(Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)
NOT WHAT I EXPECTED (or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)
Last week was … not what I expected.
What did I expect? To see old friends. To break bread and clink drinks. To laugh about old times. A beautiful reunion before returning back to normal life. A kind of end-of-summer hurrah.
What happened? Well, it all started off as planned… After Camp Maverick (summer camp for entrepreneurs), I picked up a RAV4 at Newark Airport and drove down the turnpike, through Philly and to King of Prussia (KoP for the locals). I had decided to stay up all night for the last night of Camp, so I was in that wired-yet-tired phase when you’ve been up all night and yet aren’t ready to sleep. Soon as I checked into my hotel that afternoon, that quickly became total-zonk-lights-out. Needless to say, nothing happened that night except for a lot of sleep and some possible snoring.
The next day, I woke up a bit out of it. One of those days where you feel just slightly disconnected. Like every reaction is a split-second out of time from reality. Not having any plans (which is no surprise, knowing how I travel), I drove towards West Chester (Dub C). When I got near the Route 30 bypass, I felt a tug from my unconscious. “Take it.” If I had been more alert, I likely would have overrode the suggestion. In this state, it felt right. So I did.
At this point, I realized I didn’t know where I was going. Sure, I knew the area like the back of my hand — I’d spent nearly 15 years driving all over these roads. I just didn’t know the destination. So I drove. Every now and then I felt a tug to take a turn. So I would.
I ended up at an apartment complex that I had forgotten about years ago, or so I thought. As soon as I got near, I knew exactly where I was. This was a place that an old love lived for a while, after we had broken up. Many old feelings began to rise inside. Love. Hurt. Shame. Compassion.
I re-experienced what I had not been able to fully feel back then. I remembered odd things, like scraping a car in the parking lot with a U-Haul when we moved her in. Leaving a note under their windshield wipers with my phone number. Secretly hoping they’d never call, since I didn’t have much money. Expecting that call every day. It never coming. Eventually forgetting (at least consciously) all about it.
So I sat there for a while and re-experienced all of those feelings. Then I had a feeling of completion. Of closure.
Then I drove on – guided in the same way. Not knowing where I was destined. I found myself near an old friend’s house. Being mid-day Monday, I had no idea if he was home. I drove up and saw his front door open behind the glass storm door. Somehow I wasn’t surprised.
Funny enough – he was expecting me. And so we sat for a few hours and reconnected. It was fun. It was light and jokey. It was deep and profound. I helped him with a few things. He helped me with a few. That’s what I love about dear friends – that ability to jump right back in without pretense. To fully remember and appreciate who we were. To feel comfortable to be exactly who we are. To see and be seen.
When I left, I again had no idea where I was going. Yet I had learned to trust these tugs of intuition. So I drove along and listened to them. Eventually realizing that I was driving a few hours away, up near Scranton. Really the place where my Pennsylvania story began.
When I was 18 and drove across the country — from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Without telling my parents. Simply to meet a girl I had met online and was falling in love with. But – that’s another story for another time…
When I arrived, I emotions began to swell again. Some beautiful and joyful. Some dark and painful. I sat, meditated, and felt them as wholly and completely as I could. I felt them until they passed. When it was over, I felt “complete” in that same way and knew it was time to move on.
The same went for the friends I got to spend time with. While there were a couple bigger reunions, most of them were one-on-one. With those, I had the feeling that I could help them with something. What, though, I didn’t know. During each conversation, I saw something in them. Something I had been through myself. Something that I could help them with. To the best of my ability, I did.
And so the week went. With as few plans as possible, I drove to all the places I lived. All the places I worked. All the places I felt the draw of intuition. I met all the people who reached out and I knew we had to meet. I felt everything there was to feel without fear. I helped as much as I could without expectation. I reconnected. We reconnected.
Along the way, I felt a deeper peace flow in. I realized that there were parts of myself that I had disowned. The guy who loved freely enough to move across the country for a girl. The guy who wanted to achieve and create great things. The guy who wanted to be on stage and feel the flow of energy with the audience. All parts of me that I had blamed for the pain in my life. I decided they couldn’t be trusted. And so I turned them off.
Now I can look back and realize that I was in a lot of emotional pain and didn’t yet have the experience and tools to work through in a healthy way. I was hurting from wounds in my past. I was hurting from the loss of my parents. I was hurting from not being myself.
Instead I did the only thing I knew how to in order to survive. Compartmentalize. Distract. Stay busy. Blame. Become a victim. Run away.
It worked. At least for a time. Long enough for me to take it step-by-step. Each step gaining the experience, the insight, the tools and the courage I needed. For that I am grateful. I can honestly say that I wasn’t ready then.
Unconsciously, must have known I was ready now. Consciously, I wasn’t sure. Yet I trusted.
And so I faced all of it. Everything that I had feared. Everything left unprocessed. Many things that hurt. Many things I held guilt over. Many things I felt shameful of. Many things I had judged myself for unnecessarily. At times my heart ached deeply. At times my body felt like it was overloaded. Having the perspective of going through worse, I knew I would be okay. And so I continued.
Near the end, I began to remember and experience more of the good than the bad. More of the joyful moments. More of the times I never want to forget. And I began to see the painful times as quests. Challenging lessons that I had to learn in order to become the man I am.
As I met up with old friends and helped them, I became grateful for those lessons. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t have this compassion. I wouldn’t know what they were going through. I wouldn’t know it was possible to exist outside the darkened. I wouldn’t be able to offer them a path out. I wouldn’t be able to help those I love.
I became grateful for those quests.
I stopped blaming the Lover, the Achiever and the Performer. It wasn’t their fault – it was simply a difficult, sometimes shitty, time. I allowed them back in.
I forgave others. I forgave the universe.
I stopped blaming me.
I forgave myself.
In this way, I was healed as well.
I feel more whole than I can remember. I’m allowing myself to dream again. Dream about a worthy mission. Dream about a superhero team. Dream about an impactful company. To help the world.
And that is how I spent the last week of my summer vacation in Pennsylvania. It was one of the most profoundly healing things I’ve done this year — and I’ve done a lot of profoundly healing things this year.
Thank you. Big Love. —Chris