Vacations are wonderful if for no other reason than a new space, in a new place allows for temporary reinvention. There’s a relief to leaving routines behind and a certain excitement in adopting new ones. Vacations are similar to beginnings in that they’re something new and they are refreshing, a feeling introduced in my book blogs, previews for the new book I’m working on. Where vacations differ from beginnings, is in length. There’s a burst at the start, very little middle and an abrupt end. That’s how I felt on the first jaunt in our new place in South Carolina. At first, I hated it and then I absolutely loved it and then I found it difficult to leave. The east coast is a place I’ve visited for more than a decade. At first, it was a wondrous experience and it stayed that way for years but in time, I began to dislike the trips more and more for a variety of reasons but the location itself made it favorable for a second home. If not yet Belize, I believe I’ll take the Carolinas, please. Coastal like California, not frigid like New York and free of all that is freezing during the winters in the Midwest.
While looking for a place, I met a lovely woman from Scranton, PA which until our conversation, I did not think was an actual town in Pennsylvania. We had already seen dozens of units and on the very last day, we found the right one. Isn’t it wonderful when that actually happens in real life? A last-minute stunner. I didn’t like any of the properties we had seen so far. None. Most units were too much of the wrong thing. Too dark, too small, too narrow, too low to the ground. I trust the vibe. You walk into a place and there’s a positive or negative affirmation that is it right or it is wrong. A vibe has very little to do with impressions or presentation even, I think of it as spiritual instinct. When we walked into the place that would be ours it was an absolute mess. Towels on the floor, pizza boxes everywhere, pop cans galore. Empty ones on the counter, ones that were full and half-full covered the coffee table. The pull-out couch was in disarray. It was at home and I knew it. I knew it not because of the mess, we’d been told if we wanted to see it that day, our last day, it wouldn’t be clean. I knew it because when I walked in the door past the kitchenette, up the spiral staircase and looked out the bedroom window over an awning that reminded me of a place with significance, I thought, this is it. The beach below was bare, not a soul to be found, the dusky waves were the only sound. The deal worked out graciously and by February we were there to stay.
A vibe has very little to do with impressions or presentation even, I think of it as spiritual instinct.-Genevieve Rose
I liked being on the beach. I liked walking places like down the street to a coffee place or past the corner store with a sign the read FREE HERMIT CRABS. I thought it should say FREE THE HERMIT CRABS, they didn’t want to be locked up. I liked feeling like I owned the town because there was barely anyone around. The winter months are desolate. It felt as though I were on a movie set not yet packed with extras. The lack of hustle and bustle gave me time to absorb my surroundings. What I learned is I liked being somewhere new and out of the cold that is Chicago but it wasn’t enough for me. I felt very unhappy. Morbidly so, as gray as the waves appeared on an overcast day, oh my soul, will it forever be this way? I tend to channel my inner King David when I feel low. The negative being, that man could intensely lament, the positive being, his lamentations always led him back to God. Psalm 51 is deep. Wanting to follow in the footsteps of royalty I brought my complaints to the King of Kings. Why God, am I so unhappy? I love this place. I love the layout. I love that everything I need is on one level and it’s all connected. Thanks for finding a place with great flow, I thought, in the middle of my complaints that I took to Christ. I love walking around. I love not being cold but still, I hate being here, why? Do I really despise the southern drawl that much? I used to prefer that accent. God, what’s wrong with me? I sat there on the couch in the living room, staring at the ocean, feeling so unsatisfied I was about to tear apart my black leather jacket. I should just go home. If I couldn’t be happy here, I should leave.
“Why don’t you like it? Do you really want to leave?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” I snapped. “Yeah, I mean no…I don’t want to fly back to the cold,” I gestured with my hands like I was putting something in an invisible box on my lap. “Yes I want to leave but I’m not going to.” I didn’t think it was worth my energy. We moved often throughout the weeks, from apartment to apartment. It made me anxious. By the third move in ten days, I had enough. I didn’t have any schedule and I felt like I couldn’t make one because I was constantly being shifted around. Unpacking and repacking. Packing is something I cannot stand and I had to do it repetitively. I could’ve lived out of my suitcase but then I wouldn’t have been able to see everything. Why did I bring so much stuff? The constant relocating was one long hum of a headache. What was I, in the witness protection program? If I were I wouldn’t simply be moving around the same building. The reason for going room to room was because renters booked previously to the sale needed to be honored. We were being accommodated with a revenue swap which was very kind but honestly annoying. The apartments, even the three-bedroom that we stayed in while my brother and his friends visited for Spring Break was not as nice as ours. The layout being the reason, the bedrooms were in the back and it felt like a separate apartment when coming into the living room. Each unit we stayed in was nice, really nice, the resort is on the ocean after all but not every place had the best vibe. Ours had the best vibe and the best lobby I had seen out of every place on the strip. Lots of lounge space facing a pool and the ocean in the background. They had free coffee brewed every morning that tasted rich the way I like it. Sometimes, the pots would be empty and you’d have to check with the early morning people to see if they had stashed a pot for themselves or not. They were selfish enough to take it but kind enough to share it. I wasn’t mad, I found it hilarious. Plus, it’s coffee so I understood.
My dog and I took frequent trips down the elevators, out the doors, and across the street to find some grass he could walk in. He was on antibiotics and they made him weird, stranger than his average strangeness. He was antsy and he had to go to the bathroom more often. In addition to those side effects, he was probably more nervous than me with all the moving we were doing. Do you ever think of that? Life through a dog’s eyes? They get up and follow you around and they’re happy to do it. Squid had been crammed in the backseat of the car with me for a restless sixteen-hour drive that became unbearable for me four hours in. I could tell he wasn’t happy about being in the car that long. He would lay down, then sit up, turn around, try to look out the window and then not look at me at all when I snapped saying, “there’s no room. Stop moving.” I couldn’t move from a seated position and my left butt cheek felt deflated. He slumped his head on the back of the seat and watched through the rear window, adorable even when restless. Twelve minutes to midnight on what would be my mother’s birthday, we were at a gas station in the middle of the mountains and the birthday balloon she’d been holding onto floated away. That balloon had stayed inflated for months. It was sad to see it go.
“Excuse me?” I looked up and saw no one in front of me. Only the cars in the lot, the corner store and the occasional car driving down the road. “Excuse me?” I looked up as if the voice had come from Heaven. I know I heard someone. My hearing is impeccable. “M’am,” I turned around and saw a woman waving. I said hello, figuring she was going to complain about my dog but instead she said, “you can walk him on our property so you don’t have to walk so far. We have a Service Dog.” I thanked her for the invitation, feeling a little dumb that it took me so long to locate the only other person near me. Her house bordered the lot that was reserved for those in our resort. It would be closer to walk the dog there but not by much and I’d have to climb a curb. Even so, I thanked her for the offer. That house would be a crime scene. I’m still not sure what happened there.
Do you ever think of that? Life through a dog’s eyes? -Genevieve Rose
By the time Lent came around, I decided I needed to participate. I gave up social media. Twitter had gotten crazy, people were being banned for stating the truth. Instagram was incessant. I couldn’t handle it anymore so I quit. I noticed it was increasing the stress I already had from the changes going on so I logged off, I took myself to rehab. Not being on social was the best thing I did for my mind because I was able to slow down and think through the adjustments around me. I’m not a great adjuster. It takes time for me to acclimate. I may be an adaptive athlete but I’m not adaptive in personality, I am who I am whether it’s who I should be or not. For better or worse. Others say my honesty is refreshing but the downside is, I have a hard time hitting the brake pedal, which is why two weeks into a vacation I’ll yell about being miserable and wanting to leave. Honest but reckless, at least I have a break pedal now. Before growing in maturity and spirituality, my attitude was pedal to the metal period. I won’t lie, it was a fun ride but a car with only gas is destined to crash.
I am an odd bird and I know it. It doesn’t need to be pointed out like that one morning a Hawk or some kind of wide-winged bird perched itself on our balcony and we had to stop and take in the odd occurrence of a bird that stood at least three feet tall. I have strange boundaries and I crave personal space so it wasn’t ideal for me when four other people stayed with us for a week. Nevertheless, I wanted to see my brother so I made myself try to be less uptight like I was attempting to be in general. It went okay. I was still able to write and read and not get kicked out of the bathroom. We spent time on the Boardwalk or we went and got sushi. My dog loved being outside. He seemed happier by the ocean. If the balcony door was open he would go out there on his own, look at the water and wag his tail.
What I needed as badly as a good mindset was a place for fitness. I had been walking around town often. On the beach sometimes too but my body needed CrossFit. There were three boxes near me and the one with the best vibe was Crossfit Crescent Coast owned by Ryan and Michelle, one of the nicest couples I’ve ever met and what’s more, is that the entire place made me feel right at home. The first workout I did at CFCC they were impressed with my effort but I was shocked at how out of shape I felt. That intensity slips away quickly. It was a collaborative effort to work the WOD so that it was as difficult as it was effective for me. We worked it out and after a few days back in training, I was deadlifting while standing over a bench as I do back home. I may have even hit a PR. The incredibly handsome guy that looked like a friendly Thor deadlifted an insane amount, commenting he was as strong as an ox but not quite as strong as a Silver Back Gorilla. I had so much fun training with them, we played a fishing game on the rower. I knew it was going to be a bummer to leave. Every person I met was so kind. They loved Teva, it was the first time some of them had seen a Service Dog in action. One of the members had actually recognized me from CrossFit before I officially decided Crescent Coast is where I would be training, she had really nice arms. There was another upscale gym in the area. It was impressive. However, after the owner gave me a tour of the facility, he was hesitant. Claiming to be a perfectionist, he was trying to figure out how he and his coaches could work well with me in a standard class. “It sounds like you’re either doubting me or yourself,” I said. I can’t work with doubt, no one can. Before our sit down I assured him that although I scale things to my ability, I have nearly two years of experience with CrossFit.
“No it’s not that,” he insisted, keeping it light like I was. “I want it to work best for you.” I did too, of course. I knew how to work it too. If only he could have trusted me as much as his methods. I almost told him how compulsive my home coaches are and that I don’t have a problem training to perfection but like the entire trip itself, I was trusting the vibe. He gave us prices and suggested personal training might be better. I told him I would think it over. They did sell FITAID, the other boxes I went to did not. It was a good offer and we discussed it over dinner at this nice Italian restaurant that had fountains as centerpieces, relaxed lighting and a secluded table for us tucked in a corner next to a window with a rose sitting on the sill. I almost took the offer, excited at the prospect of personal training with a dish of meat wrapped in more meat placed in front of me. Then I remembered, he had approached me with doubt. I can’t say where the doubt came from but I was certain I couldn’t work with that. I’m glad I chose Crescent Coast, any time I wanted to try something Ryan would say,
“Go for it, girl.” Sometimes you need people who believe in yourself more than you do. Thank you Crescent Coast for being those people. In the restaurant, I caught sight of our waiter charging through tables so fast it made me nervous. He awkwardly bent out of the way so he didn’t collide with another server. He reached our table and apologized for one of the meals taking longer than expected. Judging by his speed I assumed there was a fire.
“Boy ran faster than Michael Jackson in a water balloon fight,” I said. The manager also ended up coming over and apologizing for what I thought to be an insignificant delay. It was a few minutes, the delay would’ve gone unnoticed had they not mentioned it. They also brought us free dessert. Excellent service, Italian restaurant, excellent food too. CrossFit Crescent Coast had officially introduced me to ROMWOD and I’ve been stretching on the regular ever since. They also let me pick the music on my last day and had a poster of my fitness hero in the bathroom. Good vibes all around. After training one afternoon, I saw a lime green Lamborghini roll up into a parking spot in front of the building. I thought it belonged to this young kid but it turned out, he just wanted to take pictures in somebody else’s car. I wanted to do that too but I didn’t want to be rude. I got in my car and watched the scene unfold. The car owner was wearing a floppy hat and he didn’t seem to mind the kid at all, he was taking the pictures for him. “That is a beautiful car.” Do it, take the moment, I thought before we drove away. “If he’s doing it, I will too.” I walked around the back of the Lamborghini trying not to fingerprint the masterpiece. “Excuse me, would it be okay if I took some pictures too? It’s a beautiful car.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” the older man opened the door for me and I slid in. Way low to the ground. It was nice. He took several photos and I thanked him. He said the lime green pillows came free with the car. I said, they better have thrown in some free pillows. He was a kind man from Italy. He said he ran out of gas and that’s why he was there. That man allowed me to sit in what I think is the nicest car I’ve ever been inside. It was art on wheels. I’d like to own something similar but not if I have to wait until I’m one hundred. Also, a luxury sports car was the opposite of what this trip was showing me. Packing wouldn’t feel so chaotic if I had packed light. Two pairs of shoes are better than six. I didn’t need fourteen outfits with alternatives. I needed two pairs of pants, shorts, and five shirts, that would be plenty. I was learning that I felt better with less. Less living space, less distraction, less is more. More is less. With each move, my view of the carnival across the street improved, specifically, the Ferris Wheel. There was a time where the level we were on allowed for a straight view of the great big wheel. I couldn’t wait until it got warmer and it would be lit up. I would stand in the hall and stare at it. It was fascinating. It reminded me to stay creative. It reminded me to keep my wonder. It reminded me of Neverland. I was really beginning to like it here. It felt better than home.
Walking places had become the norm for Teva and I, one day while we were getting coffee I had to go to the bathroom. The bathroom was part of the arcade that was connected to the coffee place. The big stall was out of order and two of us were waiting to use the one and only available. “You go, you have a Redbull,” I said to the girl behind me.
“Thanks,” she rushed into the stall. It was hot in here. “I’m gonna tell you something because I feel like I can trust you and it’s not because you have a really beautiful dog,” the stranger said to me from behind the red door.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged, used to people I don’t know from Eve trusting me with their life stories. She told me why she was at the arcade and where she was from, she vented about her life and who she was dating. Teva and I listened outside the stall. “It’s your birthday today?” I asked, just to confirm. When she said yes I asked, “how young are you?”
“Twenty-seven,” she groaned. I told her not to worry, it’s not like she was thirty and I myself was close behind. “I’ll just be twenty-five again.” The toilet flushed.
“Happy twenty-fifth,” I said as she walked out and we switched places.
“Girl, let me just tell you, living is hard.” I took advantage of the moment to invest in the struggle of trying to become someone with this random peer I met minutes ago in this hot bathroom. She was right, living is hard, whether you’re close to thirty or not. I liked her.
“What’s your name?” I asked, from the stall.
“Kat,” she said.
“Nice to meet you Kat.” She said the same and I heard the door open and shut. I didn’t see her or anyone she came to celebrate with in the arcade when I exited. For a moment I wondered if our conversation had really happened. It is common for people that I don’t know to confide in me and then disappear.
Outside there were cops cars, an ambulance, onlookers and plenty of police. Officers bordered the property of the house across the street. Several of them stood by the entrance to the home. “What happened here?” I asked a woman by our building as I crossed the street after walking the dog. “Somebody OD?” I asked.
“Probably,” she said. Inside we greeted another curious cat who was a retired cop. New Yorkers and Canadians were who I’d been sharing thirty-second elevator conversations with. Riding the elevator was a frequent activity for me because the dog had to go out often. I met some interesting people, like the middle-aged man who barded the movable box with me, eating what was left of some pizza.
“We’re supposed to be on a cruise,” he told me as the elevator went down. “The boat crashed so we came here.” I laughed.
“Sorry,” I said, still laughing. “That’s really random,” he laughed too.
“Yeah, it is,” he nodded with the crust in hand.
“Glad you didn’t board Titanic number two,” I told him as the dog and I walked away. Turns out cruise crashes are not as random as I thought, something like 250 accidents was reported in 2017. Now here we were across the street from another accident that may have been on purpose. Whatever happened, it was tragic.
“It’s probably suicide or a homicide,” the retired cop said. A mother and son didn’t want to pass my dog to get to the door.
“It’s okay, he’s fine,” I said, seeing the fear, “c’mon.” The boy who wasn’t that young shrunk back and his mother clung to him. You would think my dog was a panther on a leash with reactions like this. Inwardly I rolled my eyes. Do you think this is the Black or White short film? There are no panthers here. In the back of the fearful pair, people splashed in the indoor pool. It reeked of chlorine.
“Could you move?” The boy asked, timidly. Adjusting where I stood would be an inconvenience for me and there was room for them to get through.
“No, c’mon, he’s fine. You’ll see,” I waved them forward. I put a hand on the head of my pillow pet, in case he adopted the spirit of Cujo and tore this kid to shreds as he walked by. They passed the dog and survived, which was more than I could say for whoever lived in the house across the street. “Yay, you did it,” I clapped. “Congrats on conquering your fear.” The boy smiled and then they walked out. I could’ve moved for them but I thought it’d be more fun to make it a teachable moment. I had gone from absolutely despising this place to falling in love with it. I was not supposed to love it. I loved that for some reason, it became routine for me to be wide awake by eight in the morning whether the bedroom let sun shine through or not. I loved that when I caught a cold I didn’t stay sick for long because I was able to walk off the cough and the stiffness out of my legs that would normally make me feel like a statue for a week. I loved that one morning when we all happened to be awake around seven and my mom yelled for us to hurry and look outside. Hovering over the beach was a square shaped balloon. “That’s my balloon! That’s my birthday balloon!” My mom shouted as we stood outside, watching it drift in awe with the wind. The birthday balloon had distinctive colors and a gold bow in the border, a design that could only match the one that left us at the gas station days ago. That birthday balloon that had survived all of our winter birthdays and had floated hundreds of miles to say hello.
I had freed myself of social media, I found a new CrossFit family, and I was eating well because it’s far too expensive to eat out for every meal. We had found a great church too. A Christian church with life application sermons, kind pastors, a quaint bookstore, and handsome gentlemen suitors. Did I really have to leave? I could find a job here. I’m a writer, I can work from anywhere. There were cons, of course, it was a tourist town and as more people arrived the smell of marijuana increased but I still prefer it to the Midwest. I thought it would be nice to leave the tourist area and live in one of the different colored houses that I saw bordering a lake, I didn’t need to be on the ocean. The Carolinas ended up bringing me a much more peaceful perspective on what’s important and what truly matters to me. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to live there full-time. I saw potential there. Potential for myself. Potential I hadn’t noticed within me for years. I had done what I thought I couldn’t do, I adapted and I was willing to continue but I was not willing to readjust to life in the Midwest. It was upsetting to even think about. Very upsetting. At least now I have a place to escape to. At least now I had lived through lessons. Lessons like change is good, less is more, social media can lead to sickness and the ocean is as beautiful as it is terrifying.
I am who I am whether it’s who I should be or not.-Genevieve Rose
Overnight the ghost town had come to life. The streets were full, the restaurants were open and the amusements were operating. It was time for the snowbirds to fly home. The weather was in the seventies the day we departed. We stopped at the epitome of a tourist restaurant located at the bottom of a carnival ride to pick up what had become my favorite food, ahi tuna with lime and jasmine rice. I’ll be back, east coast, see you soon.