Thursday, May 11, 2017

Adventure

May 10th, 11th, and 12th are sort of funny days for me when they roll around every year.  And I think most years I address them in some form on this blog.  These three days correspond to two of the greatest adventures I've ever gone on.  My life hasn't exactly been one thrill after another--heck, stand-up paddleboarding a couple years ago was really going out of my comfort zone--but clearly I've lived a fun life with tons of memories to look back on.  But two that stand out among the rest are the two last-minute trips I took to watch the Knighthawks win championships.  One was ten (!) years ago, and the other was four years ago.  In fact, my dad posted a picture from his memories today with my mom and my two kids while they were watching the kids in my absence, and it was almost shocking to see how tiny Carter was--and of course I felt a wave of guilt all over again for leaving my not-even-three-month-old baby behind for three days.  But both of those trips created incredible memories that I wouldn't trade, and I think deep down I knew that when I took them and that's why I did it in the first place.

I am not an impulsive person, at least not with stuff that costs a lot of money or involves significant wrangling and planning.  Stuff like that usually involves a lot of risk assessment for me--considering costs, weighing pros and cons, planning out every last detail down to what I'm bringing and where I'm eating well in advance.  But both of those trips were planned the day before the trip, after a period of short but intense consideration.  I think in the end it just came down to knowing I had a prime opportunity, and in the long run I'd have been sorry to miss out on it.  And sure enough, all these years later I know I'd regret missing out on those memories a lot more than I miss the money I spent.  It makes me happy I took the plunge each time, even if it was scary in the moment.  As I was thinking about the trips yesterday, I realized that each of those trips is precious to me for different reasons.  The driving purpose of both was the same--a championship lacrosse game--but their value in hindsight varies greatly, mostly because of the stages of life I was in when I took them.

With my first trip, I was a full year ahead of Jacob being born.  We hadn't even started trying yet, but we knew that was on the agenda.  I knew at the time that the trip might be a bit of a last hurrah, and that's another reason why I went for it.  In addition, so many of the staff were going on that trip, and I was still only a little over a year removed from working there, so I was close with most of them and still had a strong connection to a good chunk of the team, as well.  The team was amazing that year, with a 14-2 record and a dramatic win to send them to the finals, and it just seemed like, for the first time ever, everything was falling into place for them to win.  Previous teams had mental breakdowns at the worst times, having momentary lapses in effort that cost them key games.  And with this team, it never happened.  So between the "team of destiny" feeling and the staff members I could share it with, it made it hard to say no.  And once I found a plane ticket within what I was willing to spend (even though it still seemed crazy), I was all in.  The thing was, I had never traveled alone.  We'd taken a couple plane trips since we'd been married, but I had never gone to the airport, checked in, and boarded a plane alone.  It felt very empowering at the time, as I felt pretty sheltered in that regard until that moment.  Things got a little dicey once I got to Phoenix without a real plan in place for getting to the team hotel (life before smartphones and WiFi!), but it all worked out.  I got to see a part of the country I'd never seen (real cacti!), I got to spend some quality time with friends, and I got to witness my first real championship win.  It was an incredible feeling, particularly because I'm a Buffalo native and winning the last game of the year is a bit of a shortcoming in that area.  So to see our team ahead as time ticked down...it was such a foreign but incredible feeling, and seeing it in person was beyond memorable.  The postgame celebration was truly unique (just the team and a handful of staff, family members, and fans), as we sat around the hotel pool on a gorgeous evening with the Cup as our centerpiece.  The entire thing felt surreal, and I will never forget it.

Once I had Jacob, I knew my impulsive travel days were over.  I remember being super bummed when he was a baby and there was a free bus trip down toward New York City for a playoff game, and I had to pass because I knew I couldn't take a baby with me.  That was a little sobering, even if I knew it was coming.  Fortunately, the next championship run, five years after the first, ended at home. My parents were in town for the game and nice enough to stay with Jacob while we went out and celebrated late into the night. 

But the following year it became clear that if we wanted to win it, it would have to be on the road.  So once again I agonized over possible travel arrangements and bemoaned the fact that flights to Vancouver were beyond expensive.  But then I realized that I could get to Seattle for a fraction of the price and brave the drive north.  It wasn't the most convenient, but it was doable.  Once my parents officially said they'd take the kids, I got a little more serious, but I still felt terribly guilty.  However, thinking back, I had a four-year-old and a three-month-old, which means I was still in the thick of the newborn fog and any sort of escape probably sounded like a dream come true, even with mom guilt.  An uninterrupted night of sleep alone sounded pretty nice, I suppose.  So then I opted to Priceline it, which got the price down to a more reasonable point.  However, they screwed me on flights (most that I saw on standard sites looked like good times, and I got the one crappy flight that took away an entire day), which led to this horrible sequence of events that involved no sleep, hours on the phone, and an early morning stand-by attempt that was fortunately successful, but overall stressful.  But once I was off?  Holy cow.  It was incredible.  I had forgotten what it felt like to read a book or sit in silence or not have to worry about who needs to eat or get dressed.  Then when I got there I took my detour to see all of the Chihuly glass in Tacoma, which had been on my bucket list since we passed by it in 2006 while on a train between Seattle and Portland.  That was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  Then I had an evening alone with Craig and the best night's sleep I'd had in ages.  The next morning I had a glorious run on the boardwalk in New Westminster, followed by a walk on the same path to photograph flower after gorgeous flower.  I watched another championship win and experienced another postgame celebration (a much lower-key one this time) and then started the taxing trip home very early the next morning.  But that trip will always be memorable for me because it enabled me to find myself again, the part of me that had been lost among two kids, sleep deprivation, a job, and a household.  I had forgotten what it felt like to run without feeling compelled to get home, or to leisurely take pictures of beautiful things without worrying about taking my eye off the kids.  I could admire art and nature at my own pace and in silence.  I could wander and observe.  It seemed indulgent, but I think it's probably something every baby mom needs to stay sane.  It's too easy to lose yourself to the role of "mom", and forget what else you loved before your kids overtook it all.  Even the time alone with Craig was precious and rare, and while there wasn't a lot of it (between him working and me being dead tired at night), but what we had meant the world to me.  I just needed those couple of days of remembering myself, and it was a great recharge.  And to this day I am so thankful for those memories, to say that I have seen those Chihuly pieces and had the adventure to fly to and drive through the Pacific Northwest by myself.

Two trips, two different perspectives, but each a great adventure.  This time of year brings up so many memories because of those trips.  Sometimes they evoke a little bit of frustration as I compare the humdrum activities of the same dates in subsequent years, and long for the opportunity to cross off more bucket list items.  But I know that's not fair as those were exceptional days out of an entire lifetime, and few days--let alone an average workday--will ever compare.  But most times they just make me smile.  And maybe hope a little bit for more days like that in the future.  I'm so glad that I can look back on those trips and have no regrets about them years later.  I feared they might someday be considered a foolish waste of money, but good luck and a thirst for adventure go a long way, and I'm so glad I took the chance.

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