In the words of my great uncle, “I don’t know why on earth a young, single woman would decide to drive across the country by herself.” When I tell people what I’m doing, they either respond just like that or they say Go. This Is Right.
I don’t consider myself a stubborn person and I don’t tend to stick with things for too long, but once I got the idea in my head to drive from North Carolina to California alone this summer, I couldn’t let it go. I briefly thought about dropping it, realizing how much my friends kept me together this past year and dreading the idea of spending so much time alone. But I couldn’t shake the picture in my head of standing next to the Grand Canyon as a single 22-year-old, confused as hell and having gotten there all by myself. It feels like a 20-something version of learning to tie your shoes.
But so far – and by so far I mean halfway (!) (even though Austin is not truly halfway – I reach that somewhere in west Texas) – this is not the trip I expected at all. I am so deeply and clearly not alone, and I hope I’ll be able to rest on the first half of this trip when I get lonely during the rest. I got to see my dear friends Theron in Nashville (a gem of a city, world) and Alex in Memphis. I stayed with my mother’s cousin in Tyler, Texas, my grandmother’s childhood home, and have settled for the next few days in Austin with the Schneiders (a gem of a family, world). And in between these beautiful faces I have hardly been alone, switching between podcasts and new music I’ve picked up on the way.
I have been blessed, blessed, blessed, and not exactly in the way Margaret was describing blessed – “the Lord takes care of us,” but it’s not too far off. It has been so easy so far. Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas have welcomed me sweetly. Texas is a big lump of Jesus billboards and road-killed armadillos and farms stretching for miles, and while I’m only in love with one of those things, there is a certain comfort and familiarity that always surprises me when I’m here. Roots and blood and an intimate connection to the land.
I am quietly at peace a week into this, thankful now for sunshine and all the heat, as wild as it is. It’s still so much like home — the south peeling off for miles, even deep into Austin. I joked with Theron that children should only be raised east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason Dixon line, and while I’m not sure how honestly I mean that, there is something about this world of hot pavement and summer thunderstorms and extreme hospitality that dares to keep me close forever.