The wind blew like an angel’s whisper: a gentle breeze, yet strong and wise. The Bay water lightly meandered south as I felt the sun pumping through the glass window I rested my head against. The image I saw through the pane as the bus rolled to a stop took my breath away. I stepped onto the gravel with my size eight flats, nude-colored and tiny, contrasting with the tall landmark before me. How could something so large and menacingly beautiful be before my small path of existence? But there it was. The Bridge. A bridge is a simple thing: a structure that carries a road across a river. Its only purpose is for going, going, going: traveling across, traveling toward, and traveling away. Yet, I traveled 2,962 miles to it and toward it… 2,962 miles to see it, feel it, and embrace it. The Golden Gate Bridge. Two tall towers sit on either end. Their size seems diabolical, but their presence is angelic. The cables and wires pass through the towers; they fall and rise along with the skyline. They are thick and monstrous, but they divinely dance with the towers as one. And there it was: heaven standing before me in my size eight flats.
I am from a small town north of New York City where everyone knows your business, whether you would like them to or not (I am sure you’re thinking “classic” if you live somewhere similar). The basics of my life are as follows: mother, father, spoiled but not bratty only child, reserved personality with slight insecurities, a two-bedroom house on half an acre of land with a swing set, a garden to walk through in the summer time (bleeding hearts were my favorite), family parties at Christmas, and one of ninety scared-shitless students at high school graduation. The underlying characteristics of my soul and my heart, of the WOMAN that was waiting to come out, looked nothing like this, however.
I didn’t make the discovery of this “other woman” until the winter of 2014. I guess I always knew she was there; she peeked out from time to time, starting discussions with dad about traveling and how there HAS to be more to this world than small-town gossip and fields of corn/pumpkins/wheat (I am rolling my eyes right now at the thought). Don’t get me wrong: I love the country, especially in the fall when leaves are changing and the perfect outfit is an oversized sweater paired with tall boots. But I just always felt like something was missing from that life. It felt do incomplete to me.
In the winter of 2014, I was looming toward the end of graduate school and I quite honestly wasn’t sure what I would do with myself. So I started talking about taking a solo trip to San Francisco. I had ached to go there since I was a child, watching reruns of Charmed and Full House, excitedly waiting for the panoramic views of The Golden Gate Bridge. It looked like the most beautiful thing and I promised myself I would see it someday. Several people had nothing positive to say about it: “Are you sure you can do it by yourself?” “Maybe you should try somewhere closer first, instead of across the country.” I felt defeated, scared, and insecure. But mostly I felt confused. I know I can do this, so why does everyone else doubt me?
The new year came and my list of goals for the next 12 months sat before me one morning as I sipped my hot chocolate in bed. I stared at only two of them all morning:
Goal 9: Go on a solo trip.
Goal 15: Go to San Francisco.
The flight was booked less than an hour later.
So why? Why travel across the country, the continent, or the world by yourself? Why is it so important? Everyone has different reasons. I can tell you that I truly feel I found myself on that trip. I became a completely new human being. I still have a mother and a father, still talk too much (one of those slight insecurities I was telling you about), and still ache sometimes for the girl that sat on the path of the garden and grazed the bleeding hearts gently with her fingertips.
But I DO NOT let other people’s opinions get me down. I do not question or doubt the things I want for my life or my future. I will stand by myself, my wants, and my needs until the day I die (sometimes no matter what it costs me). I did not have that confidence, fierceness, and bravery before I got lost in the City by the Bay. And I think, quite simply, I found these parts of myself because I did something that very few people thought I could do. I figured out who I was separate from being a daughter, a friend, a fiancé, or an only child. For those three days, I was just Alex.
Since then, I have never once looked back on who I used to be. The reserved girl that was never quite sure of herself will always be there; I will always deeply appreciate her. But I am ready to challenge myself, to work hard, to travel, and to achieve. I have new goals and new dreams. I just accepted a job as an Educational Director at a private preschool in Brooklyn (and if you were to tell that girl back then she would be doing this, she would nervously laugh and change the subject). I have a list of solo trips planned (Seattle, Chicago, London) and once those places are crossed off, I will find new places to get lost in, new places to remind myself of who I am, just in case I forget.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”