Okay so a lot has happened since I last updated this thing. I’ll do my best to hit the highlights so we can push on.
Over the last six months I have:
- Been in a car accident that almost killed me
- Traveled to Italy, Prague and Austria
- Buried my grandmother
- Sold everything I own
- Moved to California
I’ll touch on each of these individually so they don’t seem so ominous.
About six months ago, I wrote a short essay about my car accident. It talked about the seconds leading up to it, the weeks after, being poked and prodded by multiple doctors/specialists, etc. I never published it because I felt isolated and alone during that time and honestly I didn’t want people to know about it as it was transpiring… In summary, I was driving home from a work trip in Nashville. For reasons I’ll never know, I passed out behind the wheel on the interstate and crashed into the median ropes going 75 mph. I woke up to a truck driver asking if I was okay, calling an ambulance and telling me I’m lucky to be alive.
The months following the accident I wore (invasive) heart monitors 24 hours a day, I had more EKG’s then I will have in my entire life, I was in and out of doctors offices, specialists and even the emergency room. My blood pressure fell too low, I was told my heart beats too fast. All of this wondering and uncertainty resulted in severe anxiety and sleepless nights.
I couldn’t drive for a month. And I didn’t want to.
It has been determined that it was anxiety that most likely caused the blackout/accident. The back story leading up to this accident involves a lot of stress, self-doubt, unhappiness and the very scary crescendo of losing consciousness suddenly with my hands on the wheel. Oh, and the result was a totaled car that was practically brand new.
I was sent to Italy on a work trip and extended my time there to explore Prague and more importantly, meet my brother in Vienna and bury Omie’s ashes.
Italy, as usual, was a week filled with food, wine and very long days. I saw friends of mine I don’t see often and attended the world’s largest trade-show for ceramics and tile. I ate in small, dimly lit restaurants where you have to duck to get through the doorway—I rode through the hills with the window down and I walked along the Adriatic Sea. It felt like the end of summer.
My next stop was Prague. I didn’t stay long but I did stay in an old bohemian hotel with glass chandeliers and men who carry your bags to the door. I walked all over town— I found small alleyways that were hundreds of years old, I saw castle-like buildings, I drank beer in an outdoor garden and I listened to street music on every corner. It felt like the beginning of fall.
Austria (Vienna) was notably the most important part of my trip. By this point, I had been in Europe for 10 days already. I took a regional train from Prague to Vienna which was kind of miserable. There were no seats left and the train ride was roughly 4.5 hours. I sat on top of my suitcase in-between train cars the entire ride. At one point, I fell asleep on the floor curled up in a ball.
About the time the train arrived in Austria, I found a seat in one of the meal cars. I watched as we passed through the Austrian country-side, admitting to myself that I had finally made it. When I arrived at the central station, I decided to walk to my hotel rather than take another train. I walked for probably a mile with my luggage and stumbled on a park with old, beautiful buildings throughout. I started crying because to me, this place was unlike anywhere I had ever been. The sun was shining and a man was playing the violin. It’s where Omie was born, it’s where she grew up, received an education, made friends, went on dates, took walks in the park. It was her.
I had a few days in Vienna to explore and not to sound like a walking cliche (literally), but I spent a lot of time on foot listening to Mozart and eating food I’ve grown up loving. I walked inside cathedrals, I drank coffee and ate dessert, I visited museums where I saw Monet’s original work 5 feet from my face, I visited libraries.
Ryan arrived to Vienna by train and we tried our best to coordinate train times. I jumped on what I thought was the train he was on but he was nowhere to be found. At the next stop, I got out and ran a few cars down and jumped on before the whistle blew. I sat down and looked forward and there he was.
Over the course of the next few days, we listened to Billy Joel’s “Vienna” probably 100 times and that’s not even an exaggeration. (Ryan had it looping on his phone all day) I could write an entire essay about our time in Vienna and hell, maybe I will. But for now, all you need to know is that we drank coffee and ate Manner with our Austrian relatives— reminiscing about Omie. It was a casual, non-ceremonious kind of day and for that I’m grateful. We placed her ashes in our “aunt/uncle’s” backyard. Each of us took a turn placing dirt on her small grave.
After all this time, Omie had finally gone home.
Even though Ryan and I wouldn’t outwardly say it at the time, that day was tough for us. We spent that night sitting in a random dark tree house in the middle of downtown Vienna listening to music. It was cold, but not too cold. We didn’t really recap the events of that day, but it was an unspoken mutual feeling and being in that small tree house was a sense of comfort I desperately needed. I think we both did.
When I left Vienna, I had this sinking feeling of emptiness. The realization that I had just left behind the better part of myself behind in Austria became painfully evident. After almost a year of not having Omie physically present in my life, this was the final step of the process. The funeral gave me zero closure— and until this point the fact that she wasn’t here anymore had not resonated with me.
That feeling propelled me into a life overhaul.
Sold Everything I Own
When Omie died this time last year, my first inclination was to get rid of everything I own. At the time, I didn’t see the correlation, but I’m sure it was extremely obvious to anyone/everyone who was exposed to the situation. I was desperate to keep my mind busy and free myself of all these things that just existed around me. Many things around me started to seem futile and I sprung into action. Needless to say, this reaction wasn’t an unhealthy one per se.
Fast forward to a year later, I had seriously thinned out my personal belongings and rid myself of useless stuff. This fact proved to be a decent head start for when I decided to uproot my life/existence and move almost 3,000 miles away to Northern California. Instead, I decided to sell practically everything I owned (my bed, couch, table, plants, books, etc.) and only pack the important things, i.e. Omie’s possessions I had inherited, Russell, of course, and a few things in-between.
I mean, in an attempt not to be whimsical, (but come on) I was starting a new life after all! I had a new job that was accompanied by an entirely different way of living that I had been so desperate for.
I packed what I had left (which wasn’t much) and started my four-day long journey to California.
Moved to California
I’ll recap the road trip in a separate post (maybe) because it is its own story. But in short, I moved to California— Berkeley to be specific. I rented a small hobbit hole of an apartment with a patio area and garden. It’s filled with Christmas lights, lots of tea, records and books. It feels more like home than any other place I’ve ever lived. It has personality. I live within walking distance to a small grocery store, a pub, weekly farmers markets, yoga studios, etc. I can finally own a bike and have a place to ride it everyday. I can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of my street. It’s surreal.
I work at a small publishing company in Oakland that specializes in mental health and spirituality. I’m surrounded by open-minded, creative, kind people. I work 15 feet away from brother, Ryan and we eat lunch together almost everyday.
2018 was one of the worst years of my life. I’m glad it’s over.