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The End of the Road

Musings

The End of the Road

Megan Harrod

Last night I looked up at the stars bright and high in the atmosphere, gazing and giggling down at us, in the form sparkles and shooting stars...sending subtle reminders that we humans are just a small fixture in this behemoth Universe. Still, sometimes we forget. Fixated on ourselves in our tiny little bubbles, we think we're kings and queens when we're merely humans. Humans with all sorts of flaws and faults and weaknesses. The end of the road always has a way of reminding me of this. 

For nearly eight straight months we live our lives on the road. It's anything but balanced and hardly what most would consider "normal." We live out of backpacks and duffle bags and ski bags. Too many to carry on our own. Especially around the world. Our clothes go unwashed for weeks, or—if we have time—hand washed in bathroom sinks across the globe. How's that for glitz and glam?! Happiness is a hotel that does laundry for free, or a breakfast that contains fresh fruit, salted butter and fresh baguettes...really anything but semmel rolls and salami.

The days blend together and the ceilings we wake up to blend together too. At some point, small European villages all start to look the same. We can't remember what day it is or where we are in the morning when we awake. Ceiling fright to the max. We live in a world where our roommate know us best, and they know that we wake to "Born in the U.S.A" in the morning, to remind us where we came from. Getting our own room is a bonus that we take advantage of, because it's such a rarity. Simple pleasures. Complex world.

On the outside, our world looks sparkly and shimmery and like a dream. Mostly, it is. We feel lucky. We are lucky. On the inside, though, exist layers of deep complexity...loneliness, sadness and emptiness. The feeling that we can never do quite enough—never live up to their standards, or our own, for that matter. It's a little bit like a fantasy land akin to Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby. You know, the big, magical pink elephant and fantastical star-lined dreamland with a dark, black hole-like interior. 

We travel in planes, trains and automobiles, covering thousands and thousands of miles carrying hundreds of pounds of luggage. We live on a defined schedule with a specific purpose: athletes first. We do what we need to do in order for the athletes to shine—both on and off the mountain. We love it; we live for it. It's like a drug. And then, when we hit the end of the road...we encounter a tailspin and don't know exactly what to do with ourselves. SO much more time. Time for ourselves. We start to question...everything, really. And, we miss the grind. 

It feels like withdrawal. 

On the road together, we experience highs and lows...but we mostly only remember the highs. We see and experience the most beautiful spaces and places and faces in the world. We do it as one family. It's easy to forget what life is like on the outside...which is perfectly acceptable, because the inside is our winter reality. A reality that we dive into with our whole selves—because that's really the only way to do it if we want to do it justice. Hardly balanced, but entirely satisfying. While the high lasts, anyway.

We sacrifice things like family and personal relationships for the sport because we love what we do. To the core of our being. And then, all of a sudden, we're thrust back into another kind of reality. It's like a switch is flipped and we're on another planet. Everyone parts ways and the cycle continues. A quieter planet with no defined plan and no schedule. Or, a different schedule—one that includes a significant other and perhaps even a family. Ground zero. We attempt to reacquaint ourselves with loved ones. Rekindle those marriage flames. Try dating again. It feels odd. Sleeping in a bed with another human takes getting used to. Nothing feels right. Everything forced. Odd transition. 

And yet, we yearn for more. More of that life on the road. Because it doesn't feel like enough. Ever. 

We curl up in the fetal position and cry. Or we stare blankly at the fluffy clouds from the window seat on the plane. We drink. Sometimes, too much. We flee to remote places to disconnect, yet when we arrive we yearn for the connection we had. We cry some more. We tell ourselves we’ll be better with time. We’ll figure out a new direction. A clearer path.

We feel the feelings—sometimes so hard it’s overwhelming. We think. Too much. We escape to sunshine and ocean to fill our soul and find answers. Sometimes we find them, and sometimes we find ourselves more lost than we were when we arrived.

We tell ourselves we'll only live this transient, seasonal life for a brief period of time. It's a challenging schedule without balance. It's difficult to be a woman in the industry. But time flies too fast and when the sunshine is gone and the snow flies we seem to forget everything we've just gone through and we think to ourselves once again, "maybe I'll stay just one more year." And it continues on, and on, and on. Because, as hard and lonely as it sometimes is, we are addicted to it. Like a drug. 

We say we need to get away from the people we travel with all winter long. We need some space. But when we say "goodbye" and walk away, we yearn to spend time with the same people again. It's weird. But, that familiarity is safe. It's because we see the sights and experience the places, the joys and the sadness together. Human connection. We fall in love with people we work with and struggle to determine if it's real or merely a product of our environment. Love lingers on and on and on and so do the questions. 

We run to the circus, away from lives at home. Run from fears. Run from one reality to another. Some of us don't even have lives at home. Or homes for that matter. Lost. Wandering. The hunt for happiness is constant. And we always leave the hunt feeling a little bit empty and unsatisfied. We say we're tired and ready to move on. Exhausted. And then we go back. Because we can't live without it. We find energy for it and it gives us a strange kind of energy in return. 

Addicted to movement. Addicted to the highs and lows. Addicted to the tribe. Addicted to the purpose. Addicted to the places and faces and spaces. Like a drug. Addicted to feeling the end of the road and finding, once again, the beginning again. An addiction. A beautiful, lovely, fucked up addiction.

PS Most days, as I'm driving thousands of kilometers across country borders in Euroland, I find the lyrics of First Aid Kit's "My Silver Lining" floating through my head. If there was a soundtrack for my life, this would be the headliner...

I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ‘bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I won’t take the easy road
The easy road, the easy road

I won’t take the easy road
The easy road, the easy road

Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on