I step off the train, onto the platforms, and quickly try to get my bearings. That way- the crowd is going that way. I follow them, trying to clear all the noise from my mind.
Three hours earlier, I had left Mike behind in Marlow. Mike and I had been house-sitting for two weeks in Marlow, an adorable, quaint town west of London. A day or so in, we decided that after Marlow, we would be parting ways.
As the train pulled away from the platform, and I saw Mike walking away, I felt a profound sadness. Aside from being romantically involved, Mike had become one of my closest friends. He was the first person who made me feel like my dreams weren’t selfish.
I know it’s against some rules somewhere to sing your ex’s praises, but I’m truly grateful that Mike was with me on this journey. I had always intended to take it alone.
Which is why you see, it sucked so much to say goodbye.
So I put on my earphones, and let myself cry a little. An elderly woman sitting nearby looked at me with sympathetic eyes. She didn’t ask me what was wrong, she just looked at me warmly. We sat there in this strange silence, me, crying, her, forming whatever opinion she wanted about me.
Not wanting to be sad when I arrived at my hosts, I refocused my energy on being excited. I was set to arrive in Atherstone and meet the people that agreed to let me house-sit. Through the power of the Internet, we had found each other.
I follow opportunity wherever it takes me, and this time, it brought me two hours north of London. Tracy, Dave, and Emma were going on a holiday to Orlando, and they needed someone to care for their two cats. I was their girl.
After leaving the train station, I walked around a bit, scanning the faces in the crowd, wondering whether or not this was a good idea. I thought about all the episodes of Catfish I’ve seen, and shuddered. Just as I was wondering what I’d do if Tracy (she had offered to pick me up at the station) didn’t show, I turned around and there she was.
“Melissa?” she said, with a big smile on her face. “I’m Tracy!”
During our car ride from Coventry to Atherstone, we talked about my adventures so far. Tracy had read the blog and loved it. She immediately started filling me in on the local hotspots, about caring for the cats, and of course, that she had bought me beer.
“I read your blog,” she laughed, “So I know you love beer.”
(Hey, she’s not wrong.)
The family home in Atherstone was lovely, and I was quickly introduced to her partner Dave, and her daughter, Emma. After a tour of the house and meeting with the cats, Moo and Raisins, we left for dinner. About 20 minutes later, we found ourselves on a remote, back road, amongst green, grassy fields. They seemed endless, beautiful.
“Dave is lost,” Tracy laughed, “Melissa is going to call her blog post that – Dave Got Lost.”
(Hence the name of this post.)
We had an amazing dinner at a local pub, where I mistakenly thought a local man was Joel McHale. I ordered the hash (which was AMAZING), and Emma entertained me with her American accent. I told them I’d work on my British one when they were gone.
The next morning, they left. For the next two weeks, I did freelance work, hung out with Raisins (we’re buds now) and wandered around grocery stores marveling at all the adorable British things. One night, I actually went out and explored the town, visiting local pubs with adorable names.
The most important thing I worked on, however, was myself. I haven’t been alone in over five years. There have always been mutual decisions, shared choices. Compromise. This time, opportunity and circumstance have just brought me to myself.
The first week wasn’t easy. I was afraid to be alone. I didn’t expect that. I’m so used to that partnering strength, that other person that takes care of the worries, that tucks me in at night and kisses my forehead. It feels foreign, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable to have that gone.
The feeling lingered during my first days. Partnered with a nasty flu, I was camped out of the sofa with a sour taste in my mouth. After one especially lonely day, I dreamt I was home in Rochester with my mom. I told her that I missed her, that I was having doubts about my journey, and although I knew it was only a dream, I felt safe. She hugged me, held me, and told me that I was never truly alone.
That dream gave me a kick in the rear. Once I built up some energy, I decided to suck it up and go out into the town again (despite feeling icky). It was a Sunday, there was a car show going on and everything was closed, so I went to church.
I’m so glad I did.
I was late to mass, and not wanting to disrupt the service, I slid into a pew in the back. A kindly English man shared his pamphlet for the service with me. After some inspiring words from the priest about hope, change, and faith in God’s plan, he instructed us to flip the pamphlets over to sing the song on the back.
It was Climb Every Mountain, from The Sound of Music.
I know John (the man I was seated besides) noticed, but I didn’t care. I got really choked up. At that point, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I didn’t expect to have a transitionary period for my new life as a wanderer. It hadn’t been easy to adapt to, and I felt like this was life, the universe, urging me to go on.
I’m so happy I have.
I’m currently sitting at St. Christopher’s Hostel in Paris, getting some work done, sipping a cappuccino, and listening to – you guessed it- Climb Every Mountain. In a few hours, I’ll be reunited with my Parisian sister Marion, who I haven’t seen in over 10 years. There’s so much to feel warm and good about.
Even what we get exactly what we want in life, it can still be difficult. The one thing I learned during my stay in England is that happiness tends to be an action, a way of life. You can choose to be sad, choose to be lonely, but in the same way, you can also choose to focus on the good and be happy.