7 months ago I stood next to a casino in New Orleans overlooking the Mississippi River. I anxiously stood there, I wondered to myself what I’d find out west. All I wanted was to just be out west. This was my first time seeing the Mississippi River in my life and the Mississippi symbolized, to me, the gateway to freedom.
Growing up in the east I heard all these stories about how the west is this magical place for anyone who loves the outdoors. It has big open spaces, dark night skies, colorful deserts, mountains that put the Appalachians to shame, interesting people, fast moving water, and freedom. Freedom to do whatever the hell you want as long as you’re not hurting yourself or other people. It was that freedom I’d been craving for so many years and I could finally see it waiting for me across the Mississippi River.
Now I’m standing on the shores of the Mississippi River beneath Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This time I’m looking east and my back is facing the freedom I found out west. I’m seeing where I was running from and now I’m running towards it.
These 7 months have been beautiful. I thought I’d hate the desert and I found new life in the desert. People looked at me like I was a rockstar when I told them I live in a van. The west is where I broke out of my comfort zone. It’s where I felt at home taking risks. It’s where I told a girl she was beautiful and where my hopes of starting a real relationship were shattered. The west is where I learned to love the terrible moments that get me down. It taught me how to keep fighting when odds were against me; that quitting isn’t an option. I felt the freedom to fail and embrace the failure. The west is where I went when I was lost; and was found.
This freedom I found is only a state of mind, I guess. But this place wasn’t just a state of mind. The west became my home and now I’m going into the unknown. I don’t know when I’ll be back and that scares me. The limited space in the east, big cities, and bright night skies scare me.
I know I’ll be back out west soon enough, but the west, and all its freedom, will always be in my heart. And I hope the west will always have a place for me in its great big heart. I’m slowly realizing that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. And that to have lost a game doesn’t mean to have lost the match. But for now my compass needle is pointed east. I don’t know what’s there, but I want to find whatever there is for me to find.