I don't think I had any idea what it would feel like for all my friends to be graduating college when I am not yet. I never even considered it, and then all of a sudden it happened and it hit me. Everything that happened four years ago had real consequences. I am here, and that is coincidentally not where they also are. And I am honestly surprised by how much it sucks. After a short stint on my own, I’m back in my childhood home, I’m still working at a library, and I'm a year away from graduating. I know that I'm technically doing what I need to do. I have a full time job! I know I'm not a failure. I'm working on my book, and I'm in a very happy relationship. But I've realized that no matter how sure I am of what I'm doing, when everyone else is doing something decidedly different, my confidence waivers a bit. That's why it was probably, no, definitely a really good thing that I went on vacation last week.
On Monday morning Eli and I left for Portland, Maine, with a whole list of stops to hit along the six hour drive. Places we’d been before, places we’d always wanted to go. Being the very strict planners we are, we had an hour-by-hour plan. Depart at 6 am. 9 am- stop at Superior Merchandise Company in Troy, NY for breakfast. 10 am- stop at Six Depot Roastery Cafe in Massachusetts because a lovely girl who has stopped into Peaks a few times works there. 12:30 pm- stop in Salem, Masacchusets at a shop called HausWitch, which I follow on Instagram and really wanted to visit. 3 pm- arrive in Portland. Our plan was deterred a little bit, as we left a little later and arrived a little earlier at the first stop. We hit Six Depot and Eli and I actually got to tour the roastery, and then decided to sit and eat because the menu looked amazing. We left with a few lovely “on the house” things, and were just filled to the brim with the kindness of strangers. We made it to Salem by 1:30, and didn’t take too long in the shop. I actually found an amazing moon pillow that (lame as it sounds) I’ve been wanting forever. I grabbed a couple of crystals there as well, along with an adorable camp mug. We got some classic New England clam chowder next door because duh, New England, and then we got back on the road.
By the time we arrived in Portland, we were beat. We hadn’t even known we were beat, because we were so busy following the schedule. But when we actually sat down for a minute, we realized we were dead. Then I started to lose my voice. And my ears had been popping the whole drive, so not only could I barely hear Eli when he spoke to me in WholeFoods and asked me what we should get, I couldn’t reply either. This did not result in emotional stability on my part. We eventually made it home in one piece, made dinner, watched The Office, and fell asleep. When I woke up at 3:30 am, my voice was almost completely gone and my throat was on fire. Eli and I drank multiple cups of tea at 4 am, and listened to an audiobook for almost an hour before finally going back to bed.
On this trip I learned something kind of embarrassing about myself. I think the same things on vacation as I do when I’m home.
“Am I doing enough?” / “Is this okay?” / “Why do my legs hurt?”
On day 4 of our trip, it was sweltering hot. We didn’t have air conditioning in our place, and we didn’t really have any place we wanted to go. I was bothered by the heat, and by my inexplicably sore legs, but I was okay. Eli kept looking at me and asking, “Are you okay? I can’t figure out your demeanor.” And then, “Is it just that you’re calm? Is this calm Fran? I never get to see her so I don’t know…haha just kidding.” But I have no idea. Usually when I’m quiet it’s because I’m sad. I’m never just quiet and calm and happy. We are always having great debates or conversations. What am I like when I’m quiet and at peace?
We made a serious, conscious effort on our vacation to figure that out, and slow the hell down. But I’m going to be honest, it was not easy for us. We love schedules. We don’t know how to relax. On Tuesday we woke up and we did random thing after random thing until we had filled an entire day with things that seemed cool and turns out, the day was cool. We are both people who often think “What SHOULD we be doing?” We fill our day with shoulds instead of giving into our natural desires, and then we wonder why we feel like sh*t. This week we made an effort to just do what makes us happy. We spent that morning on the rocks by the beach. We went to a coffee shop, and I sat there and finally, finally, FINALLY, dove back into my book. Maybe it was the sunlight or the beautiful decor or the fact that I had absolutely no ties at all to this place, but I found myself back in the world of my story, with actual words to write and new ideas and things to say. When I finally came out of it, we got lunch. Then we rested. We went out to dinner, and explored a few tide pools before returning to bed.
The whole week, I kept puzzling over that day in the coffee shop. How was I going to do this again when I got home? How could I recreate the atmosphere of that place, a place that asked nothing of me, had no expectations or nostalgia or memories attached? How was I going to find another place where I could just sit in the sun and not worry and let the words flow out of me?
And all the while the words my mom kept saying to me after the car accident four years ago, whenever I’d have an existential crisis about what I was doing, floated around in my mind. “You’re working at the library, you’re taking classes, and you’re doing your thing.” That’s still true, and it always gave me comfort when she said it. Until now, when Eli would say those exact same words to me without knowing he’s parroting my mother, it wouldn't give me as much relief. Probably because I always have an endless list of things to do in my head, so it never feels like I've accomplished anything. It certainly never feels like I can just sit by the ocean and stare blankly and do nothing. But last week, I had no other choice.
Since coming home from Portland, things are a lot clearer. It's almost like it took a week of doing nothing for me to realize what it is I actually want to spend my time on. Those things are as follows: finding a new apartment, doing cool business things with oils, writing blog posts, writing my book and making vlogs about said book writing.
These places we’re in, they’re all just stops along the way. Graduating college, writing in coffee shops, doing absolutely nothing on a beach with an incredible number of dogs. Right now, I see very clearly where I am, and how I got to be here. And I see how it’s not all that different from where I was four years ago, but at the same time ENTIRELY different. I feel, again, like all my friends are moving on. But that’s not fair, because I am too. I’m a big girl with a big girl job and a big girl committed relationship. Just because I don’t yet have a big girl degree doesn’t mean I’m not an adult.
My hair is very different than it was four years ago. But thankfully, so is my life. I am much happier today than I was when I graduated high school. I cannot say that I am happier than I’ve ever been. But I’m happier than I was. I’m glad I chose the pace I did with school, because it’s enabled me to do things like write a book, or make a web series. This is where I’m at. A girl with pink hair and a cool coffee roasting boyfriend, just looking for a place to write her book without worries. If you find one, let me know. (Portland came pretty damn close to perfect.)