Crying On A Rock. And Creating Your Own Adventures.

About two months ago I found myself crying on a rock at some beach along the California coast, next to a guy named Kiel. It was the second official day of my solo road-trip, in which I had decided I was going to go it alone, to discover things about myself and life that I wouldn’t discover in any other way. At this point in the trip, I had imagined that I’d be driving down the highway with the wind blowing in my hair, the warm California sun kissing my skin, and the perfect song playing on the radio. Instead, in this moment, I was on a dirty, overcast beach, with a guy I didn’t know and wasn’t sure that I really wanted to be talking to.

I met Kiel the night before at my camping spot for the night, Jalama Beach. It was one of the last weekends before kids went back to school, so the campsite was filled with families and partiers trying to get the last of what summer had to offer. It wasn’t exactly the serenity I had imagined when I set out on my trip, but it was the only site for 100 miles that had spots available. I parked my van in an open spot, and was surrounded by people. Everywhere. Kids, teens, families…it seemed everyone in the world was there, with their loved ones. Elaborate camps were constructed, RVS were decked out, and people were everywhere. And then in spot number 17 was me, my van, and my dog. Still a sight to be seen apparently, since we were chatted up by almost every passerby.

“Big dog you got there!”

“Ey mami…you all alone in there? You should come party with me and my homies in our RV” (points up on the hill where there is a fleet of RVS parked next to one another, blasting Top 40 hip-hop)

“You got a saddle for that thing?”

I smiled, pretending like I haven’t been asked those questions every day since I adopted my dog, and headed toward the beach for some quiet and exercise.

Within 30 feet of being on the sand, I came across a group of guys throwing a football around. One stopped to ask about my dog, and we ended up in a short conversation about Coach, my travels, and his travels. Kiel was his name, and so I say it was nice meeting him and I continued along the beach.

Upon returning from our walk, I saw Kiel, right where I left him. And in his hand was a piece of paper with his name and phone number on it, in case I wanted to stop at his farm in Oregon when I passed through. I smiled, thanked him, and went along my way.

It was a restless night’s sleep, for both me and Coach, but we woke up early nonetheless, and started on our way. We didn’t have a plan for the day or the night. I just knew we were going to drive along the coast. About 45 minutes into our drive, I see a funky truck pull up beside me, and in the driver’s seat is Kiel. He waves me over to follow him, and I figure “what the heck! ADVENTURE!!” and so I follow him five miles down the freeway, and off the highway. I wonder where he’s leading me. I imagine grand adventures; perhaps his favorite hole in the wall Mexican joint that just happens to have the best tacos in the state, or a secret lagoon that no one knows about. But instead he led me to this crowded, smelly, dirty, overcast beach. A well-known surf spot he wanted to check out, apparently.

We walked along the beach, chatting about our travels and our families. I knew he was hitting on me, but I wasn’t interested. I was still in a sensitive place, having just left someone I cared a lot for by going on this trip, and was wanting to be alone. Eventually, we ended up on a rock. Talking. Which led to being on a rock, crying. It wasn’t anything he said, really, but tears just started pouring down my face.

I wasn’t exactly sure why I was crying, and I didn’t even know if I was sad. I suspected it was a mix of emotions of being all alone on the road, not being sure what I wanted or where I was going, being on an overcast beach when I wanted to be driving on a sun-kissed highway, wondering when I’d be in a relationship again, where I would end up and what was in store for me on this trip and in my life.

But of course I couldn’t quite express any of those complex emotions at the moment. And so Kiel gave me a hug. We both looked towards the ocean, I continued crying, and eventually we both went our separate ways.

I heard a theory recently that all change is experienced as loss; that all change, no matter if it’s good or bad, or change you want or don’t want, has the same emotional response that a loss would have. In thinking about this theory, and my day spent crying on the rock, I became curious. “What if this was true? What if change does equal loss in our minds?”

Even though I was on an adventure that I was excited and happy about, it was a big change for me. Everything was different than anything I had done before. I was alone, I was the only one responsible for my decisions and experiences and happiness, I had no plan or destination. I didn’t even really have a time frame. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. And things were changing in every aspect of my life.

Perhaps, on this rock, I was grieving the loss of everything I had previously known. All the iterations of people I previously was. All the experiences that had come before. And the loss of life, as I knew it, because deep down, I knew this trip would change my life in profound ways.

So when Kiel asked “what’s wrong?” and I said “I’m not sure really,” it was true. In that moment. Because it wasn’t just one thing; and nothing was really wrong. I was just experiencing intense emotions of change and loss, mixed with excitement and anticipation.

I never called Kiel when I went to Oregon, but meeting him was an interesting and appropriate kick-off to my adventure. Looking back now, it set the tone for everything. I’m glad I followed him off the freeway and ended up crying on a rock. It was real. It was where I was at, and I was forced to pay attention to the emotions that were coming up because I decided to do something different and out of my comfort zone. I created this adventure on purpose, because I wanted to learn some things about myself. And the learning still hasn’t ceased.

And with that, this is what I came away with: When there’s no adventure, create it. And when there is adventure, follow it. Where you’ll end up, you won’t know, but that’s never the point. It’s the experiences in between the destinations that get written about, that change your life, and that grow you beyond what you knew possible. So, just journey on, and when it gets to be too much to handle, find a rock and cry on it.

What do you think about the idea that “all change is experienced as loss?” Have you ever felt anything similar? What do you experience when there is a lot of change in your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.