My first year teaching was nearly twenty years ago. That first February break, I went on a trip to Jamaica. I remember returning from that journey rested, rejuvenated and ready to get back to work. Perhaps it was the much needed February infusion of vitamin D into my sun deprived skin. Perhaps it was a week away with a girlfriend complete with waterfalls, giggles and afternoons on the sand. Perhaps it was the anticipation of travel that although coupled with sunburn and a funky reaction to some new fangled sunscreen those positive endorphins flowed and happy hormones increased. Whichever way you looked at it, that February trip was certainly something.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” – Mae West
That was 1998 and for the fifteen years that I taught, every February I looked forward to a tropical adventure. Each one was different than the next but there were constants I knew at the time and lessons I wouldn’t know till years later. It was only the other day that I chatted with a friend I met on one of those February escapes. As we tried to recount the decade long travel friendship and some of the myriad of adventures we’ve had together, something else popped up in conversation. It was more than the locations of the cruise ship and the names of those we traveled with on a Club Med excursion. It was more than ‘remember the time when’ and ‘which spot had the best guacamole’. And it was more than ‘do you believe it’s been this long’ and ‘which place did we go to in which year’.
In this fifteen plus year friendship, there were passport stamps and new discoveries, weekend adventures and vegetarian recipes, dating disasters and marriage insights, education discussions and new apartments, short excursions and a more travel driven lifestyle – but I realized in that time, those journeys, and the stories that there was more. The conversation ended with my friend’s words, ‘I smell a blog post coming’…how on earth did she know?
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark
In those middle decades of life, we learned more than waterskiing and how to make salsa in Mexico. We experienced more than the details of remembering to reapply sunscreen and that there’s something special about the seaside air in Martinique. And we found more than life partners, careers and homes. The remember whens had tales of random crushes, negative and positive people, energy sucking relationships, family angst, yoga trials, travel escapades, career questions and life sagas. Through it all, the undercurrent of growth and shifts of perspective were ever present.
Although we didn’t know it then, all of our experiences led us to where we are today. Today, we both view the world through more positive, mindful, hopeful and relaxed eyes. We’ve learned that often the anticipation of ‘ripping off the bandaid’ is far worse than the action itself. We’ve learned that it’s not selfish to treat ourselves the same way we’d treat others. We’ve learned that wellness needs to be on our minds everyday – not only for a week in February. We’ve learned that choosing positive, finding lessons, reflecting and changing the way we act didn’t happen overnight. Time and experience are both necessary for change. Learning to feel comfortable in your own skin, proud of your choices and that you matter takes work…but when you get there, if only for a minute, the payoff is magnificent.
“It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
We both consider ourselves lucky to have had those February experiences and many fun adventures in between. In the miles traveled, bottles of sunscreen used, avocados eaten and phone conversations shared – something has shifted. Call it growing up, finding balance, shifting focus, feeling mindful, or whatever you want…the point is, it’s happened. Through reminiscing of life’s adventures, we realized more. We saw:
- we all have the potential for change
- we all have what we need to grow
- choices matter, and they’re all choices
- we can’t change other people
- every relationship comes with its own struggles
- learning to respond more than react is a worthwhile challenge
- shifts in attitude and perspective are game changers
- positive eclipses negative every damn time
- perhaps things truly do happen for a reason
- we had to be where we were to get to where we are
If you’re lucky enough to have those friendships that have lasted more than five minutes, the shared past and experiences provide more than great memories and giggle-filled stories. Journey through those memories and you get to take a look at where you were then and where you are now. Traverse those stories of the time you drove to another state for lunch, face-planted on your first water skiing attempt, or thought exploring Manhattan on a minus twenty degree (Fahrenheit) day was a good idea (or whatever your memories hold) and you’ll find much more beneath the surface. Take a walk down memory lane and look deeper to discover the unfolding of your own personal journey. Notice, observe, roll your eyes, guffaw, cry…whether you know the reason or not, it all happened. Remember it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Who knew that much change and reflection could happen over countless bowls of guacamole?