This past weekend I dug out my flip flops. They were still covered in Morocco. That last night in country when we walked back from dinner at the vegan cafe (because we just couldn't handle anymore tagines) through the pouring rain. Weaving our way through the medina's alleys and passages now familiar after three days of exploration. Our legs and feet slowly caked in rain and red mud and whatever else ran through those streets where horses, donkeys, feral cats and motor scooters shuffle the teaming crowds of humanity, even at that late hour.
Those last three days in Marrakesh transformed our experience of Morocco but also transformed our vision of ourselves. We had returned to Africa with the same mindset in which we left six years prior, rough and ready and willing to experience some hardship in the pursuit of the travel experience. Then came two weeks of driving in a stuffy hot car for hours on end every day, hot hotel rooms above pumping night clubs, waves of sickness, fear of water and the inability to wash. When we arrived in Marrakesh at the end of our tour, all we wanted was a shower and a plane home. I wasn't interested in exploring any more, I couldn't look at another carpet or leather bag or handcrafted shoe.
That was when I knew something had changed. I had no desire to ogle shoes and handbags. Something was definitely wrong and it had nothing to do with the searing cramps in my abdomen.
In the most 'backpacker' moment I have experienced thus far in my life, we loaded up, (front and back) and hiked through the crowded alleys of the medina to a quiet corner, deep in the rabbit warren. The directions indicating turns at the 'corner carpet shop,' 'fountain,' 'mosque' completely useless as they apply to every corner within the Old City. Behind the big wooden door in a dark underpass was a beautiful and calm space we willingly fell into, covered in grime and sweat, bowels churning.
In those last three days in Marrakesh, when we had access to working showers and quiet rooms and the freedom to roam as we pleased, we got comfortable with the fact that we had changed. We weren't the twenty-somethings that ran away to Africa for adventure six years before. We were thirty-somethings with obligations and responsibilities that had replaced 'exotic' adventure and we really were just too tired to try and replicate those magical weeks/months we experienced six years ago.
This realisation, that I am no longer who I was, is a difficult double-edged sword for me to swallow. One edge is 'thank goodness that time of insecurity and arrogance and ignorance is over' the other edge 'what fresh hell is this 'grown-up' thing of responsibility and obligation and constant effort?'
It's the constant effort that is catching me up lately. There is no resting. And while this is a lesson best directed at somewhat intangible goals, it is one that has come home in a very tangible way in the form of my physical body.
Three months ago I signed up for a half-marathon.
I'll give you some time to let that sink in.
At the time of signing up I had never run farther than 6K (about 3.75 miles). A half-marathon is 21.1 K (13.1 miles). I'm not sure what I was thinking.
Three weekends ago I ran 10K.
I got very cocky about it. I tweeted and facebook-ed status-ed about High School gym stinking-that-in-its-pipe-and-smoking-it.
I have yet to do it again. After that I stopped running three times a week and have only gone for runs on the weekend and have yet to reach 10K again. This is not how you train for a half-marathon.
There is no real reason for this sudden apathy. The weather hasn't been great, but it never is and I still managed to run three times a week throughout the entire winter. The same thing with my weight loss/gain. This past winter I reached my goal weight and then slid back into unhealthy eating patterns. Coupled with less running, I have put back on about 10 pounds.
No. There is something else going on with me. For eight months I have been crossing a threshold without really being aware of the process. It started with that realisation in Marrakesh. I am moving toward a different version of me. A grown-up version. But every time I get close to embracing this next transition, I stop. Almost afraid to continue through the door and leave the previous me behind.
Two steps forward, one step back. Reach a goal with 'grown up' responsibility and accountability, and then expect to reap the benefits without effort with 'childish' arrogance and entitlement.
Intellectually, I know this is how life works and I think I am excited about the possibility of new-ish Ariel. How horrible to stay the 'same' your whole life.
But, damn. It would have been nice to figured that out before we booked the 'rough and ready' Morocco tour. Working showers and night club-free hotels would have made a world of difference.
Photos: Tomb of Moulay Ismail/Meknes, flip flop full of Morocco/Sahara Desert