In 2023 I would like to grow.
As in, I would like to add back the 1/2” of height I lost over the last 25 years since I stopped growing. Not too much of a stretch (pun absolutely intended).
In reality, I try to set realistic and tangible goals for myself each year based on areas in need of improvement. One year I felt disconnected to my fellow man and so I set out to send at least five greeting cards to friends and family. That is, five non-holiday, non-birthday, just because greeting cards.
Another year I made the goal to run two 5k races.
My best New Year’s Resolution, one I recycle every year, has been to read one book each month. Some years I’m better about sticking to it. And then other years I add books like Moby Dick and the Life and Times of Emily Dickinson.
My favorite completed resolution is the one I set for 2014: to go on one bad ass road trip. This was the year my whole self needed a hard reset; I needed something that would take me out of my comfort zone and really put me to the test. I didn’t know in January as I was writing out the words that very soon my grandfather would pass away, that his life in Mississippi would need to be packed up and put away, and that his truck would need to be transported from his home in Hattiesburg to my sister’s in upstate New York.
This was it; my bad ass road trip.
In July of that year I joined my family in Mississippi to clear out his home. We packed up the memories, we donated and sold everything else and then there was nothing left but to bring the ‘92 Chevy home. I climbed in my seat next to a crate of worn bungee cords, an authentically old industrial workshop lamp and two sets of mounted antlers and powered up the ol’ Garmin.
Lol. Garmin. Better than printed Mapquest maps, but tells you what your next move is as you are passing it.
I planned to do the trip in three days—two half days bookending one full day—but that’s as much of a plan that ever developed; I figured I’d just drive until I didn’t feel like driving anymore and then I’d stop for the night.
Preferably near a Waffle House.
And so I drove the first day until I couldn’t drive anymore; and I checked myself into an unassuming hotel I found all lit up on the side of the highway and slept until I didn’t feel like sleeping anymore.
I treated myself to a Waffle House breakfast.
It was an uneventful, yet totally exhilarating trip. Freshly on my own again, I was able to make the decisions on when I stopped and for what. I discovered Starbucks XL Trenta sized drinks and the thrill of thinking thoughts fueled by 32 ounces of cold brew. I left the radio off for most of the trip, and many times those thoughts wandered into what would happen if the truck, already over 20 years old, broke down.
But it didn’t break down. It didn’t even shudder. We cruised up the highway just barely above the speed limit, respecting boundaries and not pushing limits. This is where you’d probably like, but I can’t deliver, a Hallmark movie connection to that truck, one where I felt the shadow of my grandfather sitting with me in the passenger seat, guiding my journey. First, I’m terrified of “shadow people.” Second, I already had the old man starter kit sitting with me in my passenger seat. Those seemingly random items I grabbed from his work shed were the perfect embodiment of the country work horse that was my grandfather, who we called granddaddy. So instead, I felt love and gratitude for the man who took such great care, as a country work horse does, of this ancient truck.
And then I hit West Virginia.
My apologies in advance to anyone from or in love with West Virginia. I’m sure in the light of day it’s a beautiful place. I’m sure you have excellent schools and everyone loves their fellow man.
In the dark, however, your slogan, “Wild. Wonderful” makes a single gal traveling on her own a bit fearful of the pitch black that is your everywhere.
On that second night of driving, as I hit West Virginia, my third Trenta cold brew wore off and I pulled off the highway toward the nearest hotel. Booked. I drove down the street to the next hotel. Booked. On the third hotel I was told there was a sports tournament in town and most rooms within 30 miles would be booked, “but you can try such-and-such motel, just go left then right then left.”
So I pulled out of the lot and went left. Then I went right. And then I entered the Twilight Zone where there was no light, no sound, just blackness and my headlights.
And then someone else’s headlights. Someone was following me.
A person. Was in a car. Driving on the same public road as me. Obviously a serial killer who hides in the shadows as all future true crime podcast obsessed women know to be true.
But then I took a left and the lights came back on and there was the motel. It had one room left and I took it. Still fearing the stranger obviously following me on the wild yet wonderful back country road, and fearing literally every other thing, I shoved a chair under the door handle and turned on the TV to set the you’re-not-catching-me-unaware vibe.
I woke up the next morning. Alive. And I set out for home.
That afternoon I made it to my sister’s house and the truck died a week later.
I wasn’t sad. It served its purpose as the literal vehicle to bring me home physically and emotionally. Four months later I met Mark and two years after that I moved myself, and my old man starter kit, to his home where we became a family.
Life is funny sometimes.
And other times it scares the sh*t out of you.
But it all shakes out in the end.
Now, what to set for myself in 2023…