365 days of gratitude

sunrise on the farm, Emly, Ireland
sunrise on the farm, Emly, Ireland

One year ago, I anxiously holed myself up in a Madison, Wisconsin coffee shop and published the first post on the other fork in the road. I was standing at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and found myself in a weird spot. A sticky wicket. A little ditch on the side of the interstate. A heartbroken victim of expectations. Suffocating in fresh air. Claustrophobic in wide open spaces. Alone in a room full of people. I knew I was leaving my job, but still had to somehow get through the next seven months of employment. I knew I was leaving Wisconsin, probably forever, but only had a vague idea of what that actually meant. I had to dream about tomorrow in order to get through today. Something was going on inside. I needed an outlet to figure out what, and I found ten tiny ones through my fingers.

And now, 365 days and 74 posts later, I am sitting in another coffee shop, across the Atlantic in the little Irish town of Ennis, rereading the debut of the nervous poo. I can see that girl of my past, sitting in her familiar coffee shop, gazing at the elegant Wisconsin Capitol through the cloud of anxiety she seemed to use as an umbrella, disconnecting her from the rest of Life, so unsure about pretty much everything racing around the obstacle course of her mind, trying to shut out the noise, and more importantly, trying not to crap her pants. She looks so…uncomfortable. As time ticks on, it gets harder and harder to recognize her. But I remember her.

sunrise on my bike ride to work, one year ago today. Madison, Wisconsin
sunrise on my bike ride to work, one year ago today. I know this because iPhoto has dates. Madison, Wisconsin

George, my host here in Ireland, says I talk like a machine gun. I don’t think anyone ever put it that way before, but it’s the most accurate description I have ever heard. I know what I sound like when I speak, how fast I talk, I know how I come across when I open my mouth. I stick my foot in it, more often than I care to admit, sometimes say things I don’t totally mean, that I can’t take back, filling airspace with noise as I desperately search for the right words to express how I really feel, unable to find them until the moment is very, very gone. I laugh at inappropriate times, use sarcasm as a default, awkwardly share too much with strangers. All the while, my written voice just shakes her head as my audible voice stumbles out, making a fool of herself.

And that is why I write. I write because the seemingly senseless world makes so much more sense, looks so much more clear on paper. I write because I have to do something when my audible voice crawls back inside, tail between her legs. I write to calm my mind, to organize my thoughts, to give my inside self, too often overpowered by my somewhat obnoxious outside self, a chance to stretch her legs. I write because I’m afraid no one would take me seriously if I didn’t. I write because it’s the Pause my mouth just can’t seem to take.

Taken July 23, 2013, one day after my first post. The world looked like a painting.
Taken July 23, 2013, one day after my first post. The world looked different somehow. Like a painting. It was strange.

George, an avid reader of the other fork in the road, also says I should write a book. I always get a little uncomfortable hearing that, because in addition to being a terrible talker, I never really mastered the art of receiving a compliment. It still amazes me people take time out of their own chaotic lives to read my thoughts; I’m even more baffled that people seem to appreciate them, that they often relate to them. I sat next to the photographer for the Irish Field at a Breeder’s dinner a few weeks ago, and we instantly bonded over our love of books. She said the only books she doesn’t enjoy reading are autobiographies, because you seriously must think you’re something special if you believe other people really give two hoots about your life. I chose that moment to tell her I write a blog, kind of about my life.

The strange thing is, I sort of agree with her. Except I don’t think I’m all that interesting or different from anyone else. Just like musicians make music, artists create art, poets pen poems, the other fork is my medium to express things, to say things I can’t seem to articulate. What’s more is, I enjoy it. It’s not a task to check off or a chore I have to keep up; it’s something I truly love to do and am grateful I am able to do it. I’ve never appreciated the Internet’s existence more. I don’t know why people get a kick out of reading the musings of my mind, but it makes me stupid happy that they do. I still haven’t figured out how to respond to compliments, especially without sounding generic, and I apologize. I’m awkward like that. And as far as writing a book goes, not only would I not know the first thing about doing that, anyone who would actually read it and/or care, is already reading it freely, and my fan club isn’t that big. Besides, I rely too much on my photos for a book to even make sense. Maybe an adult picture book? Ooo, an adult pop-up book?

And if we’re being honest, it is a nice warm and fuzzy thought to entertain, but if I try and fail, it becomes a failure, which is not a nice warm and fuzzy thought. I am completely aware of how this sounds, and what this might say about me. But everyone on the Internet thinks they have something to say, something different, that they have some talent. Everyone on Instagram thinks they are a photographer. Everyone with a blog thinks they’re a writer. I don’t know how many people = everyone, but it seems like a freakishly high number. I mean, who wouldn’t want to travel and write for a living? Some things just live a better life inside your head.

Time. Taken from inside a clock tower in Montreal.
Time. Taken from inside a clock tower in Montreal.

But seriously, thank you to anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written, even if you hated it, but especially if you enjoyed it. Thank you for all of your kind words, and for reaching out to tell me how you relate. Thank you for sharing your own life experiences with me and telling me how you’ve been inspired to travel or quit your job or break up with your boyfriend, who you realized was definitely holding you back, or my favorite, to live more. Thank you for the Facebook messages and the personal emails and the comments. Thank you friends and family and acquaintances and complete strangers FOR LOVING WISCONSIN AS MUCH AS I DO and for reblogging, reposting, resharing my love letter to wisconsin, helping me become Freshly Pressed (I like to think of it as receiving a daytime Emmy in the blogging world, though it’s probably more like achieving silver status on Delta.) Thank you to those who join George in believing I am talented enough to warrant physical pages. Just, thank you.

Stand in the place where you live / Think about direction / Wonder why you haven't before. Door County , WI
Stand in the place where you live / Think about direction / Wonder why you haven’t before. Door County , WI

Heaps of gratitude to my Mom who likes every single post on Facebook in record time (must be a speed reader), and loads to my sister Tessa, who after every entry, messages me something like, “Great post!” and actually means it. I know she means it, because I ask, “Really? Or are you just saying that because you have to…” She’s also the kind of person who mails you greeting cards in the actual mail to celebrate a random Tuesday in August, and sends cheery 5:30 AM texts like, “Your day is gonna rock!” and truly believes it, with everything she’s got.

And thanks most of all to my Dad, who often writes me thought-provoking emails filled with his own picture book of life, illustrating how he interprets my words, understands my thoughts. Even if you don’t agree with everything I do, or everything I say (which I imagine is terribly difficult as my father), or the wheelbarrow of emotions I push to my mind and from my heart, it’s been nice getting to know you.

Here’s to 365 more.

If wishes were trees / the trees would be falling / listen to reason / the reason is calling / Your feet are going to be on the ground / your head is there to move you around / so stand. The steps to the top of the Montreal clock tower.
If wishes were trees / the trees would be falling / listen to reason / the reason is calling / Your feet are going to be on the ground / your head is there to move you around / so stand. (Thanks, R.E.M) The steps to the top of the Montreal clock tower.

 

13 Comments on “365 days of gratitude

  1. This one gave me chills, made me tear up, and called to me so much that I came back and read it two more times. You are a rock star. Simple as that. I am proud of you soul-sister.

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    • Aw, thank you, Annette! I’m so happy you’re still reading. It’s weird how much life can change in a year…

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  2. I just took a peek and found me on your very first post Tosh. I can’t recall why or how I found you but I’m glad I did, you inspire. I think I know what George is getting at, even though most of your book might already be here in post format (that makes it easy to write, right?), and it is your refreshing perspective on the things in everyday life that freeze most people to the spot. I remember your fierce battle with doubts in those last days before handing in your resignation. I also clearly recall thinking how courageous I thought you were. Your book wouldn’t be about your travels so much as your spirit, a spirit that breathes a fresh, unjaded perspective into everyday life. The world really is in desperate need of more people who are willing to look conventional expectations in the eye and turn and walk away…people like you. Proud of you. Write on, I say, live on! Respect REDdog

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    • Busted! It is so much easier to write in post format. One small thought, one idea per post, loosely strung together to make something whole, without having to make complete sense. I was just wondering if anyone has been with me since the very beginning, and thought of you! I truly appreciate that you’ve stuck around all this time. I started rereading myself, just to see if and how I’ve changed, and your comments still make me smile, this last one included. It’s funny, because when people ask what my blog is about, I don’t say it’s about travel. I mean, I happen to be traveling at the moment, but that’s not really the focus. It makes me happy that you see that. So, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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      • No, Tosh, thank you! You take me back to a time I did similar. You remind I’m not dead and could do this again. I love your journey because it feels just a little bit like my journey. So, thank you, darlin’…and, write on, I say, travel on! Love Red

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  3. I like what Maddie said. This was a love letter in its own right and a brilliant one at that. I read somewhere that we get caught in a trap of believing that success involves not failing. No one wants to fail but it happens to everyone and I suppose it’s more about what you do after that failure than the failure itself. You are incredible so don’t let the fear of failure stop you. Easier said than done of course, but if anyone can do it, it’s you. Plus, we’ll all be here to pick you up, dust you off, and move on forward. Well done!

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  4. Tosha,

    You are living life, not just marking time. Many people end up marking time, always thinking, when I can, when I have enough $, and from many times I’ve heard over the years, ‘Someday I’ll’.

    Yup those that live on Someday Isle, they may eventually do, but most never try. Not that they were equipped to anyway, nor should they feel the need because someone does. If you wake up and say “I want ____.” to then set about making it happen. That Is What You Did.

    For many before they know it, their time is exhausted and their physical condition prohibits the journey. It is then they learn that it was the ‘Journey’ that made up the pages of their Book, the pictures and words are there, might not be recorded in print, It ‘Is’ what they experienced. The, ‘Would Have’, Should Have’ and ‘When I get Around To It’, only materializes as a regret.

    It is not about what you make in $, not what you drive, not what you do for a living. It is about the Journey and the people you come to meet & know on the Journey. My little girl is all growed up and beginning her Journey. Good Post Tosha! (Borrowed from Mom & Tessa)

    Love Ya,
    Dad

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  5. And that was a love letter to all my daughters friends and followers, and not least of all her family. We be proud of you daughter number two.

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  6. A very thought provoking post to me. You’ve obviously had a life changing experience (note to self: find and read the other fork) and you seem to be very positive about the outcome. I’m glad for you. You have made me reflect on my life and recent experiences in a different light – I was already positive (no other way to be) but there was other things to contemplate than MY attitude towards it, so thank you, and I look forward to reading more 🙂

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    • Thank you! I am definitely in a different place than I was a year ago. And it’s so nice to hear from people who understand what it means to see the good stuff in life. I appreciate you stopping by, always nice to hear when I provoke thoughts and I really hope you enjoy the rest of the other fork!

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