but it isn’t. Laying in a bed and ordering room service and eating all of it, without interruption, is indulgent and sinful enough. My most recent trip was even more strange. Just as I stepped outside the terminal and was crossing over the vortex from one lifetime to the previous, the work I came to do was delayed. Not long enough to head back but just enough to leave me with a few days to myself. Days with nothing on my schedule at all. Days without any children or money to chase.
Which all seemed to beg one question. Who am I without those drives?
The blank slate of a big city, the beautiful silence of a hotel room and the miracle of time to think was… overwhelming. Paralyzing is more like it as I barely got out of bed the first day. Unable to find an answer in any of those 24 hours – or unwilling to sit with one thought long enough to let it come – I started walking on day two.
I began in the neighborhood of my hotel, which happened to be where I lived immediately after college. Passing by the building which housed the one bedroom I shared with three recently-minted grown ups, brought back fond and struggle-filled memories. The restaurants we worked, ate and drank in – mostly in that order – were all gone but as I took in each city block my old haunts played out before me like a naturally occurring acid trip.
Even more vivid were the people I frequented them with. Particularly the people I brought home from said places and woke up with in the mornings. The somewhat random but always “informative” people I learned about life from after the safety of my childhood home and dorm life was done.
Over the next two days I walked all the areas of the city I ever lived in. Block by block I felt as though I had become the main character from Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. I was rolling up avenues and down remembering both good times and chaos in what now felt like a desperate, somewhat unending search. Every neighborhood was primed with memories of people that I knew so intimately, before I understood what real intimacy was – but was searching for it voraciously.
For just a moment I could feel that love or like I had for someone then. I could feel it in my chest so completely that when it passed, it felt as if they were dead. Or lost. Lost in the war of my youth and their ghost had just moved through me. There were many I wanted to thank. For their kindnesses that I didn’t understand or value yet. For what they gave that I could not match. Along with the occasional memory of the dark, torturous storms I barely escaped.
I could also feel my own ghost. The ghost of the girl who thought she was so tough, and probably did seem so then – but now felt soft and unfinished and incredibly susceptible. Who all the while thought she was the one getting away with the pot of gold.
The lifeless buildings I was standing before as these feelings rushed me began to feel like the temples where my life’s work had taken place. I felt an affection for them as I imagine someone would who grew up near a mountain or a river or an ocean. Each concrete giant seemed to still be standing there, in stoic silence, just to prove they believed in me all along.
None of which gave me an answer to who I am now, or who I will be going forward, aside from my work and family but it reminded me that what drove me into life as I know it today was the need for love. Which I now have in spades, in many ways because of those ghosts.