About a month ago I wrapped up an epic South island road trip with Jeff & David and woke up in Christchurch feeling very sad. Sad that it was over & sad that I was starting over again and sad that I didn’t have any food left. So, I decided to go to the beach, figuring if I was going to sulk I might as well work on my tan while doing so.
I packed my bag and threw on some SPF5000 because all those rumours about the NZ sun are true, and as I was walking I passed a house where this older woman was getting her mail. She looked at me and smiled and said hello.
I smiled and said hello back and continued walking – and immediately burst into tears.
It was weird and alarming and I was so thankful that I had sunglasses on my face.
But in that moment I felt so incredibly sad. And whenever I feel a little lonely or lost or a little anything, I always, always miss Grandma. Because she was so often the person I would call when I felt this way. Sometimes I’d call and we’d talk about real shit. Sometimes I’d call simply so, as lame as it sounds, the sound of her voice could ground me. Could remind me that life wasn’t actually that bad or that hard or that anything. I mean, look at her. She was just this little lady who woke up and read the paper and ate her breakfast and loved her family & friends. And here I was having a meltdown because what, I had a lot of work to do? My friend was mad at me? Sometimes I just needed to be juxtaposed with her simplicity to be reminded that I had so much. That I was healthy and happy and quite lucky, really. That I was absolutely fine.
In that moment when that lady kindly greeted me, I wanted to hear Grandma’s voice. I wanted to hear about what book she was reading or what movie she just watched. I wanted to tell her about how disgusting the kitchen was at this hostel and how it made me miss having my own home. I wanted to tell her how selfish I felt for being sad because (as I’ve said before), I’m so very aware of my life right now and very aware of how lucky I am that this is my life, but sometimes you still feel sad. And you don’t want to admit that because you feel stupid and guilty, but admitting it to her would be okay because I knew she wouldn’t judge me and would make me feel better instead. But I couldn’t tell her. And knowing that made me even sadder. So when I saw this woman who was the same age as my Grandma but wasn’t her, something broke. And I cried to the point that I wasn’t actually sure why I was crying anymore. I just felt sad, and I kept crying.
Missing people is hard. It is fucking shitty and sad and hard. But it’s also so, so beautiful. Missing someone. Like, what a weird feeling. To know someone that impacts your heart to the point that you physically miss them. You miss their voice and their face and the way they say something. You miss how they made you feel. The role they played in your life; the way they said your name or the way they laughed or the way they actually made you a better person. Like, can you imagine? Can you imagine having that impact on someone? Being so important to someone that they actually miss being around you and they aren’t just saying that because that’s what you’re supposed to say?
And then I started thinking about all the people I was actually missing (and not just saying that because that’s what you’re supposed to say), and it made me feel so happy instead of sad because like, fuck. I couldn’t believe how many people I genuinely missed. How many people I would have paid hundreds of dollars (not thousands. I mean, I love you guys but I’m on a budget, people) to have within arms reach for a day. And the best part was realizing who these people were. My family. Friends I had known since the third grade. Friends I had met literal weeks before who had done something weird with my heart and I just wished they were with me. And in a bizarre, unexplainable way I started feeling so over-the-moon happy. To the point that I started to laugh at myself.
Like, honestly most embarrassing walk of my life. Crying and laughing and talking to myself on the side of the road with my stupid backpack.
But I just felt so thankful in that moment. I suddenly felt so lucky to have a life with so many wonderful people in it. And it put everything into perspective for me.
Who cares that I was starting over again; that I had run out of food. My life was lovely. My backpack was stupid but I wasn’t. I was fine. I could be sad but I didn’t have to be. I could miss people when I needed to and sometimes that was a sad thing and sometimes that was a happy thing. I was in New Zealand. I was going to the beach. My shoulders were burnt, yes, but I was fine.
I wish I could explain this better. I wish I could put into words all of these things I felt. But in this moment what I felt so, so heavily was Grandma. The fact that she inspired this trip in the first place and continued to inspire it along the way. That if nothing else, perhaps my life was what it was so that I could have, quite simply, had her. Could have known her and become who I was in so many ways because of her. And that fact made me incredibly, unexplainably fine. It made me feel happy. It made me feel better. And it made me know that even when I’m standing at the side of the road crying because a stranger said hello to me, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
It made me know that missing people only means you’re lucky to have known them. That sadness is perhaps, only there to remind us of the good. Of the happy. Of the people we loved and the people we love.
In that moment, missing someone made me know that I am fine.