Some kids collect stamps. I don’t know who these kids are but I think they’re all about 102 nowadays. When I was a kid, way back in the early eighties, I collected cabbage patch kids.
Somewhere around puberty I switched from wrinkly-butt dolls to postcards. I think this is where the first parts of who I am today began to show. This was the very beginning of a small fire that would grow steadily over the years.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
My Uncle travelled a lot for work. He went to exotic places like: Turkey! and Istanbul! and Egypt! I asked him to send me a postcard from every place he visited. I hold these postcards sacredly in a book marked, “Places I Will Go.”
I have made it to, possibly, two fistfuls of those places.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher
In college I sat on the floor in the house of girls I lived with reading the Atlas. Some college kids read the paper, others read their text-books. Back before the Internet was in every house, we used to read things on paper. PAPER, y’all. Remember paper? Anyway, we would be gathered in the living room, the four of us, each doing something different. Nearly always I would be the one spread on the floor with some sort of map, planning a lifetime’s worth of travels.
My roommate was also a traveling soul. She braved Europe just after college in the traditional “Backpack Across Europe” tour that every 22 year old should go on. I did not join her, though I ached to do so. I made a vow to myself that I would travel all of Europe when I had the money. The money was always the next corner away. “When I get this job.. when I pay off this debt.. when I own my car.. when the baby is older…” In essence, Life got in the way of Living.
The summer I did not take the Europe trip, I made a necklace of hemp (GO GO HIPPIE!) and placed a single charm on it: A globe. I wore this necklace until it frayed. Six years it stayed around my neck cultivating a nervous habit of spinning the globe subconsciously. I remember someone asking me once at my third summer beyond “that one that was not Europe” what my globe meant. “It’s a reminder,” I said twisting it in a circle, “that I will travel the world.”
We’ve talked about this “giving up of yourself for the good of now.” It’s been the topic of conversation for many years. I know Laura Ingram would say this. I know Billy Graham would. I know someone might write a song about it. Maybe they did.
I’ve said before that once you become a mother, your own personal aspirations need to be set aside. And I’ve done this. I’m proud to have done so. But a new way of thinking is bubbling and I’m wondering if maybe, maybe maybe, children can grow and flourish in my own happiness. That maybe, maybe maybe, the children can be just as excited about going to Germany as I am, or to England or Holland or Bhutan. And maybe, maybe maybe, if I’m in a place of happiness and not feeling like I’ve placed my own self on a shelf, maybe (maybe? maybe?) the children will grow in to that happiness. Perhaps, even, if I dare to say so, the children will cultivate an appreciation for how hard it is to find that happiness and when you find it, and I hope they find it, how necessary it is to grasp it with both hands and never let it go. My hope for them, if I can dare to dream, is to never have the need to spin the globe of wishes.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love