You ever take a leap into a part of life you never thought you would? Like so much that the jump you’ve made has you both excited and, yet, terrified all at once? That’s me. I’m dropping aimlessly from the ledge I jumped off.
You have to understand something about me first before I tell you about this crazy leap I’ve taken.
You see summer is the time of year us teacher folk look forward to. Life slows down a little bit. We can do things or we can not do things. It’s up to us. Our structured schedule gets a little respite. Netflix, sleeping in, playing video games, reading ALL the books—we’ve earned the right to be a little lazy. Sure, we still have some meetings to attend or planning to do, but it’s not as rigorous.
Personally, my summer has been lazy and low-key and, trust me, I’m 100% okay with that. This past year of teaching was, perhaps, one of my most difficult years. Ever. It broke me in ways I didn’t expect. Last year I was juggling way too much. No, really. I was. Here’s what I was doing:
- Planning/Teaching/Grading four different preps across two grades—7th and 8th English
- Taking multiple grad courses online for my Master’s in English and Creative Writing. Lots of reading. Tons of writing.
- Planning, promoting, organizing, and directing the middle school’s production of The Lion King Jr. which had nearly 100 students involved. Long hours after school. Lots of demands.
- Trying to take care of myself.
But that last one? It didn’t work out very well for me. Actually, I broke and I broke hard. One of my best friends always says to me, “It’s all about balance.” He will also tell you that balance is not something I’m particularly great at. You see, when you spread yourself so thin that you can’t even take care of yourself and/or do what you want to do, consequences will be paid. It came at a high price.
I entered a fierce war with both depression and high anxiety. I was a walking human (or not so human) shell. Most days I’d go through the motions at work, but then there’d be days I’d shut down and withdraw around my peers/team because I’d spent all the energy I had into the kids in my classroom and drama program. It was easier to cocoon myself. And it turned me into a soulless jerk at times.
When I’d go home, I’d sit on the couch and stare at the wall for hours and hours sometimes too depressed to even turn on the TV. I’d sleep. I’d do nothing, which actually fed into my high anxiety because then all the things I had to do weren’t getting done. It’s a vicious cycle. While it seems easy to tell somebody like to me to push through it, it’s not always that simple. It’s like a parasite, leeching off you, drawing out your very essence and power.
I wish I could say I was graceful in this battle, but, really, who is? With the help of my buddy, I agreed to see a therapist. It helped for a little bit, but depression is such a nasty monster. It adapted. It found other ways to bleed into my life, to cripple me, and suck me dry. Closer to the performance of the school musical, my teaching powers vanished. I lived at the school. My beard grew out, my hair became wild. I literally looked like a crazed mountain man. Really surprised the school didn’t call the police saying, “Um, yeah, so… this caveman has infiltrated one of our classrooms. Send help.”
When the consuming work of the musical ended, my depression still swung its fists. Understand that I adore my students, both in my classroom and in the drama club. I regret NONE of the time spent with them. They truly are wonderful kids, and, honestly, intuitive. Quite a few students regularly would ask if I was okay. I’d smile and say, “Of course!” but there were other days my patiences levels were so low it betrayed my struggle. And these kiddos endured and supported me and forgave me when I acknowledged moments I didn’t handle a situation correctly. Again, I love the kids I work with. And, so, I had to get better.
With both the suggestion of my therapist and a few of my closest friends, I looked into taking some medicine to help . I resisted at first, but that was only hurting myself. I was ashamed it’d come to this and for some reason the medicine seemed to be a physical icon, telling me I was weak. But depression is a crass liar. So, pushing past those lies, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least try. I’m glad I did.
I’ve been on anti-depressants since May, I decided to step down from directing the drama club at the school (a very hard decision), and I’m preparing to enter a school year where I can actually pour everything into teaching. Sure, I’ll be taking grad courses, but things will be much more manageable. This year will feel fresh. Different. Life-changing even.
But… this summer… something has been missing.
Don’t get me wrong. Reading the books I’ve been reading, watching the great shows on my TV, spending time with my doggo, and playing video games has been wonderful. But I haven’t gone anywhere.
So, what was I to do? What adventure awaited me?
Well, I got a new shiny story idea a few weeks ago. One that I am extremely excited to write and explore. I love meeting with the characters of this story, enjoying their company, their flaws, and their voices. I look forward to spending time with them. #WritersAreWeird.
And then I started planning the setting of my story last week and it was revealed to me that the setting to my new novel would be on the West Coast, specifically Northern California. One problem, though. I’ve never been there. How could I write realistically about a place I’ve never been? Sure, Google is a powerful ally, but experience is even greater. And sure finances are not my strong point. You know how some people should never get credit cards? Well, I’m the poster-child for that.
But there was something deep inside me demanding this adventure. And the yearning to go to Northern California has been wildly intense. I know how that sounds since this tug has only surfaced within the past week. But I just feel like this is something I have to do. Something that’ll be good for me. Something, personally, I won’t regret. Let’s not ask my bank account, though.
So, after some crazy and daring decisions, I board a plane to San Francisco in less than two weeks. By. Myself. I’ve never done a solo adventure trip like this.
From there, I’ll rent a car, drive on Highway 101, stopping to see whatever I want, exploring the majestic Redwood Forests, and then settling into Redding, CA where I’ll be primarily stationed. I didn’t know a thing about Redding a week and a half ago. So, you may be wondering, why there of all places?
I was drawn there by the call of the mysterious Mt. Shasta, which will play a key role in my new book idea. It’s perfect. Mt. Shasta has a ton of weird events and mythology surrounding it ranging from portals to other dimensions, to a mysterious underground crystal city called Telos where the ancient Lemurians are rumored to live, to people seeing mysterious figures roaming the area, to a haunted volcanic tunnel where a malevolent entity is rumored to reside. Also? Bigfoot sightings.
Fun fact: After I booked everything, I read an article that stated some people visit Mt. Shasta because they feel summoned there by the landmark and when they leave they feel changed. Weird, right? Not saying I’m buying into that. But could that explain my weird drive to explore it? Who knows. Mt. Shasta is full of stories to be unearthed and explored. It’s scary and exciting. Don’t worry. I plan to be smart. I’m not going to jump into a portal to another dimension (as tempting as it may be) or have lunch with a malevolent spirit (or, rather, become lunch), or lodge at an underground crystal city (even if it sounds beautiful). At least, none of these things will happen intentionally. I will be smart. I will keep in contact with people at home and my hostess in CA. But the possibilities are endless. So, this trip is screaming adventure.
I’m a lone traveler. Me and the world—okay, it’s just California, but it feels utterly magical. It’ll be my first time utilizing an Airbnb. My first time traveling to the West Coast alone. My first time hiking and exploring nature solo. I feel like this trip will be powerful, spiritual, and needed after the mental war I fought this past year. This trip will take me right up to the near-start of the school year. I’ll end summer with a bang exploring the unknown, researching for my book, and taking risks I may not normally take. I’m giddy just thinking about it.
But wait, there’s more!
I’m going to document it all. I have a traveler’s journal and pens sitting in my backpack. I’ve bought a few travel necessities, including a new backpack and hiking shoes. And I’m going to blog my adventure with words, pictures, and crazy sketches. The journey beings August 4th, and I’ll be updating my blog daily with my adventures. This is going to be a full-on experience. I’m going to remain mostly disconnected from social media and my phone (save for taking pictures). I’ve already disconnected from my Twitter and that already feels great. I just want to break away from society and immerse myself in a whole new world.
To embrace nature.
To face adventure.
To lose myself in creativity.
To grow wings and soar away from the ledge I jumped from.
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Featured Image credited to: https://www.backpacker.com/trips/americas-best-trail-towns-mt-shasta-ca