Something has been sending me toward Oklahoma City for the better half of this road trip and so, leaving Santa Fe this morning, I made the choice to go east instead of south through Texas toward New Orleans. Although Louisiana might make it to my list of visits this summer, I’ll be spending at least part of the day in Oklahoma City tomorrow.
When I saw on a map that Amarillo, Texas was on the way between Santa Fe and Oklahoma City, I knew I needed to stop there. Amarillo is one of my favorite Spanish words (of which I know only a handful despite my having traveled to Peru last summer.) I was won over when I saw the city name carved into the overpasses along I-40 east with two cowboy boots for the “L”s. I decided I’d stop there for lunch and hopefully find a sign of sorts or whatever it was drawing me to a city that, judging by the highway signs, offered only cowboy apparel and adult superstores.
I pulled off the highway at an exit with the most blue food signs. There was a Starbucks so even if I didn’t find food I’d at least have a coffee. I pulled first into an Italian restaurant, but saw that it had a drive-through window and long line through the parking lot and decided that any food that could be dispensed in five minutes wasn’t worth stopping for. There was a Subway down the street and even though they fall under the five minute rule, they at least have vegetables and avocado (so much fresher than the ones I’m used to eating in Massachusetts after they’ve been picked, packaged, and shipped all the way from Mexico on a truck.)
I walked over to Subway, but saw there was a sports bar and grille just next door and I could smell the meat cooking (though vegan, I love the smell of meat on a grille). I decided if they had a veggie burger I’d go there instead. Glancing at the menu on the window, I saw not only a meatless burger, but hummus and pita bread appetizer. I was hooked.
Compared to most sports bars around Boston, the 7 Bar and Grille was cleaner, friendlier, quieter, and quicker (granted it was two in the afternoon on a Thursday, not exactly prime time for going out to eat.) As I waited for my food I watched my favorite fish (the lionfish) swim around the large tank toward the back of the bar. Before my meal came, I went into the bathroom to wash my hands and it was there I saw the sign that I think was why I ended up in Amarillo:
Part of why I embarked on this road trip is that I feel in many ways that I’m ready to make a move, to find another place to call home. I wanted to see as much of the United States as I could, hoping that I’d find a place that felt more inviting, a place where I could see myself settling down and starting a new life.
I’ll bet to many people, my life looks pretty perfect– I have a career, a beautiful apartment all to myself within walking distance of public transportation and miles of hiking trails, I live close to my family, I have close friends and several communities of yogis, meditators, and Buddhists nearby. Boston has a lot to offer me and I did miss it the two years I lived in Georgia. Still, I’ve been searching for something else.
It’s in our nature to always wish for something better, to think, “If I just had—” (you fill in the blank) I’d be happy, but as the sign reminded me today, happiness is not a matter of getting somewhere, having something, or being with someone. Sometimes it’s just a matter of shifting your perspective, of seeing what you have in a different light. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have goals, dreams, and plans for the future. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t change a situation that is making you unhappy, but it does mean that if you’re always looking for happiness somewhere else, you’ll never make it to your desired destination.
The past three weeks have been some of the best of my adult life. For the first time in a while, I’ve felt really happy. I know that checking off cities and states on my list of places to go, moving from one destination to another, is not what is really bringing me happiness. It’s that for the first time in a while, I’m listening to myself, making decisions based on what I want, making choices that I know will make me happy. Sure this is easier to do on vacation, away from the regular responsibilities of life, but I’m beginning to believe that it can be done always.
In every moment of our lives we make choices. We have so much power over life’s events than we ever admit or let on. From here on I’m going to make the choice to be happy, whatever that might mean in the future, however it may disrupt the life I’ve settled into leading, and I hope that you will make the choice that’s right for you too.