I am really bad at coming home from vacation. I know that no one is stoked when it’s over, but I think I have a particularly strong aversion to it. As a kid, after returning home from a Grand Canyon adventure with my grandma, I was so upset to be home that I started crying at the restaurant table. In an effort to hide my disappointment from my family I chewed on my chicken fingers, guzzled water, and ended up literally choking on my tears – causing me to throw up all over my dinner plate…
I think it took a couple of years for me to fess up that I hadn’t contracted the 24 hour travel flu, but that I was crying because my adventure was over. Even as a 10 year old kid I knew that the daily grind wasn’t gonna do it for me but that my life’s passions were fueled by whatever it was I had just experienced in the great outdoors.
So, it was only natural that after an amazing weekend camping trip with Mr. Rathoy and our dogchild, I would end our evening back home sobbing about how much I already missed the forest.
What I had known inherently as a child has since been buried by life-long “shoulding” and keeps trying to make itself known through salty sobs. My persistent plunge into the mundane (straight A’s, college in 4 years, full time jobs, retirement accounts, etc) has checked off every social “should” in the world, and still left me teary-eyed for unknown experiences. Something in my soul shakes loose when I get a glimpse of the world outside of my daily perceptions. And once those blinders come off, it’s nearly impossible to convince me that they should go back on.
I was raised in the outdoors. Exploration and imagination were my summertime companions and I’ve been subconsciously mourning their deaths as an adult in my cubicle every day. And even though it was a busy campsite and we only hiked a few miles, we hunkered down between some trees and my heart felt free.
One of our short hikes ended with an up close visit to one of the park’s oldest trees. The “Old Tree Trail” was named not only for the beautiful old growth forest that surrounds you during you walk, but by this master of roots and shoots.
Silent, scarred, and still growing. The tree was over 1,200 years old and 54 feet in diameter. Staring at this tree, squinting to see where it ended in the sky, all of a sudden the pressure was off. There was nothing that I could or should do that would be as awesome or important as this forest, as this one tree. And that perspective gives me the freedom to truly live, to chase my dreams and to contribute something positive and happy to the world rather than office gossip.
I think the reason I become so melancholy upon my return home is not because I’m ungrateful or disappointed by my current life – I am truly blessed – but it’s a reaction to the absence of my greater purpose. How can we exist in a world where someone’s day can be ruined by an e-mail and a 1,200 year old tree continues to grow at the same time? It feels like a science fiction book and I lose the ability to justify my long list of accomplished “shoulds.” There must be something more for me to do than check off someone else’s To Do’s.
And for me, this restlessness begs the question – when is it enough? When do you just allow yourself to be happy with where you are?
I think it’s when you no longer have to ask yourself that question. It’ll be enough when I no longer yearn for more. I’ll allow myself to be content when I’ve reached my life’s happiness. When I’ve accomplished whatever it is that makes my heart feel free every day. A restricted tree would never grow to the heights it was meant for, so how can we expect a stifled heart to do the same?
*Russ took some amazing photos for our adventures this weekend. Despite my emotional ramblings, it was such a fun and beautiful trip! Check out the photos at Russell Conroy Photography!*