#RunningTo DAY 65: It’s amazing how something that was once so commonplace, so routine, so otherwise ordinary can become quite the opposite.
Tonight, I’m sitting at an old familiar window seat. Tonight, I’m writing at The Night Owl.
After sixty-five long days and nights on the road, I’m temporarily returning to a familiar though quite opposite life.
Two months ago, I set sail across North America. From the onset I always said “North America” or “the continent,” knowing full-well I’d be including Canada in my journeys. And yet people were nonetheless surprised to hear of my passage into the Great White Beyond.
They were even more surprised when they saw my trek winding back to Lady Pacific and the West Coast I was supposedly fleeing.
But you see, that’s the thing about this road trip: I’m not fleeing. This isn’t a running away; it’s a running to. Always has been, always will be. However long it lasts.
By its very definition, this trip always figured to return where it was birthed. Back to the very city and coffee shop and home of these last few years.
Back to the beginning again.
For the past sixty-five days, I’ve wondered whether it would be wise to return. Whether the four years of emotions deposited here were worth kicking up again before I took another breath and continued my trip eastward.
I could’ve skipped over this place. Could have easily cut across the desolate Nevadan desert en route to Coloradan mountains and the beckoning East.
But I didn’t want to be afraid of coming back. Returning.
And so, a couple days ago, I reentered town via the 57. The same freeway that initiated my trek to the Grand Canyon sixty-five days ago was the one that returned me home over two months later.
I’ll admit, it’s strange being back. It’s strange that a place can continue operating even after you leave.
Weary adults are still working their same old jobs. College students are still writing papers that never end. The homeless are pushing their same rickety carts down dark alley streets. The coffee shops continue pouring their sweet bean elixirs.
I used to frequent this place, The Night Owl, every Tuesday night. It was a weekly ritual that produced countless writing sessions and Internet getaways alike. I remember catching up on a lot of Daily Show episodes here. Lots of Jimmy Fallon clips too. He and Jon Stewart are amazing.
The first thing I notice as I walk the familiar trot to this homey shop is the sign advertising sandwiches. Sandwiches are now available at The Night Owl, good heavens, and that is only the beginning.
The barista is someone I’ve never seen in my life, hired within the past sixty-five days of summer. I know nothing of her, and she knows nothing of me or my year-long ritual at the lone window seat.
The Night Owl has continued existing in this city even though for the past sixty-five days, I have not. The friends I left behind have taken new jobs, found new friends, gotten engaged, and otherwise built upon their lives here while I continue roaming the continent, searching for my own.
I didn’t want to be afraid to return here, but I didn’t want to fall apart either.
Within a 24-hour period, I was hugging precious friends who welcomed me back into their homes, back into their lives as they listened to my crazy stories from the road.
It’s tempting to stay, you know. To put my still decent amount of savings toward a new living situation as I reconstruct a life with these people in the life I left long ago.
And yet the open road whispers more from me. I’ve conquered the West, but what of the rest?
I’ll admit feeling a bit emotional about this brief reunion, but I’m convinced that sometimes you have to return to the beginning before you can move forward. Recharge before you renew.
Sometimes, you have to rediscover your roots for the strength to climb higher branches.
You learn to be not afraid as you run back, and only then can you continue running to.