A Trip Full of Surprises
I like routines. I don’t especially like surprises. I am most comfortable when I know what is coming; how it is coming, when it is coming and from where it is coming. I have fondly and annoyingly shared the old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place” more times than I can remember when any of my children or my wife have been exasperated with my frustration over lost or misplaced things. If left untouched by others who have no concern for that famous saying and its intent, the item would not be lost.
My kids would scoff or laugh at me with little concern or remorse and say, “You are so OCD”. Putting the insensitivity of the insult to those who actually suffer with debilitating OCD aside, I am not sure that I have any degree of the affliction. I am not sure I would refer to it if I were confident that I did. I am not fond of labels. In thirty-seven years as an educator I have found them to be arbitrary, limiting and fairly useless. I would much rather talk about behaviors. Behaviors can be changed. Labels seem to stick forever provide excuses all around.
It is odd and ironic that as an educator I was a big picture person. It was my job to see the future and communicate a vision for what that future should look like. I was very comfortable creating visions and articulating them to others. I was actually pretty good at it. My professional responsibility would, on the surface, seem to be in conflict with my personal approach.
Personally, I have always struggled with mild anxiety when dealing with future events. If we were hosting an event at the house, I would run through things in my mind over and over. What should we serve? How much will we need? Where will people park? Where will they sit? Who should we invite? Who is not being invited and why? Often, my internal worrying and planning would be in conflict with my wife’s. I would be told not to worry or that she was doing it another way. The other way would illicit many more questions and more anxiety.
If we had plans to go to a concert. Days ahead I would worry about when we should leave; what route we should take; will there be parking; what are the seats going to be like. Any future event would be proceeded by a mild knot in the gut.
Professionally I would ask others to trust the vision and trust the process. I reveled in the process. The difference was that I had some control over the future. I had a good understanding of what would happen or what the options would be and how to react to each as they arose. In my personal life I did not.
Understanding all of this we have sold the house, purchased a thirty-eight foot fifth wheel and are setting out to see America. It sometimes feel like I am serving myself up into the belly of the beast. Talk about uncertainty. We are hooking up and unhooking 12,000 pounds of vehicle and stuff on a regular basis, travelling to places we have never been and the opportunities for things that could go wrong are endless. How did I willingly get to this point? No one put a gun to my head. A safer, calmer, more predictable route was always an option. We could spend the winters in a stationary domicile down south. Limit the anxiety to treks up and down interstate 95 a few times a year. We have done this before. It’s fairly recognizable.
We could have kept the house and went on periodic vacations. I have controlled that anxiety before.
Yet we have chosen the motherload of anxiety. A home on wheels; destination often unknown. The choice cannot be fully explained. I suppose age and mortality have played an undetermined role. Maybe the thought of too soon leaving this “mortal coil” calls for one last adventure. One last demonstration of life. Whatever the reason, the choice has been made and the actions have begun to unfold.
We started with small local jaunts and getting use to life in an RV. Did we take enough? Did we not take the right things? What will hooking up or unhooking be like tomorrow? What challenges will present themselves? The anxiety is a constant partner.
When I feel myself succumbing to the anxiety, and feel like it is getting the best of me, I revert back to an old trick that has worked in most cases, and that I have shared with students and colleagues in the past. Can you or will you die from this? If not, the problem can be solved and or survived. I am sure that I will find myself reminding myself of this quite often over the course of our travels. I guess I will really worry when the answer turns out to be yes. Until then I will manage and try not to lose sight of the opportunities to see things I have never seen, meet new and interesting people and continue to learn new things. If that is the definition of life, I will be busy living.