Moody, acoustic music? Check. Coffee? Check. Mini vacation inspiration? Check, check. Ah, must be time to write.
I love South Bend. It’s about two hours north of where I am currently living, yet it feels a world away. While I am keeping an eye out for my next international adventure, I am thoroughly enjoying exploring different parts of the country. I often am focused on wanting to get out of the country for travel. I think there is much to be learned from other cultures and there is always something beautiful about exploring another country. I also think there is something to be said about packing up the car and, in my case the pup, and driving a few hours to explore somewhere new. Heck, every weekend I’m desperately trying to explore anything outside of my extremely small town. This girl was not meant to be in a small town.
I also like the way getting out of town makes me feel as though I can leave everything at home and just strip myself of my cares. Elwood Dani and South Bend Dani are two different gals. I don’t know what it is about adventuring and exploring somewhere new and the ways in which it inspires me, but I’m quite addicted to it. Each new place I’m at I find a coffee shop and a dive bar. I found a great coffee shop yesterday and am hoping to find some janky dive bar tonight on my last night in town.
When I first set out on this travel therapy adventure, my friend, Lindsey, told me it was an opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be. I could rewrite myself. I could become whoever I want. Funnily enough, this is not where I thought this post was going when I entitled it, Who Am I? Oh well, we’re rolling with it, people. I think who I am continues to just evolve and take a shape I never expected. My other friend, Lindsay, met up with Maddy and me during my summer visit to Southern California. I was telling her of my adventures and she had expressed that she never thought I would be like this. It still surprises me sometimes, the fact that this is my life. The uncertainty is something I used to think terrified me, but now I realize it’s what excites me most. I plan and I plan well. Well, I used to plan. Now, I feel like I just live.
My response when people ask what’s next is typically something along the lines of, “I don’t know. Every time I plan, God has a way of smacking me upside the head and showing me that’s not it. So I’m done planning.” I had a friend tell me I could still plan, I just had to be open to what God might have in store. Nope. I don’t function in such a way. I am either full-on planning or full-on winging it. Right now? I’m winging it. Right now? I’m going all in to not knowing what the hell is next. Who am I to plan?
Another friend of mine said, “Maybe now is the time for you to be single.” As I let that statement sink in, I found I disliked it more and more. I understood what she meant but found myself wondering what exactly it entailed. Yup, right now is the time to be single because, well, I am. I think so often we, with good intentions, feel as though it is one end of the spectrum or the other. We try to guard our hearts by saying now is the time to “love myself”. It is we are either content in being single or actively seeking love. Might I make a suggestion, millennials? We can be content with ourselves and still desire companionship. We can embrace all the beautiful things about being single and still be open to the next handsome stranger that walks into the wine bar or coffee shop we find ourselves in.
As I embrace Lindsey’s advice and take the shape of whatever woman I want to be, I find myself taking pride in my independence and taste for adventure. I am embracing my desire to travel on my own and explore all this world has to offer, with or without a human companion. It feels like I am, at 27, watching pieces of me I never knew existed falling perfectly into the parts of me I always felt were missing. I’m finding I can be content in solidarity while still keeping the (mildly cynical) hopeless romantic in me alive. I can be whatever the hell I want to be and I don’t have to plan.
Actually, I lied. I can plan. I do plan. I plan to be happy, to love others well. I plan to live my life well because that in itself is a blessing. I plan to dive into my talents and push back against the fear that may arise in doing so. I plan to smile and crinkle my nose with laughter as I sip coffee in a new spot or find myself in a captivating conversation with a stranger. I plan to embrace all this time has to offer.
The other day, someone told me, “I love your sense of adventure.” I don’t think they knew how profound that was to me, but that day after work I drove home crying happy tears with those words on repeat in my mind. I smiled, thinking to myself, you did it, Dani. You’ve created your own story.
Now, what’s next in the story is something we shall find out soon. I am diligently working with the greatest recruiter around to try to figure out what’s next. My stepmom, Kathleen, has suggested I do an “assignment reveal” announcement, much like people do gender reveal parties. While it sounds entertaining, I think I’ll stick to writing about it. Any guesses as to what’s next? I have a pretty good idea but my lips are sealed until it’s for certain.