“What’s on your mind?”

Facebook asked me what’s on my mind… well, buckle up.

Yes, I check my grammar. You should too.

I’ve recently been feeling like I’m simultaneously moving backward and forward. On to new challenges and goals, but back in the seemingly pre-prepared stages of life that make up cookie-cutter America. Or really cookie-cutter world. The ideal gingerbread man or woman graduates from high school, goes on to college, graduates, gets a job, gets married, buys a house, has kids, raises them and then retires to spend the last few years of their life, hopefully, doing whatever they want, but, more than likely, what their kids decide they can do. It’s not a bad life – it’s a life that gives you the ability to pass on your knowledge, talents, and dreams to a younger you – and it’s a full life for many. For a long time, I dreamed that it’d be my life. I’d find my cookie-cutter husband and live in a ticky-tacky house with our overachieving children. But dreams morph, and mine has. So has my present.

One year ago today, I had been in Barcelona for just over a month. I’d just returned from Sitges, and was just barely having my first sample of what adulthood tastes like (lots of responsibility with a sprinkling of freedom, for you youngin’s). I wasn’t certain yet whether I’d make it in Barcelona. I didn’t know that I’d spend the next nine months of my life traveling to more places than I can count on my fingers and toes, or that I’d grow to miss Barcelona every time I was away. I didn’t even know that in a few hours I’d be promoted, or that in a matter of weeks I’d fall in and out of love. I had a lot of very vague dreams and not very many plans. Those that I did have were fledglings – they depended on a lot of independent variables, with the only common factor being me. My determination. My skill.

A lot can happen in one year – in numbers: I’d lose two sets of phones, move three times, change my hair color four times (sorry, Dad), visit 13 countries, and more than 25 new cities. I’d speak to more “strangers” than I’ve likely ever spoken to in my life, which my mother – ever the socialite – loved, some of which would become my friends. And yet, a lot feels the same. I’m back in a city I’m more than familiar with – the one I was born in, and have lived in, on and off, for nearly three-quarters of my life. I’m at the same (really awesome) job, though in a different position. I’ve added lots of new friends, but I’ve kept that one clinger-on (that I love very much). I’m back with my (amazing) family and the same old drama that went on before I left is still going on. I found out yesterday that I’m returning to my university, going back into a new class with different people in the same buildings.

I feel changed, but have I? I sure think so, but I think it’s maybe a bit deeper than my chameleon hair or current location. I’ve grown to appreciate my alone time. Nothing cements that more than moving back into a house of 10 people – solitude is now a comfort, rather than an annoyance. But I’ve also grown to appreciate family – yeah, they’re all pests. But they’re my pests, and I missed each one of them for a different reason. Now, despite living a mere fifteen feet away from her, I miss Food. Relationships change when you go from spending 15 hours a day together to… well, an hour? Maybe?

I appreciate my parents’ sacrifices more than every before. Half of that might be the infamous “growing up” that mysteriously happens at some varying point in time, but the rest of it is me having to support not only myself but, to a large extent, another person. I knew raising kids wasn’t easy, but feeling responsible for not only yourself but another person’s actions? Not to mention the slew of emotions that comes with such. It’s a rollercoaster. One second they did something that’s moderately above average and they’re the light of your world and then they come to you with a problem you can’t fix and it makes you feel like you are the absolute worst person to ever walk this planet.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I work harder than ever before. I’ve never shied away from work – you can’t as a Scott Toal child – but realizing that my level of input directly affects what I can and can’t do is a bit more than having to work so I can buy a movie ticket every now and then. And I have a pretty single-minded determination now. Finish undergraduate school and get my B.A. (there’s a joke somewhere in here). Work exceedingly hard. And plan on traveling as often and as much as possible. I already have study abroad blocked out, and two new countries blocked off for next summer. What’ll be next?

Traveling has become my outlet, and it’s probably a little more expensive than most vices, but I also find it more rewarding. Maybe one day those old dreams will be revived and I very well may, one day, have my ticky-tacky house with my ticky-tacky spouse. But in the meantime, I’m going to be doing as much as possible to fulfill the little dreams – the things that most people push off simply because they think they can’t do them while they’re young. I’m going to travel, to push myself to learn as much as possible now and not fall into the trap of complacency that seems to catch right when people stop moving forward at any age. I’m not cookie-cutter for now, I’m moving forward and backward and sideways and sometimes I feel a little inside-out, upside-down.

Living my best life, which clearly doesn’t include pants.

And, ultimately, it’s all just fine.

Thanks for reading my mind, or at least a tiny corner of it. I promise less introspective and probably more entertaining ones are coming soon! Until next time, XoXx Fernweh (& Food – sort of) 

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