Every time I turn to the New York Times in the last day or so, I keep being reminded of the fact that it has been one year since bin Laden’s death. And while I am happy that this is a major step forward in the war against terrorism, I keep thinking back to where I was last year at this time. I was in such a different place emotionally and spiritually. I remember I had taken a week off of work to attend two weddings on the west coast and also just have some down time to think. I flew into Fort Worth where the first wedding was, stayed with my friend, Kay, and got to see her life there and catch up. She was also at a “stuck” point in her life where she was unhappy with stuff professionally and generally didn’t love Fort Worth. Although she wasn’t at her happiest, I had a great time in Fort Worth. Kay and Partha were incredibly hospitable and made me feel like it was my home, too. They indulged me by fulfilling all my requests, no matter how crazy -like going to a bull riding show at Billy Bob’s and doing other cheesy Texas-y things.
They dropped me off at the airport at the end of the weekend to catch a flight to San Francisco. I didn’t have a lot planned for that week…just a stay at the Courtyard Marriott by Fisherman’s Wharf and time to sleep in, catch up with old friends, and head to a wedding in Sonoma Valley the following weekend. Just after landing at SFO I turned on my phone and saw that I had received two text messages from my brother while en route. The first saying that Obama was going to speak in a few minutes but people weren’t sure about what. The second was telling me that they killed bin laden. I turned to the New York Times on my cell phone and was shocked and surprised to see that not only had they killed bin laden, but that they found him in Pakistan.
Despite the surprises in the news and the constant chatter in the press about the implications of this latest turn of events, I was so thrilled to be on vacation and far away from home and work. I took a cab to the hotel and checked in, excited about my plans, or lack thereof, for the week. I remember taking a run by the water in the mornings and just using the time to think. Taking in the blue sky and cool breeze and being sooooo happy to be away. I remember eating delicious Mexican food in the Mission and awesome pizza at Delfina’s. I enjoyed Salted Caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite. I took the trolley to the Ferry Building, ate a delicious warm egg salad sandwich with cheese on top (sounds gross, but was absolutely delicious!) and sat by the water to unwind. Finally I bought a pretty purple moleskine notebook to think and write. I must have sat there in the sun for two hours that day, writing and contemplating.
Later that week I headed to Neera’s wedding in Sonoma Valley. I remember talking to one of her college friends during the rehearsal dinner. This friend had recently taken a career sabbatical and could see I was on the edge of taking one myself, but needed convincing that it would all be ok and that there was nothing to fear. She was fantastic with really convincing me that I would be ok – after all she had quit her job in advertising, planned to take six months off, and was offered another advertising job before her six months were up. I took a deep breath and asked for a leave of absence when I returned to work the next week.
After that, the last year has been a blur of incredible experiences and general giddiness with life. I had no idea what an amazing ride it would be. I took the purple moleskine while traveling over the next six months. Initially it was my travel planning notebook. Then it turned into my journal/travel planning notebook/area to jot down the awesome places I came across on the road. During the trip I kept turning back to those first few pages I had filled last May with thoughts about how I needed to and wanted a change, but was terrified and felt stuck. Every time I read those pages, I can immediately picture myself there again and remember that feeling of dread in my stomach…dread about work..dread about asking for a leave…dread about the great unknown. Ultimately, I am glad I got out of my comfort zone to take the sabbatical. The scariness has been well worth it.
So the anniversary of bin laden’s death is somewhat meaningful for me in a strange way. As you can see, the mere mention of his death brings me back to where I was last year and reminds me of how far I’ve come and what an amazing journey it’s been. It’s like when you hear an old song on the radio that takes you back to a completely different time and place – you can remember all the details, the weather, what you were wearing, what you ate, how you felt. So for me, the memory of that week is a beautiful one because it was the beginning of a great journey. Here’s to continuing the amazing ride!