Fallout From 83 Hours in the Car, Alone.

I’ve been back in my hometown for 9 days now, and one thing is clear: I am not the same person I was when I left.

As I drove from state to state, I listened to podcasts and music, and I thought. I thought a lot. I relived nearly every mistake I made during the 2016-2017 school year–remembering emotions and words, as if reliving them would somehow activate a “Choose Your Own Adventure” hack and I’d be able to fix all those mistakes. And then I would think about all of the things I think I want to be: Google Certified Instructor, Apple Distinguished Educator, Master Journalism Educator, a pianist who really and truly can play anything, a writer who can manage more than a book every seven years…and I wonder where’s the wisdom in splitting myself into too many boxes.

A lot of thinking, some of it instructive and enlightening, some of it destructive and dangerous.

I realized I was not the same about a week ago, when I helped someone move into a new home. A decent-sized crew showed up to help, and I was content to keep to myself, to not engage in conversation at all.

I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, so this shouldn’t have surprised me, except there’s a difference between keeping to myself and making an active choice to guard my words and body language. That’s what I was doing. At the time, I chalked it up to extreme heat and fatigue. Even at my most introverted, I usually connect with one person. I crack jokes, I ask questions.

Introverted doesn’t mean silent, it often just means selective. Introverted doesn’t mean emotionless–in fact I’m well aware that my emotions are pretty easy to decipher. Over the years, students have told me they know within seconds if I’m having a bad day. If I don’t put on the right face at church, it’s pretty obvious. And those who know me well usually see my most unfiltered self.

But then yesterday I bounced from one social event to the next–three in a row–and my behavior was the quite similar at each stop. I chose to not volunteer a whole lot of information. I worked to control facial expressions, not looking disinterested but also not looking too interested. With a few exceptions, I gave minimal answers to perfectly fine and logical questions.

I’ve learned how to be alone–go to restaurants, movies, cultural events by myself, and even travel alone–and I didn’t think for a moment that an epic road trip would be a struggle. And it wasn’t. But I also didn’t realize what all that time alone to think would do to me.

Even writing this feels too exposed, and a quick dig in my blog’s archives proves I bend toward oversharing, so this post fits with that. But now I wonder if hitting “publish” is a bad idea.

Maybe my current state is temporary and once school starts again, my old self will come back, but I’m not sure. All that time spent scrutinizing my failures and mistakes has made me a bit more cautious. A bit more afraid.

When I hopped in my car a month ago, I didn’t see that coming.

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