Road Rage, Invisible Groundhogs and Hypocrisy

I am a self-professed tailgater. And I’m not referring to the tailgating that occurs before football games around here. I am referring to the riding-other-drivers-asses variety of tailgater.

My dad and Lee both get after me about this A LOT. As well they should. Tailgating is rude and obnoxious, not to mention dangerous. But being the extremely impatient narcissist that I am… I just can’t seem to help myself. I can start out on a trip with the best of intentions and before I know it, I’ve memorized every scratch, dent and ding on the bumper in front of me… and I’ve probably fantasized about ramming into it too.

Yesterday on the way to work I got “brake-checked” by the guy in front of me (YES, an individual I happened to be tailgating at the time) and I had to slam on my brakes because he literally STOPPED in the middle of the road. He didn’t just tap his breaks to warn me that I was beginning to annoy him… He STOPPED… In the middle of a 55 MPH zone! Now, unless he was stopping for a squirrel, cat or groundhog—that I for one did not see—he was clearly sending me the “get-off-my-ass-NOW!” message.

I am well acquainted with this form of non-verbal, vehicular communication because I am not just your garden-variety tailgater. I am what you might call a “hypocritical tailgater.” I WILL tailgate you… but don’t you DARE tailgate me… or I WILL brake-check you until you get the message.

I feel it also worth mentioning that the guy who brake-checked me today was also a hypocritical tailgater because after he slammed on his brakes for me and resumed his speed… he practically crawled up the tailpipe of the guy in front of him. I must have been in a fairly decent mood because after re-securing all of my belongings back into the passenger seat from the floor to which they had fallen at the time of the aforementioned brake-check incident… I laughed. HARD.

I just laughed and laughed and backed the hell off. I got his message LOUD AND CLEAR. And maybe, just maybe, I secretly hoped that the driver whose tailpipe the break-checking-hypocritical-tailgater was currently sucking on would also stop suddenly in the middle of the road for an invisible squirrel, cat or groundhog… and well, you know the rest.

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.