Monday, April 16, 2007

road trip

Husband, Trout, and I drove to L.ittle R.ock this weekend for a friend's wedding. Other than Texas, this is where I always thought I'd end up. In fact, there was a time where it was much more likely and certain that I would move back to LR and not Texas. But things change. You meet someone in a bar who's from Missouri, who's family is in Missouri, who's job is in Missouri. And all of a sudden, LR isn't where you call home and most likely never will be.

I'm fond of this town. And of Arkansas. I lived in Arkansas for four years while I was in college, and spent two of the summers living/working in LR. I also spent alot of time going out in LR (we lived only 30 minutes away in college) and I worked at an internship in LR during three years of college - so I was there a lot. I've been back to visit quite a bit - not so much in the last few years unless we've had a wedding or party of some other event, but before I met Husband, I was going back to LR on a fairly regular basis to see my college friends, my then-boyfriend (who later became my ex-boyfriend), and just to get back to a place that felt like home.

It still feels like home - as we drive into the city, I almost feel myself getting lighter. My mind clears, and I feel so happy seeing all these places that are mine. I think that's why I love LR and Texas so much - in a sense, everything there belongs to me. Here, in StL, there is very little that is just me. It's all either Husband's, because he grew up here, or ours, because I've only been here with him. It's his memories that are around us all the time - his friends, his stories, his old hangouts, his ex-girlfriends, his town. Or it's our memories - our first date, our first house, our town.

But I go back to LR, and it's my friends, my memories, my old job, my old apartment, my old hang-outs, my favorite restaurants. It's the places I went when I was trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be with. It's the places that somehow contributed to me ending up where I am now - in a life I very much like - and thus places that have significant importance and nostalgia for me. And sometimes, when I get caught up in a rut of being me now, I long for the time when things were less serious, has less depending on them, and when I was more free. And I miss the people that know my stories and know how I got to where I am. These people are the ones that know how much I love and value and treasure my current life, not because I tell them or because I act like it everyday, but because they saw me before and knew what it took to get here. I don't have to explain things to them - and they don't to me. I know their stories too.

We drive by the minor league baseball stadium and I remember the night I went there with friends for a game, and I was walking to get beer and hear my name called out. I turn around, and my college boyfriend, who I dated for two years, was sitting there on a date. We had only broken up a few months earlier (and it was hard), and I'd only seen him once or twice since then, and seeing him then, on a date, just left me speechless and frozen - I couldn't move. I don't know how long I stood there, until all of a sudden, one of my guy friends came running up to me, threw his arms around me, and proceeded to drag me a way, all the while holding my hand and making it look very much like we were together. For some reason, that was the turning point where I got back on with my life after our breakup - I realized in those moments standing there that I didn't like this guy, didn't like what he did to me, didn't like how he made me feel, didn't like how he had monopolized me when we were together, and that I much more enjoyed being with my friends and being myself. And after that, I knew I would never again give a guy so much power over me - that I would never again ignore my friends for a guy, or ignore myself for a guy. Especially not a guy that was so wrong for me.

We pass by the hospital where I spent most of my college free time and summers working - this is the place that introduced me to research, and more specifically, research with children who had chronic illnesses. This would become my passion and led me to graduate school. Even thought I eventually left my graduate program, I will always be in a field where I am able to work with children who have chronic medical and psychological disorders. I will always be involved with my local Children's Hos.pital, in some way, and research will always be my passion and my way of explaining the world and looking for answers. I owe all this to the time I spent at the hospital in LR and the people that mentored me there.

We drive towards our hotel, and in doing so, pass the area where my ex-boyfriend lived (the one I dated my senior year of college and my first year of grad school, plus some on and off time after that). I see his old apartments through the trees, and I remember the night, shortly before I left for grad school, where he made me dinner - nothing fancy about the dinner, although I could still tell you everything we ate and I can still remember how good it tasted - but we sat outside on his porch overlooking the trees, with a cd playing in his apartment - James Taylor Greatest Hits - and I remember feeling so peaceful, so happy, so complete. But at the same time - it was so bittersweet. We only had a few more weeks together, and I knew then that this was not the right guy for me, that even if we had good intentions for what would happen to our relationship after I left town, we were not going to last. He didn't want to make the sacrifices it would take for us to keep going, and although I wished I could be the kind of woman that would throw everything out the window for love, I just couldn't for him. We tried our best, but it just didn't happen. Eventually, a few years later, I would make similar sacrifices for another guy, but this guy was the right guy (and he did become my husband) and he was willing to make sacrifices for me and to choose me first. And the reason I knew that the man who would become my husband was the right guy to make those sacrifices for was because of that night on the porch- I was so in love and felt so loved and so enjoyed being with my now-ex-boyfriend, but it still wasn't everything. And I think that's how I knew when I did find the right one.

Many, many of my memories in this town are related to this guy. I could go on and on with stories and good thoughts of the time we had together and the things we did together. And when I'm back in LR, I do often think about him and remember what our life was like together. He expanded my horizons and gave me so much - he introduced me to foods I had never thought to eat and now love (sushi), he introduced me to some of the music and artists that I couldn't have made it through the last few years without (Lucinda Williams, James Taylor, Tara MacLean, Charlie Mars Band, Eva Cassidy), he taught me how to relax and remember to take time to just do nothing, he gave me my first cat, he forced me to learn football and the ins and outs of the game - which resulted in me becoming a great fantasy football player, and later, after we broke up, it was his memory and the trying to forget him that led me to run my first (and only) marathon. There's so much more - too much to write down - but it all comes back to me when I'm in LR. And I love remembering all this - not so much because I miss this guy and want to be with him - but rather because I love the person I am now because of all these experiences. And I love that it is this person that attracted my husband and brought him to me. So I am very, very grateful.

I usually take some time on the drive home to remember some of the things that went wrong with this guy, and why we aren't still together, because otherwise I think it would be too easy to "romanticize" the memories of him and think that it was all just so wonderful. And there are lots of good reasons why we aren't together and why he wasn't the right one for me, but even in remembering those stories, I see pieces of who I've become.

And then we get back home - to the place that may not have my past or all my stories - but does have the hope of what will come. And there are so many good memories here, too. But every so often it is good for my soul to remember how I got here.

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