The Blog: On Second Thought

(Source: Unsplash.com)

(Source: Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Pardon. 

Excuse me.

Sorry.

With the onset of my depression and anxiety, “sorry” became my favorite word. Sorry for bumping into you, even if you hardly noticed. Sorry my hair sticks up on one side and I’m not wearing makeup. Sorry I’m so thin when you’re trying to lose weight. Sorry for thinking about how hard it is for me to maintain weight when you’re trying to deal with your own problems. Sorry the gift you bought me doesn’t fit. Sorry.

Sorry. 

Sorry. 

Sorry for being as smart as I am but not pursuing a career in medicine or engineering. Sorry that my leg bounces up and down and it distracted you. Sorry you feel you need to stop wearing your perfume because I’m having breathing problems.

Sorry for taking up space. Sorry for being sad or scared. Sorry for not smiling as brightly as you expect me to, or for not paying you the attention you deserve when you tell me about your day. Sorry for needing a ride instead of growing up and getting a license. Sorry for finally getting a license and not always parking perfectly or taking turns smoothly. Sorry for drawing instead of looking at you because I’ve become too anxious for eye contact.

I didn’t realize how much I was doing it until my dad said, “Stop apologizing for existing.”

“Sorry,” I said, proving his point.

Depression and anxiety told me I was worthless. They told me that I was responsible for fixing everything wrong with the lives of my loved ones. They told me I needed to stop making mistakes. They told me I needed to participate in conversations and get a social life (but they also told me not to hog the spotlight). I always needed to become better or smarter or something. Depression and anxiety told me I was never enough.

They’re still telling me that. And some days, I still believe them.


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. 


But on those days I remind myself that depression and anxiety are lying. No one is perfect, and even if I’m not good enough (or so they tell me) I still have value; I can contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around me.

If depression and anxiety are lying to you, that’s OK. Just remind yourself what’s true. And most importantly, don’t apologize: for taking up space, for living your life, for being you.

You are worth more than that. You don’t have to be sorry.

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

(Source: Kate Williams via Unsplash.com)

This post originally appeared on TWLOHA and was republished with permission.

Tomorrow morning I’m going back to therapy. For me, it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, perhaps even harder than choosing to ask for help the first time. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in the last several years. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and will continue to become. I’ve learned to show myself grace in the process. But I’ve also learned nothing is static.

I wrote about my story for TWLOHA around a year ago and called it “Growing Into Beautiful” because I was. Everything in it remains true. I’ve learned to recognize my own worth. I’ve learned to find healing in the touch of the man I love and to not expect his fingers to leave bruises. I’ve learned to love myself enough to forgive a lot of people for a lot of things, including myself. I’ve watched time march onward and me march right along with it. I’m so alive these days, and I’m unafraid of that fact. But my growth process does not and cannot end there.

It took me time, but I eventually worked up the courage to share “Growing Into Beautiful” with a few of my closest friends. Most were supportive, having already known my history. After reading it one friend asked me if I thought I was “better now.” The answer is both yes and no.


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. 


Recovery is not a one-stop shop. I wish I could tell you it happens in a linear fashion: You go to therapy and then you stop when you’re all better. But that isn’t life. Recovery is the ebb and flow of an ocean. You may never see the whole thing; sometimes it will feel vast and overwhelming, and other times it will seem like the most calming thing in the world. For me, with every new panic attack or trigger, I understand a little more of what my first therapist told me: Sometimes things happen to us and we simply aren’t the same. I am not the same person I was before I walked this road.

Please understand me. I am still growing into my beautiful. This is the whole point of my previous post: to say that I am still growing into the story I’ve lived. But I also recognize that I’ve not yet learned to wear my stories and my scars with all the grace that I could. It’s easy to write posts that end with victory and recovery. It’s not easy to write follow-up posts that shed light on the reality that life is nuanced.


Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help.


That’s why going back to therapy is the hardest thing for me right now. Because I could make a decent argument that I’m in a really good place, that I’m healthy. And maybe my return to therapy is a result of being in a healthy place: I know my own limits, and I respect myself enough to ask for help when I begin to push them. Yet, even knowing all those things, it is hard to fill out a form asking what areas I’m struggling in, to rate them on a scale of 1-10, and not feel like I somehow failed.

My friends: If you are like me, and you’ve been through some dark things and come out on the other side, please hear me. Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart for you to get help. It is not shameful to still need help. It was not shameful to ask for help the first time. It is not shameful that the struggle doesn’t fully eradicate itself even after all this time. I am speaking as much to myself as anyone else. It is not shameful to still be growing. It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were. Me filling out these forms is the furthest thing from me failing; it’s me winning before a battle even begins. It’s me taking preventative measures because an ounce of prevention is far easier to swallow than a pound of cure after I’ve already relapsed.


 It is not shameful to go back to therapy because even though you’re stable, you’re not as whole as you thought you were.


So much of what happened in my life was out of my control. Asking for help is not one of those things. I am ending cycles before they even start. I’m going back to therapy. I’m letting that be a victory instead of a failure. And if you still need help I’m hoping you’ll have the courage to ask again as well. You deserve to know your story isn’t over yet. You deserve to know that healing takes time and that no one is expecting you to rush this process. You deserve to know how much you are loved, how much you are worth it. I’m walking this road with you, believing in better endings.

(Source: unsplash.com)

(Source: unsplash.com)

Nick Pitts and I were able to attend a recent event where a prominent journalist engaged in a Q & A about important issues facing our country. While the substance of his answers were interesting in their own way, the biggest takeaway for me from the event was what was probably a throw-away line for him. As he was describing a conversation he had with his boss at the time, he tried to give the context behind one of the questions that the boss had asked him. He stopped for a brief moment and said “You know, good CEOs and leaders always ask the right questions.”

I didn’t particularly resonate with much of the rest of the journalist’s comments the rest of the event, but that one line stuck with me and caused me to reflect on its truth. Why is it that the best leaders always seem to be asking the right questions? And what are those particular questions they seem to ask? We’ve all been in situations where we’ve witnessed this. There you are, in the middle of a meeting, whether it’s a large group of co-workers or just a one-on-one, and all of a sudden the leader stops the flow of conversation for a moment to ask a question. As the question is presented, the atmosphere of the meeting completely changes.

Good questions provide focus and clarity to a haphazard discussion. At other times they open the door to new ways of thinking. In still other contexts they cut like a knife through talk designed to obfuscate and distort. Questions have an unsettling quality that disturbs the equilibrium.


Good questions provide focus and clarity to a haphazard discussion.


Think about some of the great questions in the Bible: The Philippian jailer asking Paul and Silas “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30); Jacob, wrestling with God, being asked “What is your name?” (Genesis 32:27); God answering Job from out of the whirlwind “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” (Job 38:4); Jesus asking the blind man near Jericho “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41); Jesus asking Peter in Caesarea Philippi “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). The list could go on and on with all the great questions.

We live in an ALL CAPS culture that tries to talk over each other and smash each other with our ideas or opinions. But great leaders know that sometimes the situation doesn’t need an authoritative statement or directive, however right or true it may be. Sometimes the great need of the moment is for the right question to be asked.


Sometimes the great need of the moment is for the right question to be asked.


If questions are so important to leadership, we need to ask ourselves if we are asking the right kinds of questions. Here is a list of a few of the kinds of questions that I’ve heard great leaders ask:

In hiring: Why do you want to work here?

In planning & strategy: What resources do we have that aren’t getting maximized?

In problem solving: What is the underlying root issue here?

In mentoring: What are you learning right now in your life?

In brainstorming: Will this idea/initiative/program further our mission or confuse and distract us from our mission as an organization?

Os Guinness helps clarify why questions are so valuable for leaders: “Statements can be subversive, especially if the information they carry is explosive. But in most cases, questions carry a subversive power that statements cannot match, because a statement always has the quality of ‘take it or leave it.’ . . . Questions, by contrast, are powerful for two reasons. First, they are indirect, and second, they are involving.” (Fool’s Talk, 163)


Many leaders are too busy and too scattered to be able to engage at a level deep enough to understand what kinds of questions need to be asked. 


Great questions stem from a curious and engaged mind. Many leaders are too busy and too scattered to be able to engage at a level deep enough to understand what kinds of questions need to be asked. Our world of always-on technology, instant gratification, and ever-shorter attention spans pushes us further and further away from taking the time to think through what needs to be asked. Our lives as leaders need to be fixed and directed in such a way that we have the capacity to help our people understand the tasks and goals before us. Many times this starts with a simple question.


A version of this article originally appeared on the Denison Forum (denisonforum.org) and has been used with permission. Mark Cook has his Masters of Divinity, is a Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Baptist University, and is the program coordinator for the Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University.

(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

I’m not sure when this idea of “Friendsgiving” became so popular, but I am sure glad it did.

We did our annual friend feast this past week, where we gathered around four different tables, brought our kids over in their pajamas, and caught up with people we love but haven’t seen in a while. It was the best turkey I have ever had. Seriously.

Toward the end of the meal, our friend, Tad, got up and pulled out a book. I had seen him walk in with it earlier in the night and remember thinking, “How cute.” It was a children’s book about the first Thanksgiving. I thought maybe he had brought it for one of the kids. But when he stood up at the table and announced he was going to read, I finally connected the dots.

The book was “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving”  by Eric Metaxas. Tad began telling the story and turning the pages. And as he did, the story started coming back to me. Here’s the summary from the book:

In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a twelve-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims landed in a strange new world.

As we neared the end, I was reminded of something that my pastor says a lot: God is at work in the mess. Listen, I can’t explain away pain, I can’t justify all the pain in the world, and I can’t tell you nothing bad will happen. But what I can say is that God is working behind the scenes. Squanto is the perfect example of that. He was captured, sold, and cut off from those he loved. In all of that, though, his life was saved, and he was used to save the lives of others.


I can’t explain away pain, I can’t justify all the pain in the world, and I can’t tell you nothing bad will happen. But what I can say is that God is working behind the scenes.


On Thanksgiving, it can be hard to cycle through all the mess of the last year and find the good. Maybe life has been so incredibly tough this year that it’s even difficult to find the silver lining in your next breath. Maybe time with family makes you anything but grateful. Maybe this time of year ushers in pain and depression.

If so, then maybe all you can muster is a hope that there is a God and that He is at work in the ugly, hard, crushing mess. I think that’s OK. It’s OK to be honest about where you are at. It’s OK to not be OK.

But know this is not where it all ends. Someone is at work. And maybe next year you can look back and realize you were living your own Squanto story.


Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second.  You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@jonseidl) and like him on Facebook.

(Source: Unsplash.com)

(Source: Unsplash.com)

You know what I’ve come to realize lately? That it takes courage to be thankful.

I’d prefer to be a self-sufficient person. A one-man-show that doesn’t need nothin’ from nobody. A stoic lone ranger that’s willing to help others but never asks for it himself. Because telling someone “thanks” means I couldn’t do it myself.

Admitting that we need others, that we can’t do everything, is a reminder that it’s not all about us.

But here’s the thing: Opening ourselves up to others also means we’re opening up ourselves to face hurt and disappointment. Connections with other people can be treacherous.


Admitting that we need others, that we can’t do everything, is a reminder that it’s not all about us.


Just this week, I noticed that I was unfriended by somebody I considered to be a good friend. We just had a nice conversation a few weeks ago, but without any explanation, I was sent (virtually) packing.

See what I mean?  Being thankful means I’m not self sufficient. It means I’m willing to acknowledge that others have some control over my life. And it takes courage to admit that I’m reliant (to some degree) on other people —other people who are just as selfish and as flawed as I can be on any given day.

But we need people. We were meant to live in community. Other people challenge us, refine us, and help us be emotionally healthy people. And the older I get, the more I realize these are the areas I want to be healthy in most of all — more so than just being well off financially, I want to be part of a community of other people who love me and I love them in return. Starting with my family at home and spreading out from there.


Other people challenge us, refine us, and help us be emotionally healthy people.


I’m thankful for family and friends who try to pick me up and I’m feeling low.

I’m thankful for family and friends who are happy when good things come my way.

I’m thankful for family and friends that put up with me when I’m being selfish (and maybe call me out on it.)

I’m thankful for family and friends who respect my viewpoints and values even when they don’t agree with them.

I’m thankful for family and friends who let me give value to their lives in the same manner I listed above.

It takes courage to live in a community with fellow travellers through this life. So this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for those who have the courage to love me, care about me, and challenge me.  And I’m going to be grateful for those who are willing to let me be a part of their lives as well.


Thomas Christianson is a professor, writer, and speaker living in the Baltimore area. You can find books, booking info, and blog posts at makingfaithpractical.com.

(Photo source: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Pexels.com)

“Okay, time to go around the table and tell everyone what you’re most thankful for!”

Yup, I’m that girl. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I understand why others may groan or laugh at this exercise. It may seem trite, trivial, or cheesy.

“Well, duh, I’m thankful for family” or “Of course, I’m thankful for health.”

It may feel silly in the moment. But, I fear that thankfulness gets a bad rap.

It has almost become this light-hearted, insignificant hashtag like #blessed or #liveauthentic.

Luv my friends #thankful.

*cue the cringing

But I don’t perceive thankfulness as this weak, fluffy, idealistic act. Not at all.

To me, thankfulness is the life preserver thrown out to you when you’re drowning in a sea of fear. It is the loud, bold “NO” pushing back on the pressures of a society trying to make you feel like you don’t have enough.


To me, thankfulness is the life preserver thrown out to you when you’re drowning in a sea of fear. 


Thankfulness is the blazing sun giving life to a dying, depressed soul. It is the turning point and the resolution in every best-selling novel.

I could go on and on because that’s how passionate I am about giving thanks. If we’re not making an effort to be thankful, we will be perpetually stuck in a cycle of always wanting more and never feeling satisfied. Sound familiar?

And without being thankful in every circumstance, good or bad, all of our trials, every mountain we’ve had to climb and every storm we’ve had to endure, would be in vain. Your pain would be a waste.


Your pain would be a waste.


But, when you look back on the most challenging times in your life and say, “I’m thankful for that,” your heart begins to change. How? Something or someone that once had the power to steal your happiness and your peace has now become the thing that aides to your emotional and spiritual growth.

Instead of wallowing around in your tears, you’re refusing to stay stuck in the mud by finding the silver lining, no matter how thin it may be, and using that line to pull you out of the mess. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Thankfulness is powerful, y’all.

Don’t get me wrong; while I strongly believe in the power of being thankful, I often abandon it in my every day life. For example, a few weeks ago I had a span of a few ungrateful days. I was in a bad mood that I couldn’t shake, I felt discouraged and nothing seemed to be working out the way that I wanted. I was pretty comfortable in my pity-party.

Then, at the end of the work day, I walked outside.

The soft wind, the perfect temperature, the sun ever-so slightly peering through the gray clouds, and the dancing flowers did something to me.

Call me a hippy, call me crazy, but I believe God sent me that moment. Because when I silently thanked Him for the perfect weather, my mood instantly changed. By the time I got to my car, I realized that an entire three days of being unhappy and frustrated had suddenly shrank into nothing. I can’t even explain how being thankful for something so simple was able to outplay the pile of frustrations I had in my heart, but it did.

If you feel trapped in a funk, if your anxieties are gaining control, and if your list of disappointments is growing by the hour, please take a moment and fight back! Fight back by giving thanks.

It may not feel like something you really want to do in that moment. It may feel a lot like pulling teeth. I get it. But if you’re tired of where you are, please muster up a little strength to dig through your heart in search of true, deep gratitude.


Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.


H.A. Ironside, author and teacher, said, “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”

So, when someone asks you what you’re thankful for this year and you’d rather just focus on the turkey and ham, pause before you laugh it off. Consider the seemingly small things you experience every day, and the dauntingly dark days that have shaped who you are. Give it a whirl. Giving thanks is serious business.

Caitlin Jordan is the digital content writer and editor for I Am Second. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@caitlinr_jordan).

(Source: Phil Coffman via Unsplash.com)

(Source: Phil Coffman via Unsplash.com)

Recently I had to have a hard conversation with a friend.

It was one of those conversations you put off for a long time, thinking you can just ride it out, hoping things will correct on their own. The tension had been building for awhile. Small things, really, but neither of us wanted to bring it up.

I had my list of excuses for not saying anything: There was no point, I told myself. She wasn’t going to be able to hear me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say.

Not to mention, I was afraid that if I said what I was thinking, I was going to ruin the friendship.

I realized now how unfounded this was.

After all, what kind of friendship is it if we can’t really be honest with each other? On top of that, I wasn’t really giving my friend much credit. Did I really think that, if I was honest about how I felt, the friendship would end?


After all, what kind of friendship is it if we can’t really be honest with each other?


I knew the truth was it probably wouldn’t.

So I met with my friend that next week and talked about how I was feeling.

I went into the conversation nervous, but as soon as I started to share, my nerves calmed. She listened to me so graciously as I shared what I was feeling. I made sure to talk about myself (“When this happens, it makes me feel…), rather than blaming. She apologized for her part in it and then told me how she was feeling, too.

We both took turns listening and apologizing. Whatever tension had been between us melted.

After we talked, I felt so much closer to her.

To be honest, I know it could have easily gone the other way. Sometimes we share our thoughts or feelings with someone and they listen graciously, like my friend did. Other times, we’re met with resistance—defensiveness, anger, blame.

But at least we can see, then, that this is not a right friendship for us.

You can’t really be friends with a person who can’t be honest and listen.

I’ve spent so much of my life settling for acquaintances and calling them friends.

I would avoid being really honest about what I was feeling—either pretending I wasn’t feeling it, or talking myself out of it for some reason, or just stewing about it, without talking.

One thing would usually pile on top of another until I couldn’t take it.

I would explode about it. Or stay quiet. The friendship would inevitably end.

And just like that, my fear that friendships would end would become its own self-fulfilling prophecy.


There’s an epidemic of loneliness in our culture and I think our unwillingness to be honest is causing it. 


As I acted out my fear of losing friends, I would lose them anyway. And usually, I would lose them over something that could be easily avoided—if I had just been willing to be honest much sooner.

There’s an epidemic of loneliness in our culture and I think our unwillingness to be honest is causing it.

So what’s the answer?

I don’t think the answer is to take a guns-blazing, honesty-at-all-costs approach, because I’ve seen this blow up for people and leave them just as frustrated and alone.

I do think the answer is to get really good at being honest andvulnerable.

It doesn’t take much to say, “you can be a real jerk sometimes.” But it takes courage and resilience to say, “when you said that to me, it made me feel insignificant and small.”

Like I said, this is not easy. I’m still learning. But so motivated to keep moving in this direction because the alternative is so much harder—staying lonely, trapped in a world where dozens of people know ofyou but no one really knows you for who you are.

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, we had an amazing time getting to know you at our Dallas run event. There, we asked you to open up about your story or to take a few words to describe yourself. You responded in a real, raw way. Thank you.

For example, there was Deborah, who told her story of overcoming anorexia earlier this year:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

Val talked about being lost and found:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

And Drea opened up about being clean for two years:

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

Check out the slideshow from the entire day below:

(Photo source: Andrew Neel via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Andrew Neel via Unsplash.com)

This blog post originally appeared on TWLOHA.com and was republished with permission. 

If you see me in public, hands folded, head down, it doesn’t mean I’m unfriendly. If you approach me, stand a centimeter too close, and I back away slightly, I don’t mean to offend. If I distance myself from the noise or traffic or thick suffocation of a whirring crowd, it has nothing to do with you, I swear. I’ll do my best impression of a mother and wife who has her life together. I’ll run the errands and do the grocery shopping and drive across town, and I’ll do it without so much as a wince. But inside, where the dark, misunderstood parts lurk, I’m screaming so loud, I can be heard shrieking through the heavens.

Diagnosed with a laundry list of depression, OCD, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, my tics and rituals worsened, becoming more obvious to those around me. I could hide the fact that I rubbed my knuckles when anxious or scrubbed the counter a minimum of twenty times a day because I did those things in the comfort of my home. But when I walked outside my front door, it was different. Certain sounds, like thunder or someone speaking in a loud voice, made me panic. When confronted with very basic decisions like which cereal to choose, I’d waste so much time wading in indecision that I would miss things happening around me. I had to maintain a strict schedule, which forced me to bail early on plans. I always managed to explain my way out, but every time, I felt bits of me disintegrating into nothing.


These are the things, the lies, I told myself to keep from reaching out.


For the longest time, I hid my anxiety for fear of judgment. Certainly no one would understand how utterly catatonic all the thoughts made me. There was no way anyone could see me as anything more than these disorders once I confessed. These are the things, the lies, I told myself to keep from reaching out. I kept this life secret, these truths hidden, so as not to expose myself even further. I didn’t want everyone thinking things about me, true or not, that changed the way they felt about the person I am. I kept telling myself it would be OK. I could get by pretending I wasn’t dying inside as long as everyone’s opinion of me remained unwavering, no matter the price I’d pay for it.

It wasn’t until I reached a place of reckless freefalling—a place that nearly killed me—that I took the steps necessary to try and reign it all in. This meant recognizing that I couldn’t care about anyone’s opinion of me for one more fleeting moment. I needed help before I fell into a hole I couldn’t climb out of. It was that dire and yet, once I got to this point, I still didn’t grasp the gravity of how far I’d already fallen.

The first step, for me, was realizing all of these things I battle? They don’t define me—just like they don’t define you. You are not your madness, and I am not mine.


We are human. We are flawed. We are learning. We are evolving. And we are broken, illuminating the cracks in order to fit the pieces back together.


We are human. We are flawed. We are learning. We are evolving. And we are broken, illuminating the cracks in order to fit the pieces back together. It’s humbling and humiliating to identify our weaknesses and to work on them day after day. But know this: Pretending everything is calm when a war has broken loose inside you means you’ll never live the life you were meant to live. So tell your truths. Scream them and don’t apologize for what you’re feeling.

You don’t have to hide anymore because you are not your madness. What you are is human.

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, contributing writer for sites like XO Jane & Hello Giggles, obsessive marathoner and continual worrier. Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Press (Griffin Teen) Spring/Summer2017.

A rain cloud passing ahead of us on our trip. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

A rain cloud passing ahead of us on our trip. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

I was sitting at lunch with my pastor a couple weeks ago and he asked me a simple question: “So, how was your motorcycle trip?”

I gave him the only honest answer I could muster at the time. I think it kind of shocked him.

“Bad,” I said.

He chuckled, probably thinking I was joking.

“No, really, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” I said a little nonchalantly.

About a month earlier, I embarked on a week-long motorcycle trip with my brother-in-law. It was going to fulfill my desire for adventure, allow me some alone time to clear my head, and just be an all-around amazing trip. We had reserved a lodge room inside Big Bend National Park and other spots along the way. For months I had been counting down the days until I would hop on my bike, kick it in gear, open up the throttle, and let the painted road lines sweep so close beneath me that I could touch them.

We did the same trip two years ago and had the most amazing experience. We met interesting people, kept a loose itinerary, carried around a sense of awe and wonder like two toddlers at Disneyland, and had deep conversations in the middle of nowhere. It was special.

We set out this year to replicate that. Same route, same place, same people. Same result, we thought.

It was a bust.


It was a bust.


Unbeknownst to either of us, we both knew it, too. A few days into the trip, we finally realized we shared the same feeling. That feeling? “This just feels so …different.”

As we began talking about it at a random gas station, we realized that the sense of awe and wonder that enveloped us last time was gone. Two years ago, there was something new around every windy corner. That feeling of the unexpected kept us so aware and made us feel so alive. Every tree, every landmark, every hill was an adventure.

But this time, we knew the route. We knew what to expect. We were more focused on getting to the next stop than enjoying the ride between them. We thought it was going to be like visiting an old friend, the kind you can just pick up where you left off with and not miss a beat, no matter how long it’s been. Instead, it was like meeting an acquaintance for the second time and realizing that they aren’t quite how you remembered them.

That’s not the only reason, though. We both left a lot at home to make the trip happen. My brother-in-law is a small business owner, so any time away is a big commitment. I’m still a relatively new dad, so spending time away from my daughter for an extended period is still hard — both for me and for my wife. In order for either of us to really feel like the trip was “worth it,” we had an unspoken idea that the trip had to meet or exceed last time’s experience in order for us to feel justified in taking it.

And it just wasn’t cuttin’ it.

That conversation was freeing. But it wasn’t trip-altering. It didn’t magically reinvigorate our sense of amazement. In fact, over the next two days things got worse. Our final lodging plans — which were supposed to be the highlight of the trip — were altered by some unexpected guests, killing the last chance of redemption we were holding out for the trip. When that happened, we woke up at 4:30 am the next morning, decided to stop fighting what we both knew we had to do, packed up our stuff, and started home. We had a 10-hour ride ahead of us, which is daunting on a motorcycle. We did it anyway.

My brother-in-law, who is a mechanic, works on my bike during one of the many times it broke down. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

My brother-in-law, who is a mechanic, works on my bike during one of the many times it broke down. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Then my bike broke down.

Then it broke down again.

When we finally stopped for lunch around 3 p.m. we were so tired we decided to turn a one-day return trip into a two-day pilgrimage. My brother in law had some family in the area so we crashed at their place. And wouldn’t you know, we had more fun in that 12 hours than we did in the previous six days.

***

After getting home, I really still struggled with the trip. I was mad at myself for not loving it more. Disappointed that I had left my family in order to try and find something I never found. Angry that I couldn’t will myself into some sense of wonder. And I kept trying to make sense of it all.

As I thought more about it in the days following, I had an epiphany about what went wrong. Yeah, the fact that it wasn’t “new” contributed. But that’s not the main reason. No, what I finally realized is that somewhere in the past year, my role as a dad and a husband had truly become two of the most important things in my life. I’m finally at the point where a vacation without my immediate family — my wife or my daughter — just feels so incomplete. I made the mistake of thinking that vacation in itself could be this magical elixir that would cure all my anxieties and revive me.


I made the mistake of thinking that vacation in itself could be this magical elixir that would cure all my anxieties and revive me.


While the trip in general wasn't what we expected, there were some awesome moments, like this West Texas sunset. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

While the trip in general wasn’t what we expected, there were some awesome moments, like this West Texas sunset. (Photo source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

But the truth is, I’ve found that I’m most revived when I’m spending time with my girls. When I’m loving them well. When I’m saying “no” to myself and “yes” to them. When I’m going to bed absolutely tired because I’ve thrown the ball down the hall so many times with my daughter that I never want to see a ball again — only to crave it the moment we stop. When I’m focused on saving energy throughout the day so that I can actually use more then two words when my wife asks me how my day was.

Those moments — those people — are the ones I want to spend vacation with. And that’s not to say there’s never room for trips outside of them. There will be. And I thoroughly enjoy time with my brother-in-law. But I think I needed this trip to put all future ones in perspective. I needed this trip to realize my proper place, to realize their proper place. I needed this trip so I could learn that I can’t go through life counting down the days to my next vacation and expecting it to fulfill me.

That’s ultimately found in my creator and the special humans he’s put in my life.

And now that I think about that, maybe it was a better vacation than I realized.


Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second.  You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@jonseidl) and like him onFacebook.