After a good chunk of time in Central America I returned to Chicago for doctor stuff and family time. I took care of what I needed to medically before I put some physical distance between me and cancer life. There were lots of puppy snuggles with Presley, glassblowing with Kira, a Portillos filled family send off, Speedway pizza with my Dad, and HGTV with my mom between the zillions of swim meets that filled up her July. I appreciate all the who fit a goodbye into their schedules and a big thanks to Wills for the epic adios bash complete with water balloons and Dulin all over the bathroom floor. I was only home for a few days but it felt like a long time. The whole time I knew what was in front of me and I was really excited to get to it. Like I said though, I am very thankful for the time I had in the midwest with all of you before I left it.
As soon as I could go, I went. I started my trip west with a stop in Saint Louis. A city I enjoy with people I enjoy. There were a few tears shed here as reality sunk in but they were short lived. Once I found Jeff it was a blur of olives and sushi and fun (special thanks to the Schmitz fam for hosting me and feeding me). Earlier in the day one of his friends managed to get a cool chick to agree to share the rest of her forever with him (congrats!!) so there was a big celebration that night for the happy couple. I met a few of the people there once before so it was nice to see them again. As an outsider (technically.. I never really consider myself one though), it was pretty special to be a part of a group that has been going strong since high school. There was karaoke and free beer. Have you ever heard of such a Kayla event? My heart was happy.
And like every good party there was an after party. The after party started around 2 am and took place in my car.. as in we left the bar, stopped to play in a field of sunnies, and continued the drive west. I had the Jacksons bumping and now a copilot :) And it was straight on to Denver. The Colorado border was the most beautiful sight of the summer after miles and miles of Kansas. We got to Denver in the afternoon and unloaded at the Brown's. I hit the pool and Jeff hit the hay. That night Tamara took us to what she called a "dive bar". There was a cool band that caused hours of dancing, cornhole out back, and extra large drinks if you asked for them (she did). It was a marvelous night with two of my favorite people that resulted in 10 hours of sleep. Once we finally got up it was lunch at the club, a hike with the fam, and we were off to Vail. The Brown's once again opened one of their homes to us and we were able to experience Vail for the first time. I had planned on exploring town but never made it off of the couch. So as far as Vail goes I can tell you that gas is expensive and the nighttime air is perfect for sleeping.
Every mile west of Denver is life altering. There are very few things I enjoy more than driving from Denver to California; it never gets old. We made a pit stop at my favorite dinosaur museum and I had a chance to relive some of my favorite Sloane memories. Utah was on my mind though. Ghost Rock is my favorite stopping point and place to monkey around. Nothing slows my mind and steals my breath like the view from here. A picture will never do it justice. If you have the time and means I highly recommend driving from Denver to SoCal. I'd be happy to join you anytime!
After this stop it was plowing through Vegas with an In-N-Out stop and straight on to Newport Beach. We finally arrived a little before midnight and I went from barely being able to keep my eyes open to fully wired. I was FINALLY a quick sleep away from my first day of work. I slept for maybe 3 hours. I cannot even remember the last time I was this excited for anything. I know a lot of you asked what my new job would entail and I never had complete answers for you. Now I can tell you. My job title and description are up to me. I'm working for a company called reImagine. https://reimagine.me They run an online program called Pillars4Life which focuses on teaching long term coping skills. Google away my dears reImagine. My job will include writing and promoting, but more than anything else I'll be doing what I can to change the cancer experience for all who encounter it. I am so stoked on every project that pops into my head and there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to explore, make connections, and set things up to flip the cancer world upside-down. My very short term work goals at the moment are to get in with a local hospital and follow up on all the month of brainstorming I have been doing. It has been a blast to find a new creative outlet and a paid one at that!
It would be a big old lie if I tried to pass off the past two weeks as all work and no play. I have been surfing a ton, kayaking, beaching, catching up with old friends, making new friends, and getting settled into my new home and new life. Home is now Huntington Beach, CA. I've got the address, the 949 number, and I have been asked a couple times what race I am so I guess I have the tan too.
I don't know how to sum it all up any other way than saying every day since I got here has been one of the best days ever. Sure the shining sun and wave chasing are a hard to beat but it's bigger than that. Cheesy quotes keep running through my head and my days have given them meaning. Two that stick out that I tweak to fit my world are:
I look back on the past year and a half all of the time. Never before in my life has love been so alive. For the first time I had a whole world that was not only scary to leave but also hurt to leave. We built something really beautiful in Chicago. But it was time to move on. So a good thing transitioned into something great. That's what I feel like I am a part of and we're on the brink of something huge. Direction and purpose have been lacking from my life. My heart and mind found a dark place so many times over the past months and I finally feel removed from all of that. All the bad is behind me. I have reasons to wake up in the morning and wake up early at that. I spent months fighting to live without really knowing why, just knowing that I was supposed to. It all feels worth it now. The excitement I have for every day is new but more importantly I have a hunger for a million more days after today. I don't want a life ruled by cancer and I'm starting to believe I can have that or at least strive to. I feel motivation from within to fight for those days. The way I see it is like I already ran out of time. So every day I have now is this beautiful gift and I love and appreciate every minute of it. I welcomed yoga into my life (fear not, I will never CrossFit). I took on dark greens and am passing on garbage. I feel like celebrating this beautiful body of mine that has been through hell and survived. I want to honor it and praise it. It is easy now to say no to things I want to say no to and YES to adventures and opportunities and every "first" I encounter. I told you it was cheesy. But I'm being directed by an energy of purpose and found outlets for all of my everything. When you find ways you want to spend the rest of your life you want the rest of your life to start right away. Every day is my Sally.
So that's where I am. My phone is often MIA. My head is often underwater in a literal way. The sun is bleaching out my 'fro and the bottoms of my feet are always black. My thoughts are productive and my lips are singing praises. I went from daydreaming about making an impact to finding ways to actually do it. I am missing friends back east but I hope you guys can understand what I'm doing and why I have to do it. Big risks lead to big rewards. And big risks aren't as scary when you have the net of love like the one I know is under and around me.
Thank you to all who were there before the madness began. Thank you for everyone who saw it through till the end. Thank you for everyone who celebrated through out with me. Thank you to everyone who has made every day in California one that I treasure. I could never say enough thank yous. I am running full speed on your love.
ps. almost forgot to touch on an upcoming event. I have some reconstruction to finish up and a little removal to do so I will be in Chicago on October 3rd for two weeks. Surgery is scheduled for Monday, October 6th. Nothing to panic about. Looking for a fun night before I get cut up and more importantly for buddies to live that couch life with me while I recover. See you guys before you know it!