Wish You Were Here: seeing beauty in, and through, each other

~I once traveled over a thousand miles to watch the sun rise over the ocean,
only to realize that it wasn’t the sunrise I wanted to see, but you, seeing the sunrise.~

Five years ago last month, just a few days from completing my first year of teaching in the school district of my hometown, I had been offered the opportunity to attend a three day workshop at a school campus in Cypress/Fairbanks Independent School District (which would turn out to be a great experience for me) and while I was securing reservations at a hotel for the conference, I was offered what seemed to be a deal that I couldn’t pass up. It had not been an easy year (or couple of years), to say the least. But that’s another story, perhaps for another time. For now, let’s just say that a vacation was greatly needed.

The offer was for a four day, three night stay at a resort for $199, at one of several possible locations, in exchange for keeping an appointment where they would try to sell me a time-share vacation package. I hadn’t travelled much for several years, except to run from hurricanes, so I thought this might be a good opportunity, especially since I was told that the package was for up to four people. I had hopes of not going alone, but including friends. I had to pick the resort while on the phone, but could choose the dates a little later. I chose Myrtle Beach, SC, because I wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean (as the largest body of water I had ever seen was the Gulf of Mexico, which I had seen from Corpus Christi, TX, to Pensacola, FL).

However, I failed to set the dates for my trip in time to go during the summer months, so I reluctantly scheduled it during my Thanksgiving break. I am grateful that my school district gets an entire week off for Thanksgiving – though I wondered what the beach would be like that time of year. It turned out not to matter, as I would have to reschedule twice.

The conference was a great experience. And I spent most of the rest of the summer of 2017 driving for Uber to pay down some bills. At the end of the summer, just before I would have to begin a week of training and preparation for the next school year, I rewarded myself for my summer efforts with a set of luggage and an out of town trip. The luggage is still mostly unused, and the trip wound up with me staying in a hotel alone, and getting caught in a flash flood trying to get out to get a sandwich. I used the time alone to write to my blog before heading home.

Just after arriving back home, road-weary and disappointed, I reported for the week of training before the 2017-2018 school year would begin. However, there would be weeks between the end of training and the return of students, thanks to Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey struck Texas well to the south of us, but bounced back into the Gulf of Mexico to reload before coming back inland and causing massive flooding in Houston first, and then our entire region. My parents would call my apartment home for about the next two months, while we gutted their home of a lifetime of accumulated belongings to let it dry out before beginning the very long process of rebuilding. The house next to theirs was mine. Only I wasn’t living there at the time, as my son and I had moved into an apartment in Beaumont, and we had family living in the house. Both houses had five and a half feet of water in them for several days. They each had to be gutted of everything below the ceilings. Again, this is for context only. The rest of this story is for another time. For now, we’ll just say that I needed to reschedule my trip for a later time.

My house stood as a skeletal structure without even doors to close, until that school year ended, as we concentrated on making my parent’s home safe and livable. I didn’t even begin reconstruction on my house until June of 2018. I had no time for travel, as I spent my time that summer between rebuilding my house that I was going to have to move back into, and driving for Uber (and now Lyft as well) to pay off credit cards that I was using for materials. Though I got a good bit done that summer, I needed to use both my Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks that year to get my home to a level of completion that would make it safe to occupy by the new year. We moved back in on New Year’s weekend.

Once my son and I were back in the house, and we no longer had to pay rent as well as a house payment, I had hopes that things might get a little easier. We’ll just say for now that they did get a little easier then. Somewhere during the next few months, I was told that I needed to take my vacation or lose the money I had paid, and I set it for the last weekend in May. That was three years ago last month.

After school ended in May, I had quite a road trip planned. I drove form my home in Texas to somewhere in Georgia on the first day, and driving into South Carolina the second day. I was able to get a room at the resort facing the ocean for a small upgrade fee. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it made for a very different experience. I would spend the next three nights in a room where I could see the ocean from the bed. And I would sleep with the curtains open all the way. (The angle and height of my room made it impossible for anyone to see into my room, and I was only visible to others if I was standing on the balcony.)

My time at the resort included meals at the resort restaurant, where I sat in an open-air area looking over the pool and the ocean, and a trip into North Carolina just to add another state to my been to list (I was so close anyway.) However, everything I experienced on that trip – the drive, the meals, the sights, the sounds – EVERYTHING, seemed as though I was just observing myself on vacation, rather than vacationing. I didn’t feel fully present. I had surface-level conversations with resort personnel, and at least a few guests, but I didn’t really connect with anyone. I found myself thinking, with every experience, about who might enjoy seeing, feeling, tasting, whatever it was that I was seeing, feeling, or tasting. I’d never taken a vacation by myself, and have a hard time thinking that I could again. I remember having an Uber passenger sometime later, who had been all over the world by himself. I’m not cut out like that. I need to share it to enjoy it.

On the first night in the resort, I went to sleep with the curtains to the balcony opened all the way. I was awakened about 4:30 in the morning when the sky began to brighten a while before the sun would start to break the horizon of the ocean. I got out of bed and grabbed my phone off the charger, and took my place at the balcony. I launched Facebook Live, hoping that someone would share my first sunrise over the Atlantic.

I once traveled over a thousand miles to watch the sun rise over the ocean,
only to realize that it wasn’t the sunrise I wanted to see, but you, seeing the sunrise.

I walked the beach in the early morning, looking to see what the tides had stranded on the sand, as young lovers were enjoying the peaceful quiet of the nearly empty beach, and I was thinking that it wasn’t the sensation of the sand between my toes that I sought, but of your fingers entwined with mine as we searched for nature’s bounty.

I listened intently to the sounds of the winds coming off the water, the roar of the waves approaching the beach, the cawing of the seagulls, the laughter of children at play. I longed to hear your voice, as you pulled me closer to whisper, “This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me. “

I sat at the table overlooking the ocean, eating shrimp tacos and drinking a Hurricane, wondering if you would enjoy this, and knowing that even having a drink by myself seemed empty, as I sat and watched people laughing and talking and enjoying their company, knowing I would be walking alone back to my room, after struggling to annuciate my words to ask the concierge for some more coffee cups and stirrers for my room.

It’s not the absence of people that make me feel isolated and alone. It’s the absence of connection. I cannot enjoy anything unless I share it with someone who enjoys it. In fact, it’s your enjoyment that brings me joy.

So, my house is still not finished. I hope it will be soon. It’s just harder to finish building a home that I can’t fully enjoy because I have no one to appreciate and enjoy it with me.

I wish you were here.

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