Three months and five days ago I was sitting on the Cross Sound Ferry. I had gone directly to the bar for a celebratory beer after saying goodbye to my family and my closest friends from home. My adrenaline was pumping. I was excited and terrified.
Three months and four days ago I met my first sweet family on the beach in Niantic, Connecticut, who had a story to share for my mission. It was my first story of the trip. I took their photo, and chatted with them for a little while before they hugged me goodbye. The mother had brought a squash from her garden for my host that night, and the father gave me a twenty dollar bill telling me, “I want to be the first tank of gas!”
Three months ago and two days ago I sat in a chair while a woman interviewed me from Fox 61 about my road trip. I told her, and whomever was watching television in Connecticut that morning, that I was driving across the country in my mother’s car, in my mother’s honor, to collect stories of human kindness for a book I wanted to create and donate to hospital waiting rooms. I still remember the feeling I had walking through the door towards the chair that morning to be interviewed.
Two months and twenty days ago I got an e-mail from a woman named Kelly. She told me about something that happened to her 28 years ago. She was working as a bank teller and having a horrible day. A customer mentioned she looked stressed and she quickly responded with the fact that “it was nothing some M&M’s couldn’t cure.” A half hour later the woman returned and handed her some M&M’s. Kelly told me she never forgot that day, and that she often shares it with her children to remind them of the immense power a random act of kindness can hold.
Two months and two days ago I got an e-mail from someone at a larger social media site asking if they could create a small video for their site explaining what I was doing. I immediately replied, “Yes!” I figured the more it got out there, the more stories! The video reached 35,000 people that night.
One month and eight days ago I arrived at the home of a family I had never met for Christmas. The night I arrived was the night before Christmas Eve. I piled on to the couch with the family – two twin boys, who still believed in Santa, and their parents. They instantly made me feel welcome, as if I was a part of their family all along. We watched The Polar Express before heading off to bed.
Seventeen days ago I arrived at the house of a third cousin in Virginia who I knew, and another third cousin who I had never met. Besides working on collecting stories, I had the opportunity to hear stories and see old photos of my family and spend time with relatives I had never spent much time with otherwise. I had a moment to gather my thoughts on the trip and relax a bit.
Two weeks ago I finished my wedding season, something I celebrated with my fantastic host, Lindsey, and a tequila shot.
And today is 30.
This year, I’ve decided I’m going to feel it all. Embrace it all.
And tell it all.
Because I think now, more than ever, it is important we tell the whole truth.
So here it goes.
Three months and five days ago I sat on the Cross Sound Ferry to Connecticut. That morning I sat with one of my closest friends to have a goodbye breakfast. I ate two pieces of toast and a sip of water. I had no appetite. I had twenty knots in my stomach. My anxiety was higher than it had ever been. And then, my tooth broke. I rushed to the closest dentist to have it patched up before I made the ferry that morning. Three hundred dollars slipped out of my “road trip fund” before I even left on the trip.
Three months and four days ago I met my first sweet family on the beach in Niantic, Connecticut who had a story to share with my mission. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in over a week and despite the fact that the guest bed I had slept in the night before was similar to a cloud from heaven, I was still restless with anxiety about starting the trip. I had googled something about having trouble sleeping and the article told me that usually it takes a day or two to adjust to a new place. This posed an issue as I was not going to be in a place longer than a night or two for the next year or so of my life. I immediately became more stressed.
Three months ago and two days ago I sat in a chair while a woman interviewed me from Fox 61 about my road trip. I was terrified to be on live television and the entire drive into Hartford, CT to the station that day I thought I was going to be sick. My stomach was, as usual, in twenty knots of terror and for some reason all I could think about was when the next time I’d be able to use a bathroom in peace. This is something people don’t think about as much when hearing about my road trip, and maybe, out of classiness, don’t ask me. But let me tell you, being in and out of strangers’ homes poses quite an issue for being comfortable enough for bowel movements. I rock a More Good shirt and a stomachache most days of this journey. Shortly after I left the interview that day I was driving to the next host of my trip and faced car trouble. Luckily everything turned out ok, but getting my car towed and thinking the entire time that the car just died after I went on live television to tell people about my trip was…well, stressful to say the least.
Two months and twenty days ago I got an e-mail from a woman named Kelly. She told me about something that happened to her 28 years ago. It was an act of kindness she had never forgotten. I opened her e-mail and read the story and cried. Not because it was a particularly emotional story, but because I had been having an awful day. I was exhausted and stressed trying to reach out to people and encourage them to take action and send their stories. I was looking at a Facebook status filled with tags to people but an empty inbox wondering if the people being tagged were even seeing the post. I was feeling discouraged, and then her e-mail arrived into my inbox. A simple sweet story, it was exactly the kind of story I loved to highlight. I sat there and read it and it made me cry to think this woman took the time to write to me. She took the time to support the mission with her story, as small as it was, it was one of my favorites.
Two months and two days ago I got an e-mail from someone from a larger social media site asking if they could create a small video for their site explaining what I was doing. That night I checked the page and saw all of the views, then I opened the comments. People commented that I was “a retard.” “This must be what you do when you have all of the time in the world.” “She must have gotten a lot of money from her dead mom.” “Just wait for it, she’s going to get her car stolen.” I sat there with a weird pain in my stomach, like I wanted to cry or throw up. I had worked my ass off to get this trip to work, to figure out how to connect with amazing people who would host me so I could budget on hospitality, and use my own personal money to buy any other food or coffee or gas I needed. I had also created a Go Fund Me account I would run through the trip to alleviate some of the costs too. They didn’t even know me, and yet they were ripping me, and my mission to spread kindness, apart. I felt sick.
One month and eight days ago I arrived at the home of a family I had never met for Christmas. I had a fever and horrible sore throat. I crawled into bed after we watched The Polar Express that night and slept through the majority of Christmas Eve the following day. I felt awful and awkward being sick in a stranger’s home, especially on Christmas! Of course they were incredibly kind to me and not bothered, but I still felt horrible showing up for Christmas and bringing sickness into their home.
Seventeen days ago I arrived at a relative’s home. The side of my mouth had been hurting me and by the second day at my cousin’s house it was throbbing. We went to the dentist and I was informed that I was clenching my teeth so badly at night that if I kept it up in a few years I wouldn’t be able to even open my mouth. The dentist told me I needed to start stressing less, and needed to wear a mouth guard every night from now on.
Two weeks ago I finished my wedding season, something I celebrated with my fantastic host, Lindsey, and a tequila shot. Earlier that day I had headed to the dermatologist. I had a rash on the side of my face that hadn’t let up in a while and decided to finally get it checked out. I had tried multiple remedies throughout the trip but nothing seemed to be working and the rash was getting worse. The dermatologist said it was rosacea. Main cause: stress. She put me on an antibiotic for a month and a half, and gave me a scrub and topical cream that I was to put on a few times each day. The rash is still very much alive and it is all I can see every time I look in the mirror. I feel like I’m back in high school going through the awkward stages of puberty all over again, only I’m turning thirty and the ugly rash isn’t temporary acne this time, it’s incurable and stress related…which means it’s here to stay.
And today is 30.
A few weeks ago I sat at a coffee shop and talked to a woman from Virginia Beach. We had just met and started chatting about her reasons for being kind when her nine year old son, Aidan, interrupted. He crossed one leg over the other, leaned forward, placed his arm on his leg and said, “Even though some people might be bad or something might happen to you that makes you sad you still keep going. Don’t let it affect you. You have to keep going and be nice.”
So today, on my thirtieth birthday, I am going to let myself start feeling it all and keep going. Because that is what Aidan McKeating told me to do. Because that is all we really can do. I’m going to be thankful for all of the feelings I’ve had on this trip so far because in some way, good or bad, they have shaped me to this point. I am more passionate than ever to continue this mission. And I think, more than ever, we all need this mission to keep going.
But I’m also realizing that sometimes it is ok to ask for help because at the rate I am going the stress of doing the majority of this trip alone could kill me. I’m sitting here in bed exhausted, chomping on a mouth guard, rubbing weird creams on the rash on my face, and popping an antibiotic while e-mailing every local paper I can think of, not knowing if all of it will just get sent to spam. So since it is my birthday…I thought it would be ok if I asked you for something today. Because maybe you have some really cool people you know who work for a paper, or a television station, or are part of a big mom community in their town who can spread the word and help me get my mission heard! Maybe you want to throw some money into the gas tank? Or maybe you have a really cool friend or family member you think I should meet while I travel through all of the states. I’d love you to be part of this mission. I’d love your ideas, suggestions, and connections. I’d love your help.
Three months and five days ago I told you I wanted to change the world…
but I can’t do it alone.