Kind of Sort of the Start of Things

Image: Literally the largest smile I managed in a week visiting my family in Chicago back in March. Wow, was I a DRAG. But Mom and sisters look great! Thanks for playing photographer, Dad.

Two months ago this past Friday, a man I love(d) deeply broke up with me. Out of nowhere. Nearly three years gone in a night, two of them living together, and poof. I’ll spare the reader the details my family and friends have suffered all too repeatedly and graciously, but suffice it to say that, though I still don’t understand it and still feel sad and hurt, in my more generous moments, I’ve concluded he didn’t quite know what he wanted or could manage out of a good relationship, perhaps even life. He had this stubborn wall around his heart that prevented him from loving me well or even letting himself be loved as well as I loved him. I’ll always hope he works to break down that wall. The world would be a better place for it. But I can’t and shouldn’t do much about that from where I sit now…. I think I’d like to leave it there.

Meanwhile, I have cried more, and more uncontrollably, than I ever have before in my life in the last couple of months. I have gone to work and done very little work some days, done incredibly much work others. I have seen friends. I have visited family. I have journaled. I have cleaned and reorganized the apartment, hung a few new things on the walls. I have binge-watched the new season of “Master of None.” I have overeaten. I have undereaten. I have drunk too much wine and danced around my living room. I have written a thing and read it before a generous room of strangers (god bless Hugo House’s Works in Progress open mic).

More than anything, I have tried to dream up a new story for myself out of this. Wow, that sounds nice. Read: I am distracting the shit out of myself with a new hobby and fantasies of running away. Er, pedaling away. Yes, that new hobby is biking. Or “bike touring,” as I’ve gathered from the pages and pages of books and websites I’ve read to educate myself on what I’ve determined will be my escape hatch in a few months’ time.

Yeah, I’m going to do that thing where I dump all my earthly possessions and stable-ish life and job and friends and home, and I’ll go on some indulgent, soul-seeking trip because I can. (“Like Eat Pray Love?,” one of my friends joked. “Ughhhh,” I cringed.) No, I’m kidding. I’ll put my stuff in storage (see? I’m not too crazy) and yes, quit my great job with its phenomenal coworkers (mkay, a little crazy), and ride off into the sunset with little more than my hot-off-the-presses memberships to Warm Showers and the Adventure Cycling Association and my paltry car-camping-derived knowledge of how to be in the out-of-doors. Yes, seriously.

Apart from that, I carry some privileged identities like:

  • being white,
  • being a woman (this can cut both ways),
  • having a very able body,
  • being straight,
  • being cis-gendered (meaning I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth),
  • being a US citizen,
  • speaking fluent, unaccented English,
  • not suffering debilitating mental illness,
  • having a store of savings,
  • having supportive family and friends, and
  • probably lots more that I don’t even know to name.

All of those identities let me walk through the world, and specifically the United States, more safely and less pre-judged. In the case of being a woman, while I could be more at risk of being physically overtaken by a stranger, I am also more likely to be offered help by everyone from law enforcement to nice church ladies.

So, here’s the thing: I have no kids, no pets, no mortgage, and suddenly no partner. I was already detaching myself from Seattle in preparation to move with that partner to Portland for his new job. So as much as I love Seattle and hope to return to this gorgeous cleave of city between two (two!) mountain ranges, I feel strange trying to reattach to it just now. And while I doubt I’ll ever again find coworkers and an organization like the one I work for now, I can’t let fear of that loss direct my compass just now.

Finally, and really most centrally, I have to change the story of this moment. It can’t be: I had this humongous shit sandwich handed to me when I was expecting a BLT, and I simply ate it and smiled and continued on my way. I want to shake my head, toss that shit sandwich over my shoulder, and go hunt out the ingredients for a sandwich my grandmother would have been proud to serve me. (Okay, this paragraph was a stretch, but a) I really do love sandwiches, and b) they’re a thing in my family: “sammiches.”)

Changing the story of this moment. Changing the sammich. Changing myself, probably.

More on intentions (specifically some climate storytelling project ones) in future posts….

37 Replies to “Kind of Sort of the Start of Things”

  1. Way to take life by the horns, Serena!! I’m looking forward to living vicariously through your incredible adventure. Now go punt that shit sandy right into the abyss!!!

  2. Way to wrangle this headwind of the past few months into a tailwind, Serena. May you journey be filled with the most divine PB&Js, sloppy Joe’s, BLTs, reubens, and ham & cheese sammiches of your life!!

  3. This is amazing. A powerful statement of truth and inner strength. And so well-written, of course. Your “story” has always been and continues to be compelling and inspiring. So proud of you.

  4. So I remember when I was young and had a summer trip through Eastern Europe lined up through the YWCA. Berlin was still divided, Russia was not friendly, we were awakened on a train in the middle of the night on our way through Eastern Germany and the “officials” demanded to see our passports, on and on. One of your Grandmother Ghi’s friends was terribly worried about me and I couldn’t understand that. I was young and loved adventure. So I’m in a new role now and will keep my worrying to myself, get it? Have fun, stay safe & I look forward to a vicarious bike ride. You have inspired me to do a mile each day. I’ll connect with you when I do!

    1. Ha ha, I do indeed get it, Aunt Debbie. Any time you want company in fretting, you just give my ol’ dad a call. 😉 Love you!

  5. Just got this website from your Mom today so you are on your way and I am going along side you in my thoughts. Can’t wait to see how things are!

  6. Good luck, Serena! I wish I had been able to do something like this when I found myself feeling something similar once. I hope you create some wonderful stories out there. I look forward to reading along.

    1. Thank you, Sara! I realize this is definitely a special opportunity that I have the luck and privilege to enjoy just now. And to really NOT enjoy at times, too, ha ha. Thx for the encouragement, and see you back in the Emerald City…

  7. You are so cool. Thank you for sharing your story because I am guilty of eating shit sandwiches after shit sandwiches and never trying to figure out ingredients to make it better. I stopped eating sandwiches and started eating poke – that has made all the difference! I am sorry to hear that happened to you. I am also equally happy that you are taking time to take this journey and blogging about it! So inspiring and I can’t wait to continue reading…. your blog will be my first bookmarked blog! Ride on grllllllll

    1. Ha ha, Cassie!! Why didn’t I think of that?! Okay, gotta find me some poke now…

      Thx for your note and for the bookmark! Lucky me. 🙂

  8. Guy’s can be overrated at times. But—a good dependable Bike, now that’s the shit! Listen to the beautiful Shimano gears click…sweeeeet 🙂

    I’m with you Serene the Bean…use them there hills, and let the glide be on your side.

    Remember the vicitudes of life…twists and turns, a few hills, and a bunch more goodness awaits. Love ya a ton.

    1. Uncle David!! Thank you. Yep, I love me these dependable Shimano gears—could just use a few more of them for the climbs! :/ Thx for the love. Back at ya, xo

      1. Well—how you be little niece of mine—Serine the Bean? Hopefully the body is fit, and the mind is clear. Remember: Lonely are the brave. You haven’t missed a damn thing. Just keep your thoughts cluttered with nature, and you’ll be well on your way to pure happiness. Now I was thinking maybe an Eastcoast ride next year for you and Uncle David…yep, from Provincetown to Sparta, NJ. No—just a second….that’s fricking crazy. My agent says no! Bad idea…retract…I’ll think of something else (maybe just the Cape?).
        Well—are you finding that life follows you where ever you go? Happiness is in your back pocket (along with your Kind Bar). Hang tough…keep the chain greased. I love you Bean. Take good care. Unc D riding on your shoulder (that seems easier…ha).

        1. Doing great, Uncle David! And YES, I’m up for an uncle-niece ride any ol’ time! I’ll look up some routes in your neck of the woods. 🙂 XO

  9. Serena I’m so impressed by you on a multitude of levels. Thank God for you. Can’t wait to see where your adventures of body and heart take you. I’ll be following!

  10. How’s the “riding community” on your route? Are you meeting others going in the same direction that can keep you company for part of your journey?
    We’re looking forward to more photos of the route and the various overnight “accommodations” (when you get some wi-fi)!
    You’re amazing for taking on this adventure!

  11. HOW am I just learning about this now?!?!? I got so caught up in this story last night that I couldn’t go to bed until I read every post you’ve written. So extremely proud of you and beyond impressed at your ability to express yourself. I hope this journey fills you up and know that Dave and I are with you in spirit. Stay safe (the mother in me made me say it). Love you!

    1. Aw, thanks so much, Jen! I’m so honored you’ve found it a good read. Thanks for the support, and much love to you and Dave and the kiddos. Love ya!

  12. Serena,

    Sooooo many people don’t ” Just Do It! “. Glad that you are. Go for it! Enjoy the ride, but be safe!


    Unc Bob

  13. I stumbled upon your blog as I was on the adventure cycling website, checking out the #acawashparks and then your tweets. What a brave soul you are and thank you for being vulnerable. I am planning to ride this trail next summer so I am researching and prepping.
    Just wanted to encourage you to stay the course and be safe. if we ever see each other on the road, make sure to wave back!

    1. Wow, thank you so much, Tong. I’m glad to chat (when back in reliable service) about any of your Washington Parks questions, and I’d definitely recommend the Cycling Sojourner Washington book for you as well. Good luck to you, and I’ll certainly wave to ya if we cross paths! Ride on, friend.

  14. Just checking…how’s your tire pressure? Good supply of electrolytes? Using the anti-drag, dual action tear drop helmet? If not—it can be yours now for $9.99, and that’s not all…we’ll throw in a magnetic toothbrush that will adhere to the bike-frame like glue! Ok, ok…just thinking about ya is all. Have fun, and keep laughing. Love, UNC D

  15. I love the Cycling Sojourner as I can so relate to her writing style. She makes it seem like she’s just a long time friend sharing about bike touring rather than a book seller.
    I will continue to follow your blog as you have the same gift.
    Happy trails!

  16. Hello Serena, just came across your entry in a bicycle journal in an espresso stall in Naselle, WA. Last summer I cycled the trans-am to mend a similarly broken heart. Hope the road patched you up!


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