We were talking about plumbing. I texted a picture from a couple of years ago, of me on the floor of the laundry room, my head under the cabinet, deep in the process of replacing the sink and the sump pump.
He made a comment about how independent and competent I was. It was a good thing we were texting because he couldn’t see the tears well up.
It made me realize that although I have been travelling for over a year, the real journey has been on the inside.
I’ve met many people— not the majority, but more than a few— who travel with no impact on themselves. It is all just scenery. Another stamp in the passport, more photos, check this one off the list; there is no growth, just accumulation. They continue on, unfazed and unchanged, the locals just extras in the movie of their lives.
You don’t need to go anywhere to change your viewpoint and broaden your horizons. You can join groups in your own town, seek out different viewpoints. One of the most profound events of my recent life was sponsoring a Syrian refugee family, and that did not require my travelling anywhere. Travel can open your mind, but if your mind is open, you do not necessarily need to go anywhere, and if your mind is closed, it doesn’t matter where you are.
So the reason I cried over plumbing renovations? To anyone looking in at that time, I was competent, independent, educated, intelligent, thoughtful. I’d had an interesting and varied life. I was valued, someone who was called upon both professionally and in the community when things needed to get done.
Yet my whole sense of self worth came from my relationship. My clothes, how I wore my hair, where I worked (and how much), where we lived, who we socialized with, where we went for holiday, what time we left the party: everything was his decision. Because I knew that this relationship needed to work, and I was so much better at compromising. Or as Selena Gomez put it, in a song that I by chance only heard today,
You promised the world and I fell for it
I put you first and you adored it
I continue to travel (five more trips planned for 2020, so far). Yet I realize that most of my changes, most of my growth, have had very little to do with where I am. I continue to grow, I continue to let go of the last 30 years, because I continue to question, to examine my assumptions and my beliefs.
Or as Selena said,
I needed to lose you to find me
This dance, it was killing me softly
I needed to hate you to love me, yeah
On with the brave travels.