Last year on April 16th I wrote, “My bag is packed. My heart is light. I am eager and excited to begin this journey.” I remember these feelings… and being profoundly aware of the unexpected coincidences and generosity that made my pilgrimage possible.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss this. This rarefied awareness of purpose.
The truth is, I feel melancholy today on the anniversary of starting my pilgrimage.
I miss feeling like I’m going somewhere.
I miss feeling so alive.
I miss being who I was on the Camino — present, open, light, loving and loved. My best self.
I feel this growing pressure to “get on with my life.” To stop talking about the Camino to my friends and family. To start pretending that it wasn’t the most incredible journey I’ve yet undertaken.
I feel a little lost. Lost like the day Meg and I missed the turn into the woods. Instead of the familiar path, we walked under a windmill making scary groaning sounds, a huge herd of cows blocked our path, and we ate morcilla by mistake. Where I am right now feels unfamiliar and uncertain, just like the town we walked through that wasn’t on the map. (And I can’t even blame Brierley for it.)
While I trust that this melancholy and uncertainty will pass in time, I can completely understand why people do the Camino more than once, even many times. I want to feel that clarity again, the support, the community, the shared struggle, the freedom. Yes, there were plenty of sucky moments (I have to remind myself of this), but they made it a pilgrimage. Life without challenge is flat.
Thankfully, in the middle of my melancholy, there is an entirely different feeling: gratitude.
Support for this journey came from so many unexpected places, before, during, and after.
I risk omitting someone by listing names, so forgive me, but I’m thankful just the same for Mary, Carol, Elaine, Tim, Sharon, Jill, Donna, Mom and Dad, Marissa, Joanne, Ger, Mark, Marcia, Gayle, Michael, Melanie, Declan, Jenni, Vicki and Gary, Susan, Lisa, Mary Ellen, Lori, Cindy, Marvin, Joyce, Deb, Christine, Jo, all the Peer Leaders, Louise, Marisela, Katrin, Muriel, Lies, Jim, Cheryl, Sally, Don, Kate, Paula, Gary, Scott, Mattias, two Pepes, Moses.
Support came from pilgrims too numerous to name, albergue hosts, baristas, pharmacists, and locals who pointed the way. I’m thankful to the many friends who’ve asked questions and listened to my stories about my experience.
Writing this list of Camino angels makes me tearful. So much love and support poured my way in the span of 2 months. I am so grateful.
Suffice to say that while I found what I was looking for on the Camino, in many ways, I haven’t found it or created it yet in my own life. Maybe that’s what it means when they say that the pilgrimage really begins in Santiago.
So here’s to beginnings, to challenge, and to finding one’s own path. Ultreia! Courage! And buen camino — to us all.