Warning: This blog post will not be happy. It will also most likely not be short. I struggled with whether or not to write about this at all, but I recently promised a friend to be more real about my life on social media. Too often do we fall into the delusion that other people are not suffering as we are, and that happy girls living their dream and driving across America do not break down in the middle of the desert. I’ll start from the beginning.
I woke up yesterday in snowy Flagstaff, spooning in bed with Ansel the Australian Shepherd mutt. I had breakfast, mapped out my route for the day, filled my coffee, and hit the road again. It was a short drive to Albuquerque (4.5 hours) and I had lots of exciting stops on the way.
First was Meteor Crater. I walked the rim of an impact site caused 50,000 years ago by a several hundred thousand ton meteor that hit Earth with the force of 150 atomic bombs. I discussed radiometric dating of zircon crystals in meteorites with my tour guide and how this method allows us to know the age of the universe. I remembered what it felt like to geek out over the marvels of geology; I’d forgotten for a while why I ever majored in it.
I drove to Winslow, Arizona solely to stand on the corner. I have to say I have a whole new understanding of the line: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
Lastly, I stopped at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post and bought some habañero hot sauce.
I finally set out for Albuquerque, excited to get there early enough to spend the evening around Old Town. I had The Alchemist on and, as always, it was shocking me with uncanny parallels to my present life. The main character is on a quest to discover the meaning of his existence at the Great Pyramids in Egypt. He doesn’t know exactly what he’ll find there, but he is sure he will find answers along the way. He wanders through the Sahara desert with a revered alchemist, discussing the secret to hearing the language of the universe and of your own heart. The alchemist tells him the only way to hear is to truly listen.
Staring out at the never-ending horizon and the endless expanse of Arizona’s desert, I decide to pause the audiobook for a while and see what I could learn from the silence. Three minutes into this little exercise, I hear and loud bang and quickly realize there is something very wrong with the car. I pulled over to the shoulder as quickly and safely as possible. The back left tire had blown out.
My hands were violently shaking but I was on autopilot and following emergency protocol. I got far away from the road, made the necessary phone calls, and soon had AAA roadside assistance sending someone out for me. I looked into nearby auto shops and tire prices. Eventually, I’d done all I could do aside from wait. The nearest town was an hour away.
God bless AAA. They came sooner than estimated and quickly replaced the shredded tire with the spare. I drove 50 mph all the way to Pep Boys in Gallup, New Mexico. They determined the cause to be a nail in the road. It was a freak accident and couldn’t have been avoided. Was it strange to feel relieved? My main worry was that the other three tires couldn’t be trusted, but now I knew it was just the road I must not trust. I already knew that.
Yes, today was terrifying. Yes, I experienced doubts. I felt weakness and I felt my mortality and it was humbling to say the least. But there truly is nothing like a crisis to tear your confidence down and immediately build you back up. I went from thinking, “Oh my god, it’s only Day 2 and this is my nightmare” to “It’s only Day 2, my nightmare has occurred, and I’ve handled it.”
I don’t often talk about my tattoo, or tell anyone what it means. But today, it took on new meaning. Back in New York, I got a small wrist tattoo after a particularly trying semester dealing with severe clinical depression. I never wanted to forget the strength I had found within myself to pull through, and I surprise myself every day displaying strength I did not know I had.
“She’s mad but she’s magic, there’s no lie in her fire.” -Charles Bukowski
That quote is from one of my favorite poems. It reminds me to embrace my emotions, especially when they feel out of hand. They are at least a reminder I am alive, and this moment is real. Triangles are the alchemical symbol for fire, and the inspiration for the two I have on my wrist. I would have told you the alchemical component of the tattoo was a coincidence, but Paulo Coelho would tell you there’s no such thing.
Today, I take Tulsa.
“Why should I listen to my heart?”
“Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet.”
– The Alchemist