My inner child has officially taken over. After a vicious fight with myself and seemingly endless nights of insomnia, I surrender to her will. What does that mean? I am forced to have more fun, follow my dreams, and relax more already. Forced you ask? Inner emotional temper tantrums, hazy mental operations, and a body riddled with sickness from enduring battle after battle with that child against my adult rational, sometimes skeptical, and often anxious point of view. I have to admit, this fear based strategy has not been too successful thus far in helping me live a life that balances work and play in any kind of equitable manner.
As I yield to a more natural flow of life instead of trying to control every instant and every outcome, I notice synchronistic events like unexpected travel. I love to travel anywhere, anytime and in the past two months, I have been to 3 wonderful locations – Sedona, AZ, Estes Park, CO and St. Louis, MO.
As I land in St. Louis, MO, at 11:45 pm on a Thursday night, I receive panicked texts informing me, the dates sent to me for the conference were in error and I am in St. Louis exactly one month early.
Wow! Shock waves ripple through my mind and body as I stare at my phone and process the facts – I have no ride, no hotel reservation, no conference. Shock turns to excitement at the slow realization that I am free to play in a new city for the weekend if I so choose.
I text back, “Relax. I’m a big girl. I can handle it. No worries!” The expectation was that I stay at the airport hotel and find a flight returning to Denver the next day. None doing shouts the little voice from within.
I grab a cab and head towards central downtown. Thanking the adorable driver from Ghana for his advice, I entered the hotel to be greeted by a cheery gentleman with red hair and matching handlebar mustache. His cheeks, rosy and smart, welcome me like the Santa of St. Louis and then his mouth asks how long I would be staying.
“Actually, I don’t really know,” I admit.
Andrew, the night clerk, immediately sells me on the wonders of St. Louis, MO including the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. happening this Saturday. It is final…I’m stayin!
My room overlooks historic buildings and the stadium. I jump on the beds, explore brochures and websites until 2am before my mind finally slows down enough to sleep. At breakfast, I find colorful people in abundance and eat in the dining room instead of my room just so I can take it a fair amount of people watching. I fight the goofy grin that threatens to remain pasted on my face for the foreseeable future.
A couple of hours later, I’m ready to navigate the city and set out for the Visitor’s Center which is just a few short blocks away. I am greeted by Sherice, a friendly and enthusiastic middle aged woman, who was glad to share with me the best tourist spots St. Louis has to offer then directs me to the mass transit office next door to purchase the “Adventure Pass” which allows me to ride the downtown trolley, train or bus all day for only $7.00. How could I resist? My first stop is SugarFire, a famous BBQ restaurant which just happens to be down the street next to the Blues Hall of Fame. I eat an incredible pork sandwich covered with balsamic grilled onions at the long lunch room style tables and benches that allow for sharing of sauces and conversations. Full and happy, I walk to the Mississippi River and dip my hand purely out of my own personal ritual and try to take in the life, death and stories the river has to tell…no magic, but the cool water feels great anyway. I spend a few moments at the famous Gateway Arch to the West and chuckle to myself at its possible significance to my trip. Its size is awe inspiring, but other than that, the world does not change, but I am still ecstatically happy. I roam the city visiting City Garden and a few more historical spots then head south to one of the oldest cities in Missouri, Soulard. The historic French neighborhood is the site for the Mardi Gras parade and celebration the following day. As I walk along the red brick streets admiring the enchanting red, brick town homes and fantastic cathedrals, my imagination kicks in and for a moment, I am transported back in time.
I stop into the 1860 Saloon for a beer and am quickly taken into the fold of the community who have been frequenting the pub and following its famous bartender for 20 years. It is no surprise the only beers on tap are Budweiser products as St. Louis is the home of the legendary brewery and sponsors the two week Mardi Gras celebration. I have a bottle of Heineken.
Like Cinderella, I must get home before dark as I have been warned, this is no place for a single, white female after dark. However, when I return, my exploration does not end. An amazing Irish Pub is huddled beneath my downtown hotel. It doesn’t feel like a hotel bar in the least. My favorite Scotches line the walls above the bar and the selection of Irish & English draft beers is larger than I have ever seen. Its staff and patrons are authentic and I get this intense feeling of home. Sitting alone bellied up to the bar, I feel safe, comfortable and anything but lonely. I have not always connected with my roots, but here, in this pub, I ease into the familiarity of my heritage and am comforted to know these are the people with whom I share my roots. It is remarkable; this is one of the many reasons my inner child wanted me to come
Perhaps my adult self and this crazy, wild child living in me can strike a deal and come to an understanding. Perhaps she knows best how I resist the pull of my destiny, how I procrastinate and waste time and energy with anxiety. I know today I am grateful for the experience and grateful for life and that is a good place to be…in my Kuzala.