It seems like only yesterday since the hot windy desert flew past my window and turned into lush green hillsides on I-215. With my car packed of multiple suitcases, plastic bins of cooking supplies and spices, and cartons of craft projects, I look straight ahead to the sun shining in my mirror. I carry more than material items; my luggage is full of disappointment, heartbreak, and family sorrow. Every aspect of my future seems uncertain and no matter how I attempt to remedy it, I seem to be stuck where I started. I continually tell myself that if life is going to stick me in square one with blank walls, then I will find a way to paint them. Although I have multiple paint cans, they seem to run dry as I struggle to open the lids and my paintbrush seems to lose its bristles. My inspiration has literally dried up and I feel as though there is no way to pick my spirits up to see any possibilities ahead.
Those around me do their best to send words of encouragement, certain I will paint my masterpiece in the sunny weather of San Diego, California. Yet no one seems to understand that running away causes problems to follow you. I constantly feel like an actor searching for a missing pair of pants that happen to be trapped in the costume shop hanging up to be dyed grey. Constantly I feel at odds with the world, struggling to understand why everything happens at once and why I had to let go of all the things that make me happy. My Gung Gung’s death encapsulated all of my sadness and disappointment, yet I refrain from letting it show. The moment I see him alone on the hospital bed covered in a light blue quilt, all of that changes as I give him a soft goodbye and tell him I hope to find someone I could love as much as he loved my Popo. As I smile back at the grin on his face, I somehow know I will survive the hardships that face me.
His enduring spirit does not leave me in this moment. As others mourn his parting, I feel as though he were right beside me, his rough sturdy hand on my shoulder. Everything that happens during the day is a sign to me. As the air fills with smoke from incense sticks and ashes sprinkle the ground, I can sense the breeze around me beginning to stir. As I look around the gravesite, my eye catches a label on the coffin cover: Phoenix. For quite some time, I had considered using a Phoenix as a name for my blog since I admired the idea of travel bringing a new version of myself from the ashes of my former person. This pivotal moment brings on a realization: I can no longer be afraid to pursue what I love. An energy inside me begins to grow and I feel a power to make a change in my life.
Upon arriving in San Diego, I begin to feel a new Brooke ready to emerge as I step outside my apartment and look at the palm trees perched in the sunlight. California wasn’t the answer, the obstacle was overcoming my fear to decide on my passions and determine what matters most. As I wander through the booths of vegetables and fruits in the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market and late at night into the Gaslamp Quarter, I begin to see something is missing in this vagabond lifestyle. As I weigh the ups and downs of what might be missing with friends, family, and a counselor, I begin to realize no one can tell me what to do, I have to discover it on my own. After watching “Kumare,” a documentary about a fake guru, I begin to see that the answer is already in me, I just have to realize I don’t need any kind of spiritual guide to get me there.
As I walk down University Boulevard I think of my Popo’s words before I left the deserts of Utah for the beaches of San Diego, “Gung Gung wants you to be happy. He’s watching over you and wants you to be happy.” The words are woven into me like a soft, fine piece of silk. Like this fabric of my heritage, my joys, and my sadness are woven in to make me a strong and resilient person who can remain true to herself. In this sense of empowerment I decide to keep traveling and find more pathways to embark on. Although my journeys have found me returning to Denver, I still have a sense of wonder and hope for my future. While I drive along I-70 and recall the curvy mountain roads, I still remember my most recent trip that opened my eyes to my history. As I think of my Popo’s encouraging words, my memories resonate through me as I think of journey to where it all began: China.