“I felt I could turn the earth upside down with my littlest finger. I wanted to dance, to fly in the air and kiss the sun and stars with my singing heart. I, alone with myself, was enjoying myself for the first time as with grandest company.” — Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers.
I had been at my firm for 2.75 years and, stupidly, had never taken a vacation in all that time. By then, my boss and paralegal were both fairly pushing me out the door, so I found myself being ordered to take a week off in August, coincidentally my birthday month.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with my week off, but I’m a planner, so I sat down at my desk one day to figure it out. I knew I wanted to leave – to travel somewhere. I wasn’t sure I wanted to shell out money for a plane ticket, a rental car, a hotel, a cruise, whatever.
But I knew I wanted to leave. Being raised a traditional Muslim girl, I live at home with my parents and my younger brother. Even though I was turning 29 years old a week after my trip. Pathetic, I know.
I’m miserable living at home, but have proven too cowardly to have the big blow-out fight with my parents that would result from me saying I was moving out. My father has been a domineering rage-monster for most of my life (it never turned physical) until my early twenties when a heart attack forced him to mellow out and my mother is one of the most emotionally manipulative people I have ever known. Growing up in this has left me with considerable anxiety; when my dad raises his voice, for example, suddenly I’m a scared 4yo all over again.
So obviously I wanted to get the hell away. I looked at a map and randomly picked Michigan. It was close to Illinois, after all, but still far enough. It had big cities and small towns, cultural centers and historic ones, as well as beaches and lakes.
And craft breweries.
Another terrible thing about living at home is that I’m living a double life. I was raised Muslim, and my parents still believe I am one. I am not. I started drinking when I was 26, and it took me until I was 28 to finally stop calling myself a Muslim, although I will probably always culturally be a Muslim.
But keeping up that pretense can be exhausting, and once the idea of spending a week roadtripping through Michigan while drinking a shit ton of craft beer took hold, there was no stopping me.
I asked one of my friends, a fellow attorney working at a big firm downtown. She loves beer and road trips, but mused that she’d only really want to do 3-4 days, because she couldn’t justify being away from work that long. So that pairing went nowhere quick, because just considering the logistics of taking one car for two people, one of whom wanted to come home halfway, made my head hurt.
I asked a second friend, a guy I’d met through book club who was in the process of founding his baby, Sustain DuPage, an environmental and sustainability organization in our county of DuPage. He had just been laid off from his firm downtown and had opted to take 1 years’ worth of ‘funemployment’ to focus on building Sustain DuPage. He asked me, very prudently, what we were looking at in terms of money. This made me price it all out: hotels and guesstimates on meals, and perhaps a rental car. When I gave him the number, he politely demurred, citing his limited finances that he had allotted for careful use during his funemployment. This was a very good reason, and he was smart to say no to me.
I asked my final friend. She and I had gone to high school together, but never really became friends until our tenth high school reunion the year before. At this time, we were hanging out once a week at a local brewery, Solemn Oath. Jamie was good to go and excited about it … until she was asked to be in a wedding out of state and didn’t have the funds to do both comfortably. Again, another good reason, and I didn’t blame her one bit.
At this point I had two choices: take the fact that three friends didn’t work out and not go … or go alone.
To put this in context, I am a petite South Asian woman with glasses who has never traveled out of state for more than a day without her parents because patriarchal cultures are fucking bullshit.
I had never done a road trip by myself. If I did this, I would be going alone, driving around in places I’d never been before, watching my alcohol consumption because I was driving alone, and doing all of it in secret while pretending that I was actually attending a criminal defense conference in Grand Rapids, the lie that I had used for this one-week sojourn.
I had a paid off car that drove like a dream. I had GPS on my car and phone. I would be at most 4 hours away from home at almost all times. It was summer and I hadn’t yet even been to the beach. Additionally, I had just finished a round of therapy and counseling following a 1.5 year downward spiral that ended in some pretty serious situational depression and suicidal ideation, and I was finally starting to feel the sunlight again.
I decided to go alone.