It’s been a week since I returned from 10 fabulous days in the US, and I’m still processing all I experienced. It wasn’t just the fact that I was travelling solo (although that was pretty remarkable) but also that I reconnected with a few deeply loved friends… I packed about 3 months of intensity into my 10 days, and returned feeling so satisfied and refreshed and lucky.
What was so surprising (and wonderful) was the fact that everyone I saw I hadn’t seen in real life for either 6 or 10 years. That is a really long time. And yet we picked up as if we’d seen each other last week. It was quite extraordinary, and has strangely made me less tolerant for random friendships now that I’m home. I was talking it over with one of my college buddies (a few emails over the last 6 years, no more, and then a 3 hour dinner where we couldn’t stop talking and laughing) and we decided it was because we chose each other out of our 2000 classmates, all those years ago. Whereas today, most of the people we meet are either through work or kids, and there’s not nearly that volume to sift through for the gems. So yes, I’m only in touch with a handful of people I was at college with, but that’s a handful out of 2000, so they were very carefully chosen!
What made the trip so extraordinary was these connections… They are so full of meaning. Because my time there was so limited, the connections went immediately deep, pretty much as soon as we sat down. I spent 24 hours with a deeply loved friend who’s been battling cancer, and I think our conversations (and tears, and laughter) will be resonating for years to come. It was as if the ordinary 24 hours of a day got condensed down, so that each moment was packed with meaning. And joy. And love.
It was just wonderful being back at my college, F&M, and reconnecting with my favourite professors. It felt so healing to be back on campus, where everything smelt the same and I felt so at home. I got to meet one of my bestie’s little girls and instantly fell in love. I got a night alone with two of my besties (after a baseball game, which is pure American cheese and which I love with a passion). There was time for deep talk and random chitchat, for making new memories, for eating glorious food. I ate a lot of really incredible food.
Of course, I also got blessed alone time – which I get very little of at home, and which I crave like fresh air (I’ve come to realise). I got to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, didn’t have to look after anyone, got to browse around awesome shops randomly, go to sleep when I felt like it and read just for the hell of it. I had two days in New York City on my own at the end and literally walked the city flat (110 blocks in one day!) It was awesome.
And now I’m home! And it is so lovely to be back with my beloved husband and adorable children. I am so blessed to have work I love to return to, and new challenges and excitements on the horizon. But something about those 10 days changed me… Both the abundance of alone time I relished in, and the depth of the connections I experienced. It’s made me realise that I put unnecessary pressure on myself to connect to lots of different people in everyday life. I really only need a handful for deep satisfaction. And it’s made me realise that I need to be a little kinder to myself when it comes to alone time, because I am my best self when I get enough time on my own.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”T.S. Eliot
What a gift. I am so lucky.