October has been a month of anniversaries and milestones, and I’m not sure why they feel connected to me. Which means that the universe is telling me to write about them. So, here we go. Let’s see where we end up!
First, yesterday was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They’ve been married for 45 years. Not normally one to post personal things – or really anything – on Facebook, I uploaded my favorite picture of them and told my corner of the Internet that these fine people had something important to celebrate.
The comments and likes the post received spanned continents and lifetimes – from my mother’s maid of honor to my school chums to the people with whom we more or less lived during my two years in Annie, and even people who have never met them but who know well the child they raised. It felt like the party I couldn’t throw for them, the gift I’d never be able to find for them. A momentary tribute to two people who deserve so much more.
Two other anniversaries and a milestone occurred, fittingly for me, a couple weeks ago in a place I’d never been: Dublin, Ireland. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, I attended the Travel Bloggers’ Exchange, a twice-yearly conference of people with a shared passion expressed in wildly different ways across every conceivable medium. I’d been invited to speak at a workshop with three other travel writers – David Farley, Leif Pettersen, and Ernest White II.
I admire these men greatly, and over the years and the miles we’ve become friends of sorts, thanks to the Internet and a mutual admiration for skewed worldviews. By all accounts our session was a success, with the participants asking excellent questions and possessing a sincere respect for the written word that sadly sometimes seems to be lacking in the big, bad blogosphere. And because our session was the first of the conference, we were able to relax and have fun (and meet various work deadlines) the rest of the time.
While it is impossible to give an accurate assessment of a conference of over 600 people, I can say this: In sessions, parties, and sidebar chats the people I surrounded myself with were ambitious without being petty; secure in their ability without being smug; and passionate about their calling without being naive. In short, it was a joy and an honor to be included, vastly different and better organized than previous conferences, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Eleven years ago that same week – suddenly, stunningly, dramatically – I boarded a plane for Rome and started a new life. In the ensuing years I’ve found the love of my life, changed careers, learned two languages, and become respected enough for people to think I had something important to say on the matter. That this anniversary coincided with such a big milestone in my beloved career has made me immensely proud.
The other anniversary I was reminded of while in Dublin is a sad one – the death of my dear friend John. I think about him every day – my iPod home screen is a photo of him – but I normally feel his passing around his birthday in January, or the first Michigan football game of the season; not in October, when it actually happened. And although he is the man who introduced me to the glorious world of Irish pubs, I’d forgotten about his Irish heritage.
Until I hit the streets of Dublin, where I saw him eight, ten times a day. From 50 yards away I’d recognize his build, his gait, the tilt of his head, even the expression on his face. As he came closer he became a stranger every time, but for those few heart-stopping moments, as in a dream, I’d found him again, and everything I’d want to say to him would come rushing into my head – John! Look at where I am, what I’ve done, what I’m doing! Come with me, come celebrate it all with me!
These moments were overwhelming and powerful and magical, but they were not sad. Instead, I think they helped me see these other anniversaries and milestones as true celebrations of my past, my present, and a future I can’t wait to see unfold.