September 14, 2015

The day I turned 49

I had been given notice.

Your life will never be the same.

That's what my new boss said. Those words. Your life will never be the same.

I tried to nonchalantly nod and act like it was cool, but the fact was, he was right. I'm not sure he knew all the reasons, but that's not important. He knew, traveling would change my life.

I've always had a restless soul. I fancied myself a bon vivant, melding into places around the world and absorbing the culture like a sponge. Yet, while 48 years of life had taken me many places, all of them were familiar. I'd moved around a number of times, attended three high schools, and seen a lot of places. I never had to experience a different language or currency. Small changes, but I wasn't familiar.

I've spent a lifetime processing my world with words. I've imagined the places I could go and the people I wanted to meet. I felt it.

The morning of my 49th birthday, I woke up along the Danube River in Austria. Our port was a little town of less than 900 residents. We had two hours there, but I had hoped to jump on a bicycle and ride 32 km to the next port. Alas, that trip was canceled, so instead I hopped on the ship, imagining my legs instead of the ship were carrying me to the next destination.

When I walked into the small town of Durnstein, I wandered the cobblestone streets and peeked in yards. I talked to people pushing wheelbarrows up their path to work in their yard and admired their handiwork. I pretended I was one of them. I got separated from my group and took a few moments to reflect. I walked along the shore and picked up a few polished river stones. I wrote the date in the sand along the bank.




I've never tried to obsess over numbers. But as my nest shrunk and my baby birds flew from the nest, I felt the sinking weight of age settling over my soul. I wondered what was next and couldn't imagine.

I wrote my soul on the screen, spilled my heart to the electronic world. I tried to make sense of a world one letter at a time. I used all 26 as often as possible. And somehow, it was noticed. I never stopped trying to find ways to work or use my talent for words. It was noticed. I was offered a job as content creator and social media manager for a travel group. Part of my compensation is travel.

I spent a week waking up in strange cities, with strange customs and unfamiliar languages. I paid attention and asked questions and made friends. I learned about my surroundings and did my best not to be an ugly tourist. I decided as I left the cruise to look up the way to say "Thank you for taking such good care of us" in the native language of all of the staff helped make our trip wonderful. My Romanian and Hungarian friends were delighted. I just told them they did so much to help me feel comfortable in my language, the least I could do was thank them in theirs.

The world isn't as big as it felt. I cannot wait to see more.

It's pretty cool. No, it's very cool. My boss was right. My life will never be the same.




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