The Tantrum Within

Sometimes I wish I could act out my feelings. As young adults we learn that it isn’t “appropriate” to let it rip when it comes to letting others know exactly how we feel at any given time. We are to be “mature” and “calm” and “keep it together.” And by no means, under NO circumstance is it acceptable to come unglued in front of others.

Last Saturday I was at a minor league baseball game with Lee and another couple. It was hot and humid and just generally uncomfortable. The game was running a little long (or so it felt) and I’ll admit it… I was dreaming of my pajamas, a cold drink (that didn’t cost $7), a comfy couch and the luxury of air conditioning. Yet there we sat, 4 composed adults calmly watching the game and chatting about this or that.

In front of us sat a family with 2 young girls that I would guess to be around 5 or 6. At the beginning of the game they were so cute… All neatly put together with tidy little outfits and hair ribbons to match clipped firmly in place. They were happy. They had cotton candy and fruit-slushies and peanuts. And since our seats were right behind the dugout, each girl had received a foul ball from one of the players.

However, as the evening unfurled and the innings slowly stretched from one into the next, the girls began to … how shall I put this?? … Unravel. Their hair was beginning to frizz from the heat and stray curls were sticking to the backs of their necks. The ribbons began slipping from their places and dangled limp, clinging to scraps of sweaty, unkempt hair.

The outfits weren’t so tidy anymore, smudged by dirt and food and God only knows what else. Their once-shiny little faces were now partially covered in red, blue and purple cotton-candy and slushie stains. Smiles had turned to frowns and eventually all-out scowls.

Then the meltdowns started.

Whining, crying, twisting-in-the-seats, stomping, kicking, bickering and eventually screaming became the main event rather than the ballgame. It was quite the scene, I tell ya. Eventually they did run out of steam. One of them surrendered to her seat, slumping deep down into it while turning the baseball over and over in her small hands… sort of trance-like.

The other had one last hurrah with an empty plastic water bottle. From her mother’s lap she banged it and banged it repeatedly against the concrete of the dugout before winging it as far as it would go. And I admired her for it. Hell, I envied her for it. I laughed at this wonderfully expressive tantrum, not because I thought it was cute but because I COULD RELATE TO IT.

Her little fit served three purposes: 1. It made noise. 2. It provided the opportunity to flail her arms wildly about. And 3. It showed everyone in our section her extreme displeasure with the current situation. How I wish I could do the same whenever I am displeased with my current situation… whatever it may be. Ahhh to be young again. Ultimately, she succumbed to exhaustion and passed out in her mother’s arms at the bottom of the eighth.

It was at this point that my friend turned to me and said: It’s about that time… It’s late. It’s hot. Everyone is tired. And there is no more candy. We’re just like them, you know, except that we—unfortunately—are all grown up.”

Wanderlust

I climbed up the ladder to the loft above my bedroom in search of a place to store a journal I had recently filled. I opened the cabinet doors, slid a couple of boxes out from their resting place and peered inside, unsure of their contents. Suddenly a clear plastic storage bin caught my eye. I put down the cardboard box I was rummaging through and switched my attention to this container. Removing the lid I quickly realized that this one was a treasure trove! It was filled to the brim with old photographs, journals and letters from my high school and college days.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, this was quite a find! Inching closer to the light from the plate glass window, I situated myself high above the world below and dove in. It was so entertaining to flip through the photos and read the words I had scrawled 18 years ago on the yellowing pages. It felt a bit surreal awakening so many dormant memories from my more “adventurous” days.

Of course I found a lot of journal entries comprised of the usual hopes and dreams of an 18 year old girl: Where would I end up? What kind of job would I have? When would I fall in love? How would we meet? What would he be like? Would I ever get married? Would I ever have children?

But even more interesting than those things, was a recurring theme in my writings. I was obsessed with escaping my small Ohio town in search of adventures and experiences in the wider world. My mom used to tell me that I had “wanderlust,” and I believe she was absolutely right. The dictionary defines wanderlust as:a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. And I certainly had that! There were so many fascinating places I wanted to see and interesting people I wanted to meet… and I couldn’t seem to begin this wandering soon enough!

Fortunately, from the time I turned 18 I was able to do just that. I had the unique privilege of working on a beautiful Colorado Dude Ranch during the summers while in college. And I lived and worked in New Mexico for 12 years after graduation… allowing me to experience a completely different culture from the one in which I grew up.

During those 16 years I was fortunate enough to climb 14,000 ft. mountains—literally standing on TOP of the world! I spent time rafting white water rapids and exploring miles and miles of untouched Colorado wilderness both on foot and on horseback. I learned to fly fish in the Tetons and Yellowstone … catching, cooking & eating my fair share of indigenous trout. I learned to scuba dive… soaking in some of the Caribbean’s most active and colorful reefs. I plunged into the freezing-cold waters of Lake Tahoe and experienced the lengthy but rewarding struggle of pulling King salmon out of the open Pacific (throwing up the entire time).

I searched for banana slugs while feasting on the sweetest wild berries in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest and took a 6-passenger sea plane into British Columbia where I participated in the carving of a community totem pole with native people. In New Mexico, Arizona and Texas I blistered my feet backpacking into (and out of) some deep canyons, visited various haunts of the legends of the “Old West,” herded cattle on horseback, learned to shear a sheep, brand a steer, breed a horse, and cook a rattlesnake. And my ultimate claim to fame: I once took first place in a grape-stomping contest at a local vineyard.

Please don’t misunderstand my intention for sharing these things. I didn’t list them to boast. I am proud of doing them. I am thankful that I got to experience those adventures. But mentioning all of these things helps me emphasize how totally mystifying I find the place that I am in right NOW. Today I come home to a peaceful old house with creaky-but-charming wooden floors. If there’s a foot of snow of the ground, I can simply pull on some boots and walk next door in my pj’s to enjoy a hot meal with my family. In the summer I can watch lightning bugs from the porch swing, enjoy a burger off the grill and sing obnoxiously during the 7th inning stretch. In the fall I witness the world around me turn a thousand different colors while tailgating before a big football game.

I’m not scaling mountains, carving totem poles or herding cattle. But strangely—unlike the person I was 18 years ago—I am not restless anymore. I still have that same wanderlust and I know I’ll still travel and seek out adventure, but these days I seem to find infinite amounts of joy in watching fluffy, white flakes fall from the night sky and in laughing with childhood friends over a cold beer.

Life is such an unpredictable journey. I tried so very hard to get out of Ohio—and away from home—only to discover years later that “home” is exactly where I now CHOOSE to be. Sometimes you have to surrender to your wanderlust and strike out on your own in order to travel back around and discover the fact that you’ve come completely full circle.