When I just up and moved to Illinois, a lot of people had a lot of questions about my choices. While my base for quite some time was D.C. and Maryland, after my mom passed away in August 2015, it no longer felt like home. Everything reminded me of her and the experiences we’d had, and while that may seem comforting to some, if you’ve ever lost your mom you know that it’s necessary to escape those memories for awhile, because they hurt you in a place you can’t reach. Realizing her laugh, warmth, wisdom and comfort are no longer there – the cornerstone of those memories, is like a damn gut punch. So I left. The day after my mom’s funeral I packed my bags and headed to Sedona, Arizona.
You see, my mom’s death was unexpected, we’d just been on a family road trip together, traveling from Maryland all the way to St. Augustine, Florida when she fell ill, and never recovered. We’d had dreams of visiting the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona together, stopping by the Grand Canyon. Pick and pick in the roadside antique shops along AZ-64, stop at the Cameron Trading Post and buy every indigenous Native American souvenir in site. That was us, adventurers. She was my travel buddy and inspiration all rolled into one. When she left this earth it felt like I’d left with her, she was the good in me, so I traveled, more to escape myself and the memories of her than anything. I’d lost my passion for investigative reporting and red carpeting hosting. It all seemed frivolous and inconsequential for me — so I quit my job. None of my friends could truly understand the gut wrenching, ebb and flow of loss and regret, the grief. I’d never been a person to sit and feel bad for myself, but the pain I was in, was inescapable. Nothing felt fulfilling but getting away. For the first time in my adulthood I had to face who I was — without her rose colored perspective of me, without her grace.
Sedona, AZ, then Zimbabwe, then South Africa, then Colombia, then Guadeloupe, then Italy, then, then, then. I couldn’t stop, and while I thought I was escaping myself the entire time, I figured out that I was really facing me, unadulterated and unfettered. But something I didn’t anticipate started happening. As I experienced new cultures, new places, alien and exotic landscapes, and different flavors, I begun to realize something that should have been so obvious to me from the beginning – I have to live for her, and me. The honest truth is that my mom struggled so hard so that my sister and I could get a great education, and have the life she didn’t. Her father passed away when she was two, leaving behind my grandma and 11 kids to care for, so she didn’t have much growing up, she worked herself to death so that we could have, and experience more than she did.
I just wished that she could have been here to finally enjoy her life, and the fruits of her labor and work. Losing myself in those cultures, and the way I thrived and came alive in their profundity made me realize who I was and what I love. I’m a traveler, an adventurer, a writer, a wild soul, sometimes a wanderer, all the those things she was, but was never able to fulfill, were in me, and coming alive. I couldn’t stop and give up on life and passion because I missed her.
I had to live life twice. I owed her that. Life moves so fast. It’s been five years since she’s been gone. I’ve done a lot of healing, got married to the love of my life, switched careers to wellness, training to be a meditation teacher. In losing the security of my mom’s presentness, I was forced to find myself and my identity, unfettered. I’ve been given the gift of new wisdom and mindfulness because of what I’ve been through. I now listen to my voice first. It’s been a bittersweet discovery, but one that had to happen, nonetheless. I hope you can find yourself through travel, when the world opens up again, too.
“Nothing felt fulfilling but getting away.” I know exactly what you mean, and I’m so sorry for your loss, Angel. Your tribute to your mother is beautiful, and I’m so glad you found the strength to endure and honor her in such a way.