I had been warned. People had told me. The internet prophesied it. I had gleaned through anecdotes and yelp reviews and comments on National Park forums that, at the Grand Canyon, “they got big ass deer”.
And yet, when I came face to face with said monstrosity in the middle of a Grand Canyon road last July, it was as if I was the deer in the headlights. For a moment, my brain’s defensive instincts blurred in the background like a Portrait Mode photo, and the only thing left in focus was, “Wow, that really is a big ass deer…and it’s going to kill me and my two best friends. Dang it.”
Last year was my most stable year of existence, objectively. I had a good apartment that I didn’t like. I had a good day job that I didn’t like. I was spending time on men that I didn’t like and that didn’t really like me. You know. A nice, stable, adult existence. I wouldn’t say I was happy, but happy is subjective. And I’m talking objectively. If I wrote down on a piece of paper the facts of my life as they were – devoid of feelings and opinions – and handed that paper to some guy named Dave or Brian or Kevin, those guys would assume I was doing just fine.
Stable is fine, Dave. But happy is better. I wanted happy. I wanted romance. I wanted joy. I wanted my life to catch a spark and light on fire. And travel suddenly seemed the answer. It was the most romantic and reasonably attainable, life-altering thing I could think of doing. I wanted my life to change, and I wanted it to change fast. I decided I needed to get my ass to the Grand Canyon.
The need grew more obsessive and more specific. I had to see the sunrise and the sunset at the Grand Canyon. It became the only thing in focus for me. It was my Portrait Mode muse. I would see the sunrise and the sunset over that big ass hole and I, as a woman and a human, would be forever changed.
Once my two best friends and I decided to go, the whole thing came together fast. Itineraries formed. Flights were purchased. I scoffed at the empty LA sunsets/sunrises that were merely roadblocks in the way of me reaching my #GC2K18 goal.
Of course, a lot of the itinerary flew out of the window when the thing finally happened. Driving 4 hours after a flight on our way to an adventure had honestly sounded romantic when we planned it weeks in advance. But, when you live in that moment, and it’s 3:00AM, and it’s pitch black, and your eyes are so heavy you can barely keep them open, and you know that if you close them even for a moment, you might slam your rental Hyundai Elantra directly into a 400 pound stag and end three lives at once – it loses a bit of the charm. By the time we even got to the hotel, we were exhausted. I knew sunrise wasn’t going to be an option. But we were rolling with the punches! We were being spontaneous! Because travel is spontaneous and spontaneous is romantic, dammit! Instagram told me so!
So we had survived the nighttime deer assault and sunrise was out. Fine. Sunset would just have to be fucking miraculous. The daytime hours were wonderful and we reveled in the glory of the Canyon. Around 4pm, we perched at our favorite looking point to claim the best view of the day’s end.
The sun began its descent. An hour into it, my best friend turned to us and said, “I just keep waiting for something to like…happen.”
We laughed, but she was right. I was so obviously waiting for something to happen too. I had put the responsibility of changing my life entirely on the fucking sun. “Oh, I want to be different? Well, that’s not something I can do, it’s something the sunset will do FOR me!” Had I truly been expecting some Shrek-like transformation? That once that evening light hit me, I’d float into the air like Fiona and spin around in sparkles and transform into my best self? Which preferably wouldn’t be an ogre, but who was I to defy the sun’s plan for me.
I didn’t change. Nothing changed. No sexy ogre metamorphosis occurred. No physical and mental transformation. I was still sweaty and dirty and hungry and crabby. I was the same Anna that I was the day before.
I put a lot of hope into that sunset. And it was a good sunset, don’t get me wrong. Probably a great one. Maybe even a little fucking miraculous. But it wasn’t life-altering in the way that I wanted or expected.
It changed me in a better way. After that weekend, I decided I didn’t want it to be the responsibility of the sun to make my life better. It was on me. And I wanted that. I wanted to be able to make myself happy. And every day was a perfect day to try. When I got home, I ended up watching the same sun set. This time it was out of my little apartment window, accompanied by the sounds of Burbank outbound flights and police helicopters, light peeking through the dingy blinds that had been there much longer than I had. Definitely not a Wonder of the World. But it suddenly felt pretty fucking miraculous to me.
So I don’t put the onus of my happiness on external forces anymore. No more passing the buck. The only time I do that anymore will be at 3:00AM on dark Arizona roads, and only to keep my friends alive.
Anna Snedden has been a writer and performer for It's Personal for a year. This is her first blog and we are excited to read more of her hilarious moments!