Following my cousin’s wedding, I had to start my solo adventure back towards home. As I mentioned in Part I, the plan was for my parents to fly down in time for the wedding. If that had happened, we’d have followed the original itinerary of heading straight from Deltona, FL to Nashville, TN. An 11.5 hour drive, all in one shot. That wasn’t to be the case, however, as my mother was still in the ICU back in Warsaw.
I had started to work on a plan B as soon as it became apparent that my folks weren’t going to be flying down in time for the nuptials. I had called my Aunt and Uncle, whom I haven’t seen in over seven years, to see if I might be able to stop in. I had figured on just stopping by for coffee and hugs as a break on my way to Nashville. Quickly, it dawned on me – with limited funds, Nashville seemed like a silly idea all together. I’d be meeting my best friend there, sure! However, neither of us were over-the-moon at the idea of sight seeing and doing costly tours. Plus, the original plan was for Brandy to bring her daughter, Helen to Nashville to meet me for the first time. At one year old, I still hadn’t had the opportunity to meet my niece. Well, let’s just say that Helen has developed a strong disliking for the car and can only be soothed by Adele. So, you can’t really blame poor mama for not wanting to rock out to “Hello” for 4+ hours.
LIGHT BULB! What if I drove all the way to Illinois to visit Brandy at her home? We’d save on hotel and sight seeing tours, I’d get to meet Helen, and we’d be able to have a relaxing visit. I started to plug destinations in to my GPS and found that it would add about 2 hours of drive time to my overall trip. Worth it. The money we’d save by skipping Nashville was an obvious bonus, but meeting Helen was the closer I needed to make this the new plan-of-action! It still meant that I would miss the “Nashville City Cemetery Memorial Day 5k” that I’d signed up for, but overall I was happy with the new itinerary.
So, instead of stopping by for a quick “hello! Goodbye!” in Jasper, Georgia I decided to spend the night. It broke the trip up nicely, as I would drive 7.5 hours from Florida up to Aunt Chelle and Uncle Jim’s. Then it would be another 7.5 hour onward to Brandy’s. BUT WAIT…..my GPS took me from Jasper, Georgia to Mattoon, Illinois straight through NASHVILLE. As in, I’d be driving through the city that my 5k was in. So, I had another crazy idea. What if? What if I drove from Jasper to Nashville in time for the race, participated in the 5k, then hit the road again towards Mattoon? It seemed like an easy decision! I mean, I’d have to drive straight past the race anyways, it was too serendipitous to pass by.
There’s always a catch though – nothing can ever be that simple. The race started in Nashville at 7:30am. That meant that in order to make it in time for packet pick-up and the start, I’d have to leave my aunt and uncle’s house by 3:00am. Sometimes, I feel like there are people who just think I’m crazy. Ordinarily, I’d laugh and agree because being crazy can be a compliment. Not when it’s a judgement type of crazy that they mean though. It’s not meant in a “crazy/awesome” kind of way, and it can be hurtful. Here, again, I was met with almost a feeling of anxiety as I felt judged by those who don’t “get it.” I felt like I had to defend my plans and almost as though I had to keep them secret. I felt a little nervous even telling my family members that I’d be leaving the comfort of their home in the wee hours of the night just to go for a run. I got a lot of comments about how silly and stupid that was. I found myself censoring my facebook posts to avoid the critical glare of the world. Here’s the thing though –
- I actually really enjoy running and especially love races. It’s not a chore if you love it.
- I had not only paid the $35 fee to run in the race, but I’d also put time and energy into an Americana themed outfit for the “racer with the most patriotism” award. And I was RIDICULOUSLY excited to wear said outfit.
- I knew from my drive down to Florida that stopping to run was invigorating and could break up the 7.5 hour journey to Illinois nicely. — Drive 3.5 hours, run in my race, then hit the road for the last 4 hours.
- It would KILL me to drive through the city a few hours later, knowing I could’ve run in the race.
So, I made the choice to go through with it and at 3am I was on the road towards Nashville. I’m so glad I did it! My legs were heavy while I was running, my ankles and knees were swollen from spending so many hours confined to the car. I had a blast though! It wasn’t my fastest race, but it fulfilled that sense of adventure. The course took us through an historic cemetery with many peaks and valleys – both literal and figurative. It was exhilarating to literally be passing through a city and jump out to run with 100+ strangers. It helped to wake me up, just as I thought it would, and BONUS! I won first place in my age group and I won the patriotic award, or rather I co-won it with a little girl named Sophie who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old.
The one thing I really gained out of this trip was reconnecting with myself. I think, sometimes we just get used to our current situation and we forget to take a step outside our comfort zone – whatever that’s defined as at that particular time period. For me, I went from an incredibly independent world traveler, to sick and needing help with the most basic of life’s functions. I’ve gained back my physical strength and I thought most of my independence. I moved away from home to my ex-fiance’s town in Pennsylvania, then had the rug pulled out from under me again. That’s when I moved back to Warsaw and into my parents house just about a year ago. I’m so grateful that they’re willing to take me in, but I think in a lot of ways, it’s allowed me to be complacent in my current comfort zone. I’m stagnant and not moving forward with my life’s plan.
This trip reminded me of how good it feels to not have to ask permission. I didn’t need anyone to “ok” my decision to leave Georgia at 3am. I didn’t need to plead my case for stopping for a few hours in Nashville to run and wait for the awards ceremony. I got to dictate my own sense of adventure. And for me – that’s running and traveling. It reminded me of my bucket list and my life goals, and put me back in touch with who I am at the core. I’m a nomad, an explorer, a fiercely independent even stubborn woman who doesn’t take defeat. When something stands in the way of me and my plans, I figure out how to get over or around that wall. It’s reinvigorated me for living the life I envision for myself. I don’t need to be ruled by my circumstances, I AM THE AUTHOR OF MY OWN LIFE.
So, as silly as it may seem to some people that I would forfeit sleep for the opportunity to run a simple 5k – that race awoke the sleeping beast within. The voracious appetite for seeing the world and fulfilling my dreams has returned. Funny that I had to find it in a cemetery…running a race.