The Big Trip
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Days wandered – 118
Blogs posted – 78
States visited – 24.
Pounds gained – 10
Flat tires – 1.
Speeding tickets? ZERO. (Take that, State Patrol.)
I wasn’t sure when the official endpoint would be, but I am determining that as of tonight, The Big Trip is coming to a close. Tomorrow, I will wake up and drive the 8 ½ hours to my new home of Nashville, Tennessee. I have been ready for this day for a long time. But I will never regret the decision to sell it all, leave it behind, throw caution to the wind, sack responsibility, and live as free as a wildflower for an entire third of 2007.
Throughout this fall, I’ve had many people say to me, “I wish I could do what you’re doing.” Let me make this clear: I am the least-likely person in the world to decide to bag it all and be seemingly insensible, opting to have no income and no purpose aside from just being. But I am so glad that I did. If an adventure like mine appeals to you, then please hear me when I say that it is of utmost urgency that you follow through with that desire. Please do it. You will not be sorry.
I’m not sorry. Poor, yes. Tired, yes. Ready for my own space, structure, control, and a kick-ass workout schedule, oh, Lord Almighty, WITH ALL MY ATROPHIED BEING. But not sorry.
Even though The Big Trip is over, my adventures are not. I hope that you’ll keep reading, keep following along, because it is my most sincere expectation that the best is yet to come.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more things to pack than will fit in my Honda.
I am proud to say that I have made it through 2007, and it wasn’t quite as dark as I originally anticipated. One year ago tonight, I was in a deep depression, and terrified of what the coming year would hold. But now, I am happy – at least, most of the time, which is much better than “hardly ever.” So much that was unknown a year ago has become clear – 2007 exists now not as an uncertainty, but as an experience, a memory, a closed door.
And so, with the expectancy that some of the questions I have about 2008 will soon be answered, I ask them.
Are risks worth the risk? How am I supposed to start over? Where will I live? Where will I work? Who will be my friends? Where will I go to church? Will I ever find a bed, or a couch, or a desk, or a dresser? Who will cut my hair? How am I going to get all of my boxes to Nashville? Where will I do my banking? Will I get my wish and have my new phone number be PAR-SONS? What ever happened to my coffee grinder and toaster oven? Will I ever have medical insurance again? Why is everyone getting engaged? Will Nashville ever get a Trader Joe’s? A Nordstrom? Where will I do my shopping? Will I ever live in Seattle again? Do dreams come true? Who reads this blog? Who will I marry? Will I get married? Do I really want to get married? How will I get my rugs from Seattle to Nashville? Will any of my friends come visit me? Which gym will I go to? Will I ever see Nicole Kidman walking around town? Will I ever have a dog as cute as Gabe? Will I ever go to Italy? Will I ever be comfortable in my own skin? What is going to happen in 2008? Is there anything better than cold pizza for breakfast?
One year from now, I hope that I have a lot of these questions answered. But I believe that even today, to the last question, I can emphatically answer, “No.”
– – – – – – – –
T-minus 4 days until The Big Move.
On Friday, on the way back from Taos, Mom and I were driving north on a 2-lane highway through the desert. Snow covered the ground as far as the eye could see, coating the horizon in a uniform white. But suddenly, east of the highway, something caught my eye.
“Mom, turn around!” I cried.
“What? No, I can’t,” she responded.
“You have to. We’ll always wonder if we don’t go back.”
She thought for a second, and then whipped the wheel to the left. With a mighty U-turn, we changed direction, and then turned east on a driveway covered in snow. We were adventurers, seeking a new frontier, seeking the truth. With no assurance that our noble steed of a Toyota Matrix would not get stuck in a snowdrift, or that a pack of Rottweilers would not be sicced on us, we boldy forged ahead. And our discovery was… beyond words.
And no, I have no idea what it all means.
The fact that I am posting this blog means that I have returned to society. I am in gelid Alamosa, CO, with my friend Hannah. And in case you’re curious what “the wild” has done to me, this is what I look like today:
Okay, I admit it: I cannot handle “roughing it.” Yes, the cabin is in the middle of beautiful mountains, amid snowy banks, with plenty of snow-shoeing to be done. But I woke up this morning, and the thermometer read -24. MINUS 24. So today, Mom and I made the 90-minute trek to Taos, NM, in search of civilization.
To keep myself busy this week, I have taken part in an activity as old as time – if time is as old as an old, old woman. My hours have been occupied with a little something known as “cross-stitching.”
I used to cross-stitch all the time when I was in middle school. Let’s be real: I was a turbo cross-stitcher; no pattern too large, no needle too small. I basically kept the Precious Moments corporation afloat with my financial support, purchasing kits with patterns of watery-eyed girls with oversized heads washing kittens in wooden washtubs, “Many waters cannot quench love” tenderly stitched below. But when high school began, it was time to put my hoop and needles and patterns away. My time was better spent doing cooler things, like… playing the flute in the marching band and… not going on dates.
My needle and thread sat untouched in a craft box until this past January, when I needed something to occupy my mind during a break-up. Cross-stitching was the perfect distraction from my pain: methodical and mindless, and yet, even with no thought, I could watch my progress as I went along. Cross-stitching produces visible results. You start by threading a single strand in and out, and before you know it, a picture begins to take shape.
Sometimes, I wish that life was like a giant cosmic cross-stitch project. If only there was a huge pattern to follow, pre-packaged color-coded thread to stitch, and the assurance that if we follow the instructions precisely, things will turn out the way that they’re meant to. That would be comforting.
But maybe too easy.
Life is not predictable. Life is not a set of rules and guidelines to follow. Life is not cut-and-dry. It’s complicated, and messy, and often imperfect. I think that if my life actually was a cross-stitch project, it would be rumpled and chaotic, with ragged edges and loose strands sticking out all over the place. Random, non-complementary colors would prevail. There might be cute moments – little rabbits and doves and hummingbirds in pastel shades – but as a whole, it would be a mess.
So… never mind. Good thing life isn’t like cross-stitching.
The best moment of the Parsonspalooza Christmas Extravaganza happened when Becca and Sarah were both given small, identical gifts to open. They were obviously gift cards – nothing else is shaped like that – except credit cards, I guess, and business cards, and the lid of an Altoids tin, and I suppose a thin, thin calculator.
Becca opened hers: a gift card bearing a substantial amount to the Plaza, a shopping area in downtown Kansas City. We knew that Sarah would receive the same type of card.
Only, it’s… what is it?… $5 to Chick-Fil-A!
You should have seen her face. She was trying SO HARD to be excited. But she was so confused. Becca gets the Plaza, and I get $5 to Chick-Fil-A? Don’t get me wrong – Sarah loves Chick-Fil-A, but…?
It turns out that Mom and Dad had wrapped up the wrong card. I’m so glad that it happened. I hadn’t laughed that hard since Michael Scott “declared” bankruptcy.
Speaking of gift cards, I received the all-time greatest gift card for Christmas. $15 to Starbucks.
Starbucks? you ask? Doesn’t Annie loathe Starbucks?
Why, yes, of course I do. But this was no ordinary Starbucks card. Look:
This is my own, personal, customized Starbucks card, designed for me online by my sister-in-law Ashley to commemorate this day. I will never throw this away, not even after I’ve exhausted every penny on my Venti, single-bag, Wild Sweet Orange teas.
Yesterday, a tall, charmingly-scruffy man showed up on my doorstep to take me to lunch. How could I be so lucky? Joel, my friend from my Colorado days, is on furlough from his Peace Core post in Burkina Faso, Africa, and is visiting extended family in the Kansas City area. Our mutual timing in the KC area was serendipitous, and so we took advantage of our one day of overlap to catch up.
Joel has amazing stories about life in a country that many people don’t even know exists. He lives in an honest-to-goodness hut in a real-live village, braves 117 degree weather, takes bucket showers, and bucks the Burkina norm by not using physical abuse as a disciplinary tool in the classroom. His blogs transplant me to a foreign place of which I know nothing, and I highly recommend the reading.
We had a wonderful time catching up, even though we ate at a mediocre soup/salad/sandwich place in Brookside. Out of all of the options for good food in Kansas City, we somehow picked the ultimate loser. But the conversation was nourishing and life-giving and smile-generating, and I am grateful.
– – – – – – – –
This morning, the Parsons drive to south-central Colorado to stay with our friends the Claders in a cabin in the mountains for the week. I will be removed from society and, most likely, the internet. In the event that I cannot post blogs, never fear: I promise to write a few posts while at the cabin, and post them when I return. I mean, really: 10 people and a bunch of dogs, holed up together in the woods, far from any semblance of civilization, in -12 degree weather, with nothing to do but SURVIVE?
You know I’ll have stories.
The year is winding down, and 2008 is dawning. As I am a big fan of “closure,” around this time I tend to want to recap the year. Pour yourself a cup of tea, sit down. Stay awhile. This is my version of a Christmas letter.
Let’s begin the year with heartbreak. I was living in Seattle at the time. I was broken up with, shattered into a million pieces, bought a next-day ticket to LA, and flew out to spend some quality girl time with one of my best friends, Muggs. I soaked in the sunshine and bawled my eyes out, but smiled for the camera just the same.
While I was there, I wrote this. The response and outpouring of support and love from my friends and family was so overwhelming that I started thinking, “Maybe I should write more.”
Whenever I am sad, I become as unyielding and tireless as Forrest Gump – except for instead of running, I walk. I started walking upwards of 10 miles each day, every day. I cried most nights, and most mornings, too. But the sweet boys that I used to nanny for held a “Pink Party” in my honor on Valentine’s Day, and we ate a pizza that they had cut into the shape of a heart. Laura, my best friend since childhood, came to visit from Colorado and provided good distraction from my agony.
Oh, and “Lost” made it’s triumphant comeback, which meant that I lived from Wednesday to Wednesday. [By the way, have you been watching the “Missing Pieces“? I’m FREAKING OUT. And for the record, Juliette is kickass, and Ben is my favorite character.]
My internet friend Sarah from Nashville came to visit, and our connection was solidified. My sister Sarah and her 4 cute friends drove from the Midwest out to Seattle for their spring break, so we spent 5 days with 6 girls in my tiny studio apartment.
And there was great rejoicing in the land.
April was weird. I think I was emitting pheromones. In an effort to “get back out there,” I had 6 dates in 10 days – and it was the most stressful chain of events. I don’t really ever want to repeat it – ever. My apologies to those poor men for my whacked out state of mind at the time – I was in a very odd place.
My family reunited in Greeley, CO, for my sister Becca’s graduation from UNC.
I was the skinniest I’ve ever been. I feel like mentioning it because I didn’t realize how good I looked at the time. And “Big Yellow Taxi” plays in the background…
With the decision to move away from Seattle came the reality that I had to be out of my apartment by the end of June. I started listing my furniture on Craigslist, and pawning off my beautiful things one-by-one. It is among the most heart-rending, deeply sad months of my life. I’ll never see my red bookshelf again, or my perfect little pull-out loveseat.
But I saw the Police in concert, and then Tim and Faith. I started a couple of recording projects. And my trusty friend Scott offered his services as my sherpa, and carried every single heavy item out of my apartment for me. I repaid him with a trip to Canlis. I still think I got the better end of the deal.
I moved in with the most wonderful family from church. I flew to Maryland for my grandmother’s funeral, and had an amazing reunion with family. I hung out a lot with my adorable friends Greta and Meridith.
I sang for a couple of weddings. I felt really good about life. July was good.
I turned 25, and almost barfed off the edge of a boat. My friend Christina came to visit from Boston, and we had a glorious long-weekend reconnecting. I started going to hot yoga – my stint was short-lived, but if I had more money, I’d be a junkie. I finished recording my demo. The reality that I was truly moving away from Seattle started to sink in.
A flurry of last-chance get-togethers, and just like that, I was gone. I left Seattle. I still don’t know how I did it, and I don’t know that the full actuality of my decision has become a reality yet.
I went to Colorado and climbed mountains.
The month began with a stint as Auntie Annie the Nanny for the two cutest boys in the universe. For as much as I love them, and as much as I am looking forward to being a mom, there is no better form of birth control than an extended period as a “single parent.” I can wait; “auntie” is good enough for now!
How did I survive November? Nashville; Blacksburg, VA; Norfolk, VA; DC; Morgantown, WV; Asheville, NC; Durham, NC; Hilton Head, SC; Tuscaloosa, AL; Nashville; Kansas City; Richland, WA.
At this point, I was really good at living out of a suitcase – and growing very weary of it. When one is changing homes every other night, and sleeping on couches and futons and all manner of surfaces, it’s difficult to find any stability or structure. And we all know that I hate that.
A fantastic urban experience in New York City, and the beginning of what I feel is going to develop into a torrid affair with the city of Boston.
And now, here we are – as the song says, “Christmas time is here.” I hate Christmas music, by the way. If I hear one more soul humming, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” I’m going to punch him in the throat. And don’t even get me started on “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago… Stop it. Stop it, with your big grin and and lifted eyebrows and Broadway-smiley voice.
But my days in Kansas City have been filled with nephews and cookies and dogs and singing, and this is what makes Christmas wonderful for me. We’ll drive to Colorado on Christmas day, and spend the week in a cabin in the mountains.
And on January 4, I will move to Nashville. Lord, help me.
– – – – – – – –
I look back over the year, and am struck with all that I have packed into 12 months. For whatever hard times I walked through in 2007, the good times stick out more. The friendships, the gifts, the surprises, the adventures. God has been faithful, just like he always is.
May 2008 bring joy and health and goodness. That’s my prayer for all of you, my wonderful friends and family and… strangers…
Today, my mom and I took Micah and Tyler to Union Station in downtown Kansas City to see their favorite thing: TRAINS! After looking at the huge, elaborate model train display, and walking across the Link to Crown Center to color in the Crayola Store, and then back to eat a greasy lunch in the diner, it was time for the main event: to ride the kid-size train around the huge Christmas tree.
Micah abruptly decided that he did not want to ride the train, leaving little Tyler with a choice. “Do you want to ride the train, even though Micah isn’t going?”
“Yeah!” he said, with his sweet little smile.
But as soon as he climbed into the caboose, his attitude shifted slightly. Without his big brother by his side, he realized that it was a little bit scarier than he thought.
His eyes were wide, and a little bit frightened. I stepped inside the track and walked beside him as the train went around the tree one, two, three, four times. He didn’t say much, didn’t express much, except for the times that we passed Grandmom and Micah – then he would wave enthusiastically.
Finally, the train stopped, and we freaked out on Tyler’s behalf. “Tyler, you were so brave! You rode the train all by yourself! You’re such a big boy!”
And indeed. He sure was proud of himself.
In a similar, albeit less-cute way, I’m experiencing a small victory of my own. As many of you know, I left Seattle in September with the intention of moving to Nashville because I want to write songs. Now, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much to base this decision on; I only started writing in 2005, and it’s not like I was an instant hit-maker. Mostly, I was writing only scraps of songs, and they were largely very lame.
Still, I knew that this is something that I wanted to pursue. Somewhere deep down, I believed that I might be capable of being a good writer. So in a very bold, gutsy, “sell the farm” kind of way, I decided to transplant myself to the very place where my favorite songs were coming from. Time will tell if any musical good will come of this.
As I have traveled hither and thither this fall, I have written a lot of songs. Most of them aren’t worth sharing. But this past Saturday, on a plane from Boston to Charlotte, I cranked out a song that I can honestly say is good. It’s GOOD. I really think so. As my own worst critic, I am so encouraged to know that I am capable of writing something that isn’t entirely a sorry excuse.
And regardless of anyone else’s approval or accolades, I know in my heart that I am making a good decision in moving to Nashville.
Last night, I left Christina and Dan’s apartment to meet them at their downtown law firm. In addition to running a bit behind, the sidewalks were slushy from the previous day’s snow, so rather than walking, I decided to take a cab.
I don’t know how, but I somehow made it to last night without ever hailing a taxi. IN MY LIFE.
As I walked out to Cambridge Street, I tried to psych myself up. “You can do this – you’ve seen people do this a million times. You just raise your arm, and one stops. It will work. It will work.”
But I don’t know what came over me. I couldn’t help myself. The first cab that I saw, I raised my arm, and screamed, “Tak-SAAAAAAY!” just like I’ve seen in the movies, except far more obnoxious. Of course, one immediately stopped. And as I climbed inside, I started laughing – mostly out of embarrassment, but also because THAT WAS SO AWESOME.
It is the middle of the night. It is almost 2am. It is dark. It is dark outside, and it is dark inside. I am in my pajamas. I am in my bed. My bed is a pull-out couch. My hair is in a ponytail. The covers are twisted, and I can’t find the sheet. The only light is coming from my computer screen, and the crack underneath the door. My left shoulder hurts. This happens when I have been having too many asthma attacks. THIS happens when I don’t have medical insurance to get Singulair. My toenails are red, and my fingernails are red. It is quiet. The only noise is coming from my fingers typing. I am cross-legged. I am slumped forward. I am not alone in my bed. I am sharing it with my cell phone, my big red leather bag, my inhaler, a book called “The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters,” two pillows, and a Princeton sweatshirt. I should turn on a lamp. But why? I am thinking about something very personal. I’m not going to tell you what. My left foot is asleep. Now if only my whole self would follow.