the comeback kid comes back

i have finally made it back to santa cruz, california, which i first visited exactly two years ago (i accidentally timed this trip perfectly, which i’m seeing as god letting me know they’ve got my back). this is the part of soultrip that i have been looking forward to the most.

santa cruz is the place of my dreams; i have missed it ever since i left. i wasn’t sure, though, until today how much of my love for this place was actually love for this place and not just my love for my best friend who i was visiting the first time i came here. i hadn’t seen her in years and it was overwhelmingly good to be with her again – you can see how those feelings would be easy to confuse for love of this town.

but as it turns out, i do love santa cruz!! like a whole lot!!! i took the ramp off highway one into town and found myself saying “i missed you i missed you i missed you” out loud over and over to this town that i knew for four days two years ago. i…am in love.

downtown santa cruz, the love of my life

i perused downtown some today, where i spent hours upon hours each evening during my last visit while my friend worked. the bookstores (it has TWO bookstores in only THREE BLOCKS) are every bit as beautiful and wonderful as i remember. the religion sections in them are ginormous and i remember crying over them the last time i was here because they have books about religions which are not christianity. that is decidedly not something that happens in the midwest.

i wanted to buy SO MANY books, but kept it to just the meaning of mary magdalene: discovering the woman at the heart of christianity by cynthia bourgeault, which i have wanted for weeks and weeks. i can finally close that amazon.com tab on the chrome app on my phone, leaving only the 75 other tabs open. (that’s a literal number, btw, not hyperbole.) i love mary magdalene so much and tomorrow i’m gonna read about her on the beach. life is the damnedest thing.

~|~

the everyday traveling part of soultrip is a week old today and i am potentially the happiest i have ever been. i’m so happy, in fact, that i don’t even have the, like, capacity to handle or process it. it’s hard not to let it be encroached on by the fact that this trip will eventually end though. i feel – meant for this in a way i didn’t expect and am unsure what to do with. traveling constantly is tiring, as is to be expected, but it invigorates me, too. it brings to life parts of me that were not being brought to life before.

maybe it’s less that i’m meant to be a vagabond as i’m good at it. i mean, obviously a week is hardly long enough to know whether it would work as a lifestyle (and i’m not sure it’s a lifestyle i would want, tbh; i like people too much not to get to build relationships with them) but as a hobby? i’m fantastic. i’m calm and confident, at ease with ever-changing situations and unfamiliarity. my frugality is an asset, as is my self-discipline (something i wouldn’t have even described myself as having under different circumstances, though i think it’s always been there). and i’m learning to assess my limits and react to them accordingly; i spent most of the past weekend curled up in a hotel room in lake havasu, arizona, working on writing projects for the fun of it.

that break was exactly what i wanted to do at the exact time i wanted to do it, which is the greatest luxury of this trip. the opportunity to do as i please when i please is intoxicating – and enlightening: this trip is showing me that my wants are worthy of being carried out simply because they are my wants. “i want to” is a good enough reason to do most anything, so long as it isn’t harming anybody.

it’s a lesson i really thought i’d already learned, but i think sometimes that the easiest things to know are also the easiest things to forget. i’ll admit though that that lesson remains hard to live out right now – i still feel this weird pressure to meet some unnamed somebody’s expections for how i choose to spend my time and where i choose to go on this trip. but i’m getting better at ignoring that and remembering that this trip is for me.

~|~

caffe pergolesi is a paradise

i’m sitting on the deck outside my favorite coffee shop in the world (caffe pergolesi, situated one block up from the main drag of santa cruz’s downtown) watching the sky become this captivating shade of deep blue. caffe pergolesi is housed in an old victorian home and merrily esconsced in foliage – the decks hold small trees and climbing vines and the yard is cornered by towering trees, including the palm tree which is my favorite. altogether, these things make the shop feel like a pocket universe for the well-caffeinated.

i had a huge crush on the barista who was working here when i came two years ago. she was tall and friendly and had tattoos on her calves and she remembered me each night which was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to me – i cannot, absolutely cannot talk to women i’m attracted to to save my queer little life. at the time, i’d only been acknowledging that i was bi for about a year, making me a baby queer. i am, in multiple ways, much older now than i was then. when i think about that ky it’s almost impossible to reconcile that she was 23 and i am only 25. it seems like there’s a lot more distance between the two of us than there is. i’m pleased with how 25-year-old me is doing, most especially because it led me back here – and alone this time, which was unthinkable back then.

before i left, i was wary of being alone on this trip – not so much because i had doubts about my ability to do the trip; traveling doesn’t scare me and neither, as it turns out, does solo traveling, momentary panic beforehand aside – but more because i expected to feel sad if left by myself and to discover that my mental health issues are even vaster and more overwhelming than i thought.

it has turned out to be the exact opposite. i love myself, i enjoy my own company, and i really am so fucking ecstatic to be on this trip that sometimes i can’t breathe. doing something that makes me this happy makes me really proud of myself, as well: look at me go fulfilling my dreams! i have so many positive emotions about and towards me right now that i’m fighting tears as i type. and i haven’t changed! i’m the same me who left central illinois two weeks ago. or – maybe i have changed, but mostly in that i recognize more of the good things in me than i did before. i feel settled in myself again.

as much as i would have loved to have company on this trip and would be enjoying company now if i had it, i definitely needed to do this on my own. i needed the reminder that i am capable of making good decisions and of doing so quickly and confidently with only myself to rely on. i am enough. i can trust myself. this trip proves that to me every day all day long. so those mental health issues i was worried about? entirely manageable. i mean, will i still need therapy when i get to seattle? you bet your ass. i have a lot to work on and it’s going to take work; it’ll be hard as shit. but honestly what isn’t?

and god knows if there’s one thing i’m good at, surviving’s it. i am a comeback kid.

~|~

if i have a hope for my life after this, it’s that i can figure out how to take all of the best parts of life on the road and transcribe them to fit life off the road. i want to always be confident and full of self-love and in the pursuit of adventure.

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