August 16, 2013
I’ve been telling my coworkers about my impending trip to Itasca for a 4-day weekend.
“We haven’t been there for three years,” I say. “It’s Becky’s favorite place on earth, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
It’s funny to me how much can go unsaid with such a statement. On the surface, it’s pretty banal. The sort of thing you overhear at work or at a YMCA locker room. I want to say more, so much more, but such things aren’t meant for casual conversation with co-workers or even friends. Verbally explaining how much this trip means would be a tax on their patience and still wouldn’t quite get at the heart and soul of the situation.
I’m writing this post from a screened porch at Itasca State Park. The last time we were here was the weekend before Becky’s world fell apart, when her professors suddenly decided she wasn’t good enough and she was kicked out of her chosen life profession.
It has taken three years of job searching, semi-employment, battling severe depression, a move, a marriage, three new jobs, countless applications, a hundred interviews, and near bankruptcy to reach this point where we can both sit on a porch in Itasca and write without having to worry about how we will afford rent next month.
Itasca is where Becky and I took our first vacation together. It’s where she had gone for years to get away before meeting me. It’s where Becky is most at peace. Just driving into the park, with a bright classical piano number on the radio, I look over at her, and she looks as relaxed as someone getting her first sip of water after days in the desert.
We’re one month into our new life – both fully employed at the same time – and we have chosen to spend our first extra bit of money on returning to the one place where we last felt entirely whole and hopeful. We still have lots of bills and credit cards to pay off from our years of scraping by, but right now I feel like we can handle them. We’ll return to our regular belt-tightened approach to living next month.
Earlier this summer, when Becky was still unemployed, I started to save 10-20 bucks a paycheck to try to fund a trip to Itasca. I did this behind Becky’s back since we were already paycheck-to-paycheck. She found my hiding place almost 2 days after I started this and I had to come clean. She loved me for trying to save money for Itasca, but didn’t believe it would ever happen. When you are unemployed, it’s hard to believe anything good will ever happen again.
Two months later, we are here. The weather couldn’t be better. We have hope for the future. And Itasca is a physical manifestation of that hope. Green. Full of life. For the first time in years, we can relax.