood and then to the delicious Picante Mexican restaurant for dinner, where I recognized a Smithie I hadn't seen since 2007 (I had also recognized a Boulderite in a coffee shop in Seattle - the world is awfully small sometimes). The rest of the weekend deserves more than I have time to say right now, but, in short: Cheeseboard's cheesy bread for breakfast, walk in Cesar Chavez park on the marina, Berkeley Bowl for the best gourmet groceries, drive to Ukiah, CA, stay in an adorable cabin at the secluded, beautiful and private Orr Hot Springs, soak in the water under the open sky and shooting stars until two in the morning, hike/walk the redwoods at Montgomery Woods, enjoy sunshine, the mineral pool and learning to play cribbage before leaving for Muir Beach. At Muir, play with Dylan's adorable 6 and 3 year old nieces, learn/play Settlers of Catan with his wonderful sister and brother-in-law, wake up with the girls to an amazing view of the beach, go for a stunning coastal hike while discussing non-profits, careers and direction with Dylan's amazing sister (a fellow Smithie), see a baby coyote on the trail, get to the beach just as the cloud cover burns off, play with Dylan and the girls in the water and on the beach (after which a stranger sarcastically told us, "You don't have enough fun"), head back to Berkeley and then off for Concord.

I arrived at my aunt's house in Concord last night and got to spend some time with my aunt and cousin, which pleases not only my mother but also me greatly. I have done some laundry, repacked and organized my mobile home, and planned for the next few days, where I am now headed to drive through Yosemite to Mono Lake, where I will stay and take day trips in to the park. I am hoping to take some pictures of my own, but I found this one of Mono Lake online and am excited to see it's bizarre landscape and isolated locale.

The trip so far has been incredibly relaxing, fun, luxurious and social. I feel so lucky, thankful and happy. I am also really looking forward to the next few days of solitude in the wilderness before I return to San Francisco on Thursday or Friday to meet Alecia at the airport, as she will be joining me for the North-ward leg of the trip.

Not surprisingly, given my overly-analytical nature, I have been doing a huge amount of reflecting, thinking and processing. I have challenged myself, however, to not try to solve any of my questions or force tangible growth. Instead, I am focusing on the adventure and the enjoyment, trying to truly appreciate these amazing moments. I have found some success in quieting my never-ending internal monologue and the moments of peaceful content have been more and more frequent as time goes on.

Now, I must run to my next stop, I will try to post pictures sometime soon! I have also been adding some pictures to Facebook from my iPhone when possible, if you want to see them:!/mmeaneyervin

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So It Begins

I must dash to my flight, but while I have internet access at the airport bar, I will say this: airport Bloody Marys are the best Bloody Marys. And I'm off!

"Therefore I go, dubious, but elate; apprehensive of intolerable pain; yet I think bound in my adventuring to conquer after huge suffering, bound, surely, to discover my desire in the end." - Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bittersweet Goodbyes

I have a weird confession: I get my hair cut far (and I do mean far) less frequently than I believe is recommended by hair stylists and most sane people alike. Perhaps this dates back to the time I had my bangs cut in three uneven, too-short chunks, prompting me to dye my hair bright red and pretend it was edgy and intentional (I fooled no one). Or maybe the time I worked at a salon, an experience I ended with tri-color chin-length hair that wouldn't have even looked good on a fashion model. Perhaps it's rooted in a deference to other spending priorities (see: whiskey, fresh produce, plane tickets). Or maybe it is simply a reflection of a more metaphor-friendly hesitance to embrace change.

I officially leave Boston one week from today. And, although my hair still looks terrible, my life in Boston that led me in pursuit of new adventures looks more and more wonderful every day.

It's not that I'm second-guessing my decision to go, I think I'm just appreciating the beauty of this life with an abandon I really only allowed myself once I made the decision to leave it. I have found so much to love here. I have a routine I enjoy, a job I've learned how to do well, friends I love, a house that feels right to come back to after any time spent away. I've found lovely spots to hike, a running route I begrudgingly enjoy (or at least know), I am learning to cook and I pack my lunch each night and make coffee every morning. I'm surrounded by music and musicians who, despite their incredible talent, tolerate my plunking attempts at playing basic chords. I can finally drive around without blind deference to my GPS. I have made, of Boston, a home.

But I'm not leaving because I wasn't happy here. I'm leaving because I want to make myself completely available to learn more about others, communicate more with myself, and eek out my place in this big world, And, of course, enjoy some adventures along the way. This is about shaking up the routines I've come to love and making myself open to be grabbed by passion as I figure out what comes next.

Back to my coiffure confession: I am reminded that, whatever the cause of my initial hesitation to schedule that stupid appointment, more difficult still are the days that lead up to it. I manage to have myself convinced, as the big moment rapidly approaches, that my hair looks better and better every day. Only through taking the necessary step to eradicate them am I able to overlook those things I sought to change. From dead ends and lifeless shape to the realization that my job was no longer serving to enable my growth and I lacked a sense of what direction to pursue next, I choose change for a reason. But knowing I need a change should neither undermine nor glorify what I've had. Instead, I take the next step, emboldened and strengthened by all I have learned and all that I love that has served not only to grow me but also to prepare me for wherever my path next leads.

So I'm leaving yet another home, and one that I love dearly, but I'm not closing the door behind me. I don't know where I will end up in just a few short months (which may render my departure more of a sojourn), or with what goals, priorities and dreams. But today, with one week left to my first flight and my bright, beautiful room dismantled into messy piles and suitcases, I'm taking a moment to simply revel in the beauty of this life and the people in it who have filled my days with love, laughter, whiskey and music, who have made me strong enough to know I need to go and also made me sad to say goodbye.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reasoning Myself Into Faith

A few weeks ago, I went to church for what was arguably the first time in my adult life. I was not brought up to be religious and, in fact, spent many years deploring not only organized religion but faith itself. Belief in a higher power (and the fervor and violence with which people historically defended and spread these beliefs) stood at odds with my youthful and analytical brain. It seemed to be nothing more than a security blanket for adults, and one with often destructive effects. I valued instead what I imagined to be hard truths and realism, feeling perfectly satisfied that there was no greater power than my own mind and the minds of others around me.

This view, thankfully, has matured and expanded with time. I am neither so narcissistic as to confidently believe in the supreme power of my own self nor so narrow as to so easily dismiss the perspectives of others. But what really led me through the doors of that sunny and welcoming Unitarian Universalist church was what I have realized is a quest for faith.

Not faith in God. Or even really faith in myself (although who couldn't use more of that?). Not faith in the goodness of others, I've seen enough to know this exists in excess between people. Not even faith in love, although that too could never hurt to increase. What I sought was the simplest and most complicated kind of faith I could imagine: faith that it will all actually be okay. That the forces of the universe, combined with my own will power, hard work and skill, will lead me to a fulfilling life that I want and value.

For those of you scoffing, a part of me is right there alongside you. Of course it will work out in the end: we are all alive right up until we die. And, furthermore, most of us, myself included, are better than we let ourselves believe at enjoying the moments as they occur, even within tumultuous and uncertain times. I have always been happier than I am sad, had more fun than I've been bored, found more love and friendship than I have loneliness. And I've never shied away from change and growth, so in that sense, if it hasn't worked out, then it isn't the end.

These arguments are my process of reasoning myself into faith: what if I take another job that isn't for me? Then I'll leave and have the opportunity to try yet another. What if I miss people? Then I'll have the strength go where I need to be instead. What if I run out of money? Then I'll live with my mom (right, Mom?) and find odd jobs to pay the bills. What if people don't like me? Then I'll find people who do (and those guys probably were probably jerks anyway). What if I never find what I love? Then I will keep looking and I will find a way to enjoy the moments in between.

Absent in me, which of course no single church visit can instill, is a sense of contentment with these analytical answers. Put another way, I lack the conviction and faith that things really will work out for me to be who I want to be and lead a life that I enjoy.

I'm beginning to believe that very few of us know what we want to do with our lives. At least not in the way I have spent years believing I should, trying on dreams and careers like over-sized Halloween costumes from someone else's dress-up box. Instead, I'm seeking comfort with the uncertainty, with the constant only of change. I am seeking true enjoyment of the process, focusing on the fun, growth and beauty in this journey whose ending point isn't really the priority. And to do that, I am reasoning myself into faith.

Whispered like a prayer, chanted like a mantra, sung like one of those beautiful songs that nearly brought me to tears in the pews of that alien church building: it will all work out, it will all be okay, I will be okay. And if it hasn't worked out, then it isn't the end.