I took some time off of work a couple years ago because my mental health was collapsing, I had worked nonstop for almost two years during the pandemic, never taking vacation or sick time, and that lack of self-care caught up to me. During this time, I took a road trip by myself to visit friends and spend some much needed time on my own. I came home refreshed and feeling much more like myself. These yearly solo trips have become a necessary and wonderful part of my life. This year’s trip was a little different – my best friend planned a reunion of old friends, so I made it a part of the trip this year, and I’m so happy that I got to meet up with this entourage of amazing women.
I packed up and actually left my house at 5am to make it to Knoxville for dinner, where I visited friends I hadn’t seen since in over 10 years. I spent a few days there, where we enjoyed time together over a weekend where we reconnected and made some wonderful memories. These women, let me tell you, have lived a LOT of life. Love, tremendous loss, tremendous success – all with grace unmatched. These women are scientists, teachers, health professionals, business executives, artists. As well as loving partners, moms to beautiful (grown!) kids, and all of them are divine human beings.
I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with my bestie in the last few years, for obvious reason, so we had a blast being in the same space for a few days. For the last 25+ years, this woman has been my rock – her super power is being able to make anyone feel like the most important person in the room. It’s truly a work of art to see her work a party. She never leaves any place without making a new friend. May we all have a friend like this, who lifts us up and makes sure we check out own shit at the door. Someone adeptly observed while we were there, that she is the yin to my yang. We are such different people, but somehow we are drawn to each other and I love this person with my whole heart.
I explored Knoxville for a couple of days, including having to get a rattle checked out on my car (what would a road trip be without a little rattling?). My car was fine – just needed a bolt. I went and peaked at the old houses we lived in when we lived there a million years ago (it seems!). Nothing has changed, but it’s all different. I had lunch with some of my work crew, these folks saved me when we were ‘yankees’ living in the South 15 years ago. They took me in, and not only did I grow professionally, I gained a new family. They watched me get married and have 2 kids, all in a span of 3 years. Never underestimate finding your people in a place where you never thought you would!
I took a drive up to Smoky Mountain National Park for a day, and drove the full loop at Cades Cove. The light that day was spectacular. I saw at least ten bear on my trip through the loop, there were so many photographers out there with their giant zoom lenses. I was just there to enjoy the scenery. This place is magical. Since it was early Spring, there weren’t a million people packed into the campgrounds yet, so getting in and out of the park was really easy on this week day.
Next, I headed north to West Virginia for a couple days to visit with my dear friend from college. Even though all of us couldn’t get together and play cards like we wanted to, the two of us spent a weekend catching up on our lives, eating great food and enjoying some real down time. This woman is also one of those people you want in your corner in life. Even though we grew up in wildly differently places, we come from similar families – we were both first generation college grads, so we were drawn to each other those first days of being at a big name university where we didn’t quite fit in with the typical student that attended. We both made it out alive, with degrees, and holy lord, am I glad she is still in my life. Euchre partners for life. My smart, funny, sarcastic-as-hell friend who will always show up for those she loves.
As I drove home, I reflected on how important these connections are and how much I missed connection with these friends over the last few years. It’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routines and forget about the people who have made us who we are today. Reconnecting with old friends reminds me of how far we’ve come, and how important it is to honor those important people in our lives. Getting some solitude and some real interaction with people who love me deeply, will keep me going for another year as I head back into my busy life. Go take your own road trip, go find those people who love you.
Finally, thank you to all of these profoundly magic people I am fortunate to call friends.