Caroline - 9,513 miles, 539 hours
Every time I sit down to pen you a letter, I find it to be a near impossible task. Part of this may have to do with the fact that we communicate on such a regular basis (read: every waking hour) that I don't have much to share that you haven't heard. Another aspect is that I'm definitely a bit nervous to write to you at times.
When I speak of this nervousness, I am thinking of it in only the best of ways. Like the nerves you get right before you step out on stage for the first time to share your own performance with a crowd. The kind of performance that you've sunk hours, days, months into, and worked on so hard for so long that it's nearly become a part of you.
One of my favorite aspects of our relationship is how much we push each other to be better in every aspect of life. Whether it's to be better writers, better listeners, better citizens, better friends, better siblings, better kids, or just plain better human beings. It all comes out of a love for each other and our ability to be vulnerable with one another no matter the cost. A vulnerability that comes with the nerves of sharing a piece of yourself, but vulnerability that also leads to growth.
So while I would usually spend the better part of a week trying to write you something that I'm overly proud to share, I want to try something different. Today instead of spending hours and hours perfecting this little piece of writing I share, I'm going to hit you stream of consciousness style, and just try to talk about a few things from my time in Arizona that I haven't shared with you. Who knows where this will go.
To begin, how on earth did you live in Tempe, and then Orlando, for so long? During my short little stint in Phoenix I really enjoyed spending time with Jordan, Katie, and their friends but man was that city a tough one to fall for. I just felt like I was kind of living life in the suburbs, driving from one strip mall to the next, without much ever changing. Just as I've found for myself, it probably comes down to it being more about who you're with and less about where, but if I had my pick of the litter regardless of the people, I think Phoenix might be at the bottom of the barrel for me.
Since making it down to Tucson, the sprawl is still in full effect, but I think it doesn't feel as odd when you live in a city where the general expectation is that it's a smaller sized city. Additionally, Tucson has some real culture to it! You get the sense that everyone here is really into the desert life. Gems, cacti, stucco, pueblos, hawks, coyotes, washes, heat... it's all here and loved.
Outside of desert culture there's also a great big sense of community around things like art, the outdoors, and even yoga. When Meg was in town for the yoga immersion I went with her to get her tattoo finished up and it was in the coolest outdoor space with about a dozen studios for artists and other craft makers. The tattoo shop was there on top of a studio showroom and most of the other studios were for metal workers or jewelers. There was even a craft beer studio in the mix. That night they were hosting a party for the full moon where all the art was on show alongside live music and good beer. Got me thinking for sure.
The yoga immersion has led to many new friendships and lots of other hangs here in Tucson. I've been to quite a few classes at the studio since, and I am consistently impressed with the level of community they have built there. During classes there seems to be a heightened sense of curiosity and the desire to share with one another that has definitely been missing from my traveling yogi practice. I'm looking forward to trying to find something similar once settled down in Chicago.
Volunteer work here at Habitat might just be my favorite opportunity on the trip so far, and for reasons I would not have guessed when starting. I by no means planned this but the Habitat in Tucson is the largest operation west of the Mississippi, and works on about 9 houses at any given point in time. We begin each day before the sun rises at the worksite, and then end by about noon. Working outside and doing physically demanding work has made me start to think about a potential career shift. You just can't beat being outside most of the day, soaking in the sun, and then being able to really feel the fruits of your labor when you finally sit down after work. For the yogi in me there's also something absurdly meditative about hammering hundreds of nails into 2x4's all day.
Well it'll probably take some time and reflection to see how I feel about this whole stream of consciousness thing, but for one it definitely adds quite a bit of length to these letters! Before I go I do just want to let you know one other thing that's been on my mind now that I'm down in AZ.
I want you to know how immensely proud I am of you for following your dreams back in college, and leaving ASU to pursue your dance career. I'll never forget bashing you during Christmas one year, and telling you that all you would ever gain from your time at Disney would be an experience and nothing more. As I begin to reflect on my sabbatical, I think of all that I've learned and all the experiences I've gained during this time. I keep circling around the idea that there is nothing more valuable to one's self, and consequently to others, than pursing something that you're passionate about, no matter the perceived value assigned to it by society. If only the golden boy could hear me now, there would be much to argue over.
Thank you for being a continued source of inspiration in my life, and in so many others. Your light shines brightest because of your unending pursuit of who you are and what you are meant to do.