“It’s okay, I’ll go by myself.”
I had gone to visit my brother and the girl he was dating in Scottsdale over a long Labor day weekend. I never take long weekends. I’ve been in this constant survival mode with money and making sure my life is balanced with work and friends and experiences. Nevertheless, I drove out for a visit with the promise of red dirt.
My brother and his girlfriend had both been super sick with whatever end of the summer bug was going around, so despite doing their best, they were in the mood to stay in and rest. Besides driving through Arizona, I realized I had never really spent any time there. One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit was Cathedral Rock, one of Earth’s natural vortexes. I left early, took myself to breakfast, and set out to hike.
All I did was plug CATHEDRAL ROCK into my GPS. It took me over an hour to find the actual entrance, but that’s the thing, it’s not written down in any map. True places never are. Eventually I found parking down this long dirt path, walked the 10 minutes to get to the start of the hike. I was shocked to find that the hike itself was barely over a mile. So here we go.
The first leg of the hike was crossing this wide flat ground that was littered with puddles. The deep wet red earth was a perfect contrast to the bright blue sky with fluffy clouds. I don’t think I’ve really ever appreciated the color turquoise until that day. It’s such a bright and happy color out in nature.
Soon I reached the base. While it may be a mile hike, it’s almost all vertical. Straight on up. I can do this, I thought, as I watched a fearless child climb with ease. So up I went, one step at a time.
As I climbed I thought of all the things I had done in my life that were more difficult than this one mile hike. I thought about the day I decided to be an actor, and how it took me two years and ten auditions in my hometown before I got cast in my first play. I could have easily given up, but I kept moving forward. I thought about the decision to end my marriage, and how long it had taken me to let go. The three and a half years I spent in LA without a car. How I learned to drive on the opposite side of the road in Ireland to take myself to what is now my favorite place in the whole world. All of those things, all my good choices, my bad choices, how they all had led me here to this day.
I reached the first landing, the sky in Sedona seems to stretch out for forever. I sat for a few minutes, knowing I’d barely gotten half way there. After a few minutes of solitude, a young couple in their 20’s reached where I was. She was not happy having to have been dragged outdoors. I could only stand a few moments of their fight. She wanted to head back down, he never got to do anything he wanted. So I continued onward.
Up and up and up I climbed, slipping only once. I made it to the second landing. The sky seemed even bigger there. I could see the third landing wasn’t so far away. My gaze found the multiple hand carved stairs into the rock that would take me there. I was so close.
When I reached the top, I burst into tears. I’d never been so high up anywhere on earth. The view was simply spectacular. There’s a certain energy when you’re up that high I can’t explain. It’s like you can feel nature coursing through your veins. Like I can take off and fly out into the open air.
I sat for two hours and just enjoyed the view. Watching people come and go. Some sat for a while. Some for only a few minutes.
Finally, it was time to go, as I still had to drive home to LA.
As I came down the various landings, I reached the same couple who was still sitting on that first landing. I could tell she had cried. They must have had a huge fight. He saw me pass them.
“Did you make it to the top?” He asked.
“Yes," I replied.
“By yourself?” She asked.
“Was it worth it?”
“I dunno, you’ll have to see for yourself.”
Adulthood has begun. Again.
It’s not the post-college years, it’s not turning 30. It’s not when you look in the mirror and pluck your first gray hair from your chin, visions of your grandmother’s peach fuzz face flashing before you. No. It’s this – right now! We are all becoming adults, again. But different. And it’s all because of a certain global pandemic currently devastating humanity.
Now, of course, I don’t want this pandemic! No one does! It sucks! People are dying in the hundreds every single day all around the world. It is bad. It is very bad. It will continue to get bad until it feels like we won’t make it through. And then, somehow, despite the depths and the darkness around us, we will.
We are all becoming adults, again. The first time around was a little bumpy. Those post-college years of aimless, faux-confidence. Making bold decisions out of necessity and arrogance. Walking around as the main character in the movie of our life. The Truman Show-esque focus on ourselves as the protagonist. We dated the wrong people. We worked the wrong job, for too long. We made friends. We lost some. We moved a lot. And then somehow we stumbled upon something that looked and felt enough like adulthood that we felt okay looking in the mirror, patting ourselves on the back and saying “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
We are all becoming adults, again, but a little different. While that self-centeredness is genuinely useful to advocate for yourself professionally, socially, and romantically, it does not serve us in the long run. There is no camera for me to pan towards to perform a Jim Halpert smirk. People are not paying to hear my TedTalk. My Instagram stories are not top-tier content. I’m not about to be discovered.
And that’s good. Because right now, here’s the thing – it’s not about us. Right now, we are gears in a machine, being asked to do one thing to keep that machine running smoothly: stay at home. It’s literally life or death. It’s our duty, as people, to stay at home. A duty, a privilege, a necessity. We are one of billions. A very teeny tiny part of a very big old world.
You are important. It’s important that you know you are, because your life has value. It does. We need you here on this planet. But right now, you are most important because of what you are in that machine. Without you, it fails. Not all of us are health care heroes, grocery store goddesses, the sewers of masks, the cleaners and the keepers of our health. For those of us, the absolute most we can give and do is sacrifice ourselves as a tool for the greater good. Because it’s just not about us right now. It’s about the machine. It’s about participating in something bigger than you. It’s about looking in the mirror and saying “Anna, I love you, but right now, I need to love humanity the most.” Except, you know. With your name.
That’s growing up. This is becoming an adult, again, but better.
All this time I have been running far away from you when I should’ve given you a chance. To think I wasted so many years thinking I was better off without you... (to be clear, I am speaking about the Gym, particularly running).
It all started with an instagram story request. A friend of mine was interested in returning to the gym, and was feeling out any potential gym buddies to tag along. I remember laying down in my bed, and thinking ‘maybe I could go a couple of times so she has some company. We eventually worked out together one day, then it turned to two days a week, then three days, and every week we would make an effort to attend. I was initially very set in my ways of not really wanting to push myself, and I couldn’t see the potential of losing the weight. A part of me was running away from changing. It felt like if I were to succumb to bettering myself, it would go against everything I’ve come to know as a part of me. I didn’t want to look better because if people couldn’t see who I was beyond my weight, then why do them a favor?
I felt the way I was could never truly change, no matter what I would do. How wrong I truly was because then I began to notice my body was changing. The clothes in my closet were becoming too baggy. When I would wear them and look in the mirror, I personally looked so out of place. I then purchased new clothes I never thought I could fit into. The difference was staggering, my jaw just dropped and I felt like crying. This was the motivation I need to keep going and seeing how far I could take this.
After a while, it just became normal to workout on my own, and I started to feel my body actually needing to go. I made it a point to go if I happened to have any free time. I began to sleep better, walking up stairs was no longer a chore, and I could keep up with a cycling class my friend Kate was teaching. It is now 2020, and I have developed my own routine working out, which now includes running on the treadmill. I never thought I could appreciate and love the feeling of running, or jogging, or sprinting. It is probably the closest to feeling like I’m in flight that I’ll ever experience. Feeling so fast makes me feel invincible, and I discover all this deep rooted confidence I never thought I could have. Not only does my body feel so alive, but my soul feels invigorated. Any stress from my days are flooded out of my body. My mind is clear, and free from all the negative energy I’ve stored up. I feel so proud of the amount of work and time I put in. This is going to continue to be an on-going thing, so if anybody ever needs a workout buddy, I’ll be there ready to sweat out the pain with you.
I’ve always wondered what life might have been like if I had an older brother. Sure, I’ve got a younger brother. I’ve even got a younger sister AND an older sister. But there’s something about having an older brother that always intrigued me and made me wonder what it might be like. I imagined him as someone who would have protected me from all the bullies at school, and been the first one to ask me who he was beating up when I came home crying. He would have hugged me close when a boy broke my heart, telling me that that boy didn’t deserve me anyways. He would have teased me relentlessly, making me mad or annoyed, but I would have learned to just dish it back and instead of cat fights, we probably would have wrestled it out, probably giving me a few more broken bones than what my current count is. I think it would have made me stronger, mentally, emotionally and definitely physically.
Having an older would have definitely been different, but just how different? I’m not sure. Maybe I wouldn’t have turned out so emotional, crying at the drop of a hat. I might have known more of how to deal with boys and how they act, how to interact with them, etc. I might have learned earlier on how to stand up for myself, whether it was because I had to stand up to him or he taught me how to stand up to people. Having an older brother probably would have been great, and my siblings probably think the same thing. After all, we all had someone we referred to as an “older brother” at some point in our lives.
There are times I remember that he would have helped with, like that moment when my older sister had a dilemma with boys and didn’t know what to do when two boys liked her at once. Or when one of them broke her heart, she would have turned to him instead of me for comfort, and told her that he didn’t deserve her anyways. When either of my sisters came home crying, I would pull them into a huge bear hug and ask who I needed to beat up, but he could have done that. Teasing my siblings about their crushes and their quirks would always get a reaction out of them and I would always crack a smug grin and run away before they could catch me and pay me back. Seems like something he would have done... We would wrestle with our dad and if you ever asked my little brother who the strongest person in our family was, it was always me before my dad, without hesitation. An older brother might have been competition in that category. I don’t think I would have been the one my little brother came to for girl issues or other problems he might have had. My sister wouldn’t have come to me when she had issues with other girls being mean to her. My strong bear hugs would have been overlooked and not as valued if our big brother were always there to provide them.
I guess, looking at it now, I kind of took on the role of what I always imagined a big brother to be like. Being the middle sister was so difficult for me, feeling neglected and invisible for most of my life, thinking nobody really cared about me. But knowing that I could bring the comfort that I did to my siblings brings me joy to this day. I made sure, and still try to make sure, that my siblings never felt what I felt. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my siblings. Being the one they come to for support and advice is something I’ve valued for all of my life, I just didn’t realize it until recently. They mean so much to me and I know they would do anything for me as well. So as many times I wished I had an older brother to take care of my siblings and I, I am so glad I get to be the one who took care of my siblings.