Six years ago today, a road sign changed my life.
I’d been struggling with a short story, and taken off for a long drive in order to sort my head out. Driving along the highway to the lake, I’d seen the sign for Texas 66. Which kicked off ideas in my mind of driving Route 66, a life long dream.
But of course, me being the me I was at the time, I told myself why I couldn’t take the trip. Family that needed me, not enough money, the length of time it would take me to drive the iconic highway. I had so many reasons why I couldn’t do it.
They were all excuses rooted in fear.
And then I realized that all the reasons I told myself I couldn’t go, they were bullshit. They had some merit: I did have three kids and a sick father, and money was tight. But there wasn’t enough weight behind them, and I looked at everything that was stopping me and realized that wasn’t why. I was why. And I was terrified to step outside of my comfort zone.
I woke up the morning after, with a very clear head, and a new drive to truly begin living, to step out of what I knew to be comfortable, to actually experience my life.
I drove Route 66 almost four years later, flying into Chicago the day before the Cubs home opener game, finally seeing Wrigley Field, another bucket list item I had long dreamed of completing. For the next sixteen days I drove the historic route and saw all the incredible landmarks.
But I digress.
June 29, 2012 was a day in which I finally realized that no matter what the goal is, the only thing stopping us is ourselves. The person I was when I woke up that morning is so far removed from who I am now, that it’s like looking at two different people.
In January 2013, coming up on my birthday, I had groaned to a friend that while I didn’t mind getting older, the lead up to my birthday always held bad news and bad memories. (I’d give you guys this list of birthday drama I’ve experienced, but you guys have better things to do, like maybe buying a certain multi colored haired author’s seventeenth poetry collection and reading it). My friend’s suggestion was to pick a new day, and celebrate that, calling it my rebirthday.
So, I took his advice, and the date I chose? June 29. Because in a very real way, that day was a new start for me.
A funny thing happened once I started celebrating June 29th as my rebirthday: my actual birthday stopped being so traumatic. The year I turned thirty-nine, nothing happened, with exception to me waiting for the other shoe to drop. When I woke up the morning after and realized I had finally had a birthday with no drama, no bad news, no heartache, I arched an eyebrow and wondered if it was done.
My fortieth birthday was amazing, and my birthday this last January was everything I could have wanted.
The thing is though, June 29th still deserves recognition, even if it’s just me saying “yay!!!!” and bouncing around. And whereas some people might not get it, or might think it’s stupid, I don’t care, because this is for me. This date means something to me, because I finally began to move forward with life, healing old hurts, finding forgiveness, and letting go of things that were hurting me.
Last year, I celebrated by publishing my twenty-fifth book, and having dinner with friends at one of my favorite local restaurants with my favorite bartender on staff. It was quiet and lovely, and just what I wanted.
This year? I’ve released my seventeenth poetry collection, and will be celebrating quietly, but with a great deal of joy. Because on that night six years ago, I finally let go of fear of stepping outside of my comfort zone. The experiences I have had over the last six years have been incredible, and in the past six years, I’ve lived life more than I had in the thirty-five years before it. Where I am now is nowhere near where I thought I would be when I envisioned life at forty-one. And I have no idea where I’ll be in five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now. I’m not focused on those future destinations, just focused on the journey to them, and living each moment fully present with joy and love.
It’s an amazing, beautiful life that I’ve made for myself.