This summer I did something crazy. Actually, I did a lot of crazy things, but they were all sub-things of a 49 day, 11,500 mile, cross-country road trip that consisted of hitting 31 states and two Canadian provinces. I did all of this while sitting 8 inches away from my friend Soup (and our friend Bradley for 10 days but that’s another story). Eight different times on our trip, we stayed with people whom we met on their front porch. This trip was absolutely insane.
One of the most reoccurring questions I am asked is, “So, what did you learn on your trip?” I would like to think that everyone has gotten the same answer; however, I do not think I can confidently say that. But, after taking a month to decompress and think about the biggest thing I will take away from my epic adventure, it is time for me to have a set-in-stone answer for people. So, here it is:
I learned who is friend and who is family.
Now, to clarify, I do not mean that I am just figuring out who my blood family is. I have known them since day one. My intention in using the word family is to capture those friends who are everything that family is, except for the blood; I am talking about people for whom I would bleed. I learned that I am thankful for my friendship with so many people, but there is a handful (given, it is a slightly larger than average handful) for whom I would give my blood like it is second nature.
My junior year of high school I met three of my best friends to this day (shortly thereafter, we added a fourth). Now, they are married and have kids. One of the husbands graduated from A&M and lived in the house in which I lived last year. I had heard story after story about the house itself and how dirty it was and that it literally cannot stay clean no matter how hard you try. Nonetheless, I knew this house by the community that lived inside. I was so spoiled my junior and senior year of high school by a community of guys that lived two hours away from me in this nasty old house on Churchill Street. Once I accepted my admission into Texas A&M, I decided I would be living in this house at some point no matter what it took, because I wanted community like theirs. My entire freshman year, all I looked forward to was living in Churchill and having the same community and same story that my friends had a few years before.
I thought I had to have their story in order to have family.
Sophomore year I received a pretty substantial slap in the face to wake me up and make me realize that a house is not always a home. I had put all my stock in this house I had hoped it would provide the family I craved. In reality, that was not the family of which I was to be part. I got so frustrated that what I wanted was not happening, I almost moved to a whole different state to run away from everything and start a new story. There were a few factors that kept me in Texas, but the main factor was being invited into a group of brothers that had been family since high school. It is a much more complex story than I will make you read on a blog, but I will just tell you that I was probably 2 days away from accepting a job in Nashville that would start at the beginning of June. I am more than happy that I decided to stay.
I knew I would miss my new roommates while I was on the road, but I was fully expecting to get over it pretty quickly and enjoy some space for a couple months. This, however, was simply not the case. I missed them exponentially more and for longer than I expected. Some of the best times of the trip for me were in New York City, Chicago, and Seattle not only because those places were super awesome (they were), but also because I got to talk to my roommates on the phone.
(Spring Break 2015, Nashville, TN)
For the last few weeks of the trip, I began to find myself day dreaming about sitting in the run-down house in which they lived just being with them; not even doing or talking about anything, but just simply being. That sounds like family to me. People who do not need to always hear your words, rather those that want you to simply be with them and they with you; those around whom silence is not uncomfortable or tense, but warm and inviting. Once I recognized how intensely I missed my roommates, I began to realize that it does not matter where in the world any of us are, we are family. If family were bound by convenience, then love would be easily achieved and also easily abandoned. Some examples of convenience are circumstances, time of day, financial comfortability, and location/proximity.
These are the questions I pose: Where is your home and who is your family?
This is where I may lose some of you. For me, my physical home is not wherever I reside; my home is my family and they are scattered thousands of miles apart: Texas, Alabama, Illinois, Tennessee, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to name a few places. Because of the distance, it is not always easy or convenient for them to be family. It is not easy for me to deal with my entire body aching because I miss them so deeply. It is not easy to wake up in the middle of the night on an island in Maine and not be able to go back to sleep because all I can think about is being back with my family in Bryan, Texas. One of my biggest dreams in the past year has been to stand on the shore in Acadia National Park in Maine. When I finally arrived, it was not enough. All I wanted was for my family to be there because none of it seemed worth experiencing without them.
(Acadia National Park, Maine, US)
You have heard people say that having an experience is better than having material things. I am going to take that one step further and say that having people whom you know as family is exponentially greater than either of the former.