Chapter 9: Strength

Honestly it’s been a totally shit month. I’ve been sitting here wondering what I can possibly write about without airing dirty laundry and/or depressing anyone who reads this. I could just write about the few great things that happened, a sugar coated account that like Facebook, would lead everyone to believe I live a perfect life. But that wouldn’t be honest or historically accurate and this blog is about mental health and self-improvement and the ups and downs that allow us to grow. Although I can’t say it’s been a happy month, it has definitely been a month of growth and I feel like I’m finally rising from the ashes after two months of constant challenges.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right now I feel stronger than I ever have. I mean at the moment I’m sitting here crying on an airplane, because the weight of everything I’ve gone through is coming back to me as I write. (I do that a lot, by the way, crying on airplanes, I mean. I know, that’s weird, right? Probably freaks out everyone around me.) But back to my point about strength… Despite my tears there is a hot, furious fire burning inside me telling me I am capable of anything, that I have complete control of my own happiness, and that I am an incredible human who deserves whatever I can achieve for myself.   

Unfortunately there were several monumental things that happened this month, which I can’t describe here. Let’s just say Sam and I hit a rough patch and the events that followed pushed me to my limits. He and I are figuring things out, but I won’t be writing about that in this post. Instead, I’ll mostly focus on my trip home and the other matters I’ve been dealing with and their resolution.

On April 4th I flew to Colorado for a week to take care of a few things.  My mom picked me up from the airport and I can’t explain how good it was to see her. It was great to be home with my parents for a whole week, surrounded in their love and care. This wasn’t a fun trip home, but it was necessary. At my weakest moment in Chile I’d booked this flight so I could take care of several things that had been weighing me down. I needed to get my laptop fixed, see a doctor about my ankle and be home for the anniversary of Kris’ death. I achieved each of these things and more in just a few short days.

Home sweet home

I had spent all of March trying to have my laptop fixed in Chile, but unfortunately when you fry the battery of a Mac, they have to replace the entire keypad. Since I needed an English keypad, the store would have had to special order a replacement and they couldn’t guarantee it would arrive before I left for Mexico. I took my Macbook into the Apple Store in Denver the day I arrived in Colorado and received it back in the mail in perfect condition two days later. After a month and a half of working on Sam’s Chromebook I can’t tell you how happy I was to have my laptop back, and so quickly too.

While I trusted my doctor in Chile, I didn’t feel that his advice regarding my ankle was founded on an understanding of my lifestyle or circumstances. Two days before I headed back to Mexico City I saw a doctor and was able to ask the right questions to understand the progression and speed of my rehabilitation and what I could/couldn’t do at what time. Although I had to pay out-of-pocket for the appointment, it was well worth it for the peace of mind I received. I was told I could ditch the crutches in two weeks, ditch the boot two weeks past that and given a lace-up brace I could wear for added support after that point. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see a physical therapist while I was home, but I did find one and schedule two sessions once I got back to Mexico City. With her help I now have a list of exercises to do twice a day to help rehabilitate my stiff, swollen ankle. I’m now able to walk without the crutches and each day I gain more strength and mobility in my ankle and leg.  

I was super emotional in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Kris’ death. I knew I would be prior to starting Remote Year and had considered where I wanted to be on that day. At one point I’d thought of taking a beach vacation so I could have some peace and solitude in which to remember him. I don’t know how that would have gone, but I’m glad instead that I was home surrounded by family and friends. I spent the day prior to his official death date in Evergreen, Kris’ hometown with his family. I had brunch that morning with his mom and aunts and then we met his dad and brother in a park for a picnic. It was a good day and we remembered the good times, focusing on the things we’d loved about him. The next day was challenging and I found myself bursting into tears throughout the morning, but I got to spend the day with two of my best friends and their presence lifted me up.

A picnic in Kris’ honor

While home I was able to surprise my best friends from High School, Hannah and Alyse. This was one of the highlights of my month. Alyse, who lives in San Diego, was in town visiting family and looking in on her restaurant. She’s pregnant and had scheduled an ultrasound, which her mom sneakily informed me of. Our other best friend, Hannah, had moved back to Colorado the day before and was planning to be there at the hospital. They both thought I was in Mexico. I arrived at the hospital early and found a seat in the waiting room. As Alyse walked down the hall I turned on the video on my phone. Holding my phone in front of my face to keep her from recognizing me immediately, I sat there as her mom, Jeannine, announced loudly “we’re here, we’re here, we’re here!” This caused Alyse to look around the waiting room and spotting me, I could tell she didn’t believe her eyes. She went from squinting in my direction to shaking her head to saying “What are you doing here?!” repeatedly. Finally she ran over and hugged me. She’d randomly messaged me about the ultrasound that morning asking if she could Facetime me while she was there. I’d told her unfortunately I had an appointment at the hospital, so wouldn’t be available to Facetime. Hahaha! Hannah showed up late and came running into the waiting room flustered and trying to catch her breath. She looked straight at me without actually seeing me, set her purse down on a chair, settled herself for a moment and then looked up at us. When she really saw me, her face went from confused, to wide eyed, to wide mouthed as she yelled “Oh my God! You’re here!”  Both of their reactions were priceless. We spent the day together grabbing lunch, getting pedicures, drinking wine and catching up.

I spent a good amount of time with family while home as well. I stayed with my parents and saw more of them than anyone else. We had many wonderful dinners and I have to admit it was really nice to be at home and have them take care of me. They set-up the trundle bed in the dining room so I wouldn’t have to walk up the stairs to my old bedroom every night. I also got to see my brother Joe and his children, Lottie and Redding. Red was afraid of me at first, unsure what the crutches and boot meant for my health. But after 15 minutes I shrunk down my crutches to their smallest size and gave them to him and his sister to play with. I spent a morning with my sister-in-law, Lisa, when I went to her to have my hair cut and colored. And I got to see my brother Adam’s kids, Sawyer and Stori, at a dinner with my mom’s cousins. I was especially glad to be surrounded by family on my last full day there when we received the devastating news that my uncle Mark had passed away unexpectedly. That day I also got to see Hannah’s girls, who gave me the warmest greeting an auntie could hope for. My Goddaughter, Sophia, held the gift I gave her and said “when I miss you I’ll see this and think of you.” She absolutely melted my heart with those words.

Throughout my life I’ve found myself heading back to Colorado when I needed to reset. This visit was no different. It was healing to relax in the comfort of my childhood home and take a break from the hectic environment of travel. I was able to lean on my friends and family both physically and emotionally in a way I haven’t quite been able to with my Remote Year family. Their encouragement and support reminded me of who I am and gave me the strength I needed to head back to Mexico and face everything waiting for me there.

Scaling the pyramids at Teotihuacan

Two weeks after returning to Mexico I boarded a plan for Seoul, South Korea. I left North America with a feeling that I was not only leaving the continent, but also leaving behind the burdens that had weighed me down over the past two months. I had been tested again and again and each time I had overcome, becoming stronger and more self-assured than ever before. The departure for Asia also signified the completion of one-third of my Remote Year journey. I’m not sure how four months passed so quickly and I’m sure the remaining eight months will only fly by even faster. Despite my storybook start in Peru, the first part of this journey has been a bumpy road. It has been much more challenging than I imagined and in ways I couldn’t have invented. I look back on it all and realize now that I am more capable, more daring, and impossible to embarrass because of the experiences I’ve had. This transformation has given me confidence not only in my day-to-day interactions, but to pursue my dreams in a bigger sense. I know I’ll return from this year a different person than who I was when I began. In fact, I am already changed and I love who I see when I look in the mirror. Just you wait and see what I am capable of now.    

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