Two years ago today, I ran for my life. Sounds dramatic, right? But I did. On October 11, 2009, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I ran the marathon for my sanity, my health, and to prove to myself that I could do it… and maybe for a little bit of fun as well. I thought four months of intense training would work as a distraction.
Two years ago today, I was working in a job that I hated. Like so many other people in 2008, I was working in a not-my-first-choice job in a struggling economy. I may have been making good money but I was working with people who were unhappy in their own lives. I had a bright spot in my day here and there with a few of my more outlandish clients, but most of them left me wondering if I, too, would be that miserable in 20 years.
By October 2009, I was well into the planning stages of my 8 month trip. I had successfully run my first marathon, raised money for friends in Kenya to go to school, and was just 3-1/2 months away from stepping out and slamming the door in misery’s face. I may have let this date slip me by if it weren’t for the fact that my best friend just ran her first marathon 2 days ago. It made me reflect on my own experience and how I felt like I had conquered the world in those 26 miles.
I can’t believe two years has flown by that fast. I started to think about what has changed in these past two years. And the reality is, not a whole lot. Sure I’m unemployed. And poorer. And homeless (or as my best friend likes to call it, home-ful, because I have places to call home all over). But I still have my friends and my family (and my passport), and as cheesy as it sounds, what more do ya need?
These past two months, I’ve been traipsing across the US with a friend I met in Kenya last year, seeing as much I could and catching up with friends along the way. I can’t believe all of the ridiculously good times we had and how many amazing and gracious people we’ve met. Just last week I made two stops in San Francisco. I caught up with former co-workers from my internship in SF, stayed with two of my colleagues from my summer job in South Africa, met up with people from the travel community, and hung out with close friends. And it was nice. It was nice to be back in a city where I could see myself living and still feel like I had a sense of community there.
But I also got these phone calls this past week. Three to be exact. From South Africa. The first was from my kokwana, who can’t even speak English really but wanted to say Hello. And when we ran through the few English words she did know, she just laughed. And hooped and hollered. And it made me smile. She said a few things in Shangaan as my cousin in the background yelled the English translation: “She says she misses you!” And then I got a call from my cousins. And my homestay sisters. And they want to know when I’m coming back. And it reminds me of how much I miss Africa. Yes, I know it’s a gigantic continent, but I was happy in Kenya… and Malawi… and Botswana… and South Africa… and Rwanda. Every single day for the past year, I had a different opinion about what I wanted to do in the next few years. Move to Chicago. Go to San Francisco. Go back to Kenya. Find my happiness on Sugardaddy.com, or give up and just become a cat lady (okay that one was a joke). And now, I’ve just decided that I can do it all, so that’s what I’m working on.
Now the question is, how do I do it? How do I maintain my life in the US and not lose my sense of self that I found in Africa? I’m going to be an aunt in February. My friends are growing old, getting married, having babies… I don’t want to come back every eight months just to get an update over coffee or dinner. It’s uncertain how long I can maintain this lifestyle. And frankly, how much longer I want to. But the opportunity to travel and break free of unhappiness has been invaluable.