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Goodbye, Golden State

June 6, 2016

6:09 AM – PST

San Francisco International Airport

My brother just dropped me off at the airport in San Francisco. This morning I have an 8:00 am flight to Newark. I’ve flown this route before and it’s surprisingly not as much of a hassle getting into New York City as many are led to believe. In fact, I’ve often enjoyed the solitude on the NJ Path into the city - a way of slowly easing back into an environment where ease is seldom the case.

I woke up at 4:00 am to take a shower and get ready for the first leg of journey. When I stepped out of the bathroom I glanced at a clock in the room and realized it was 4:23 am. Time seems to pass faster in the groggy, hazy hours before sunrise, at least for me.

I knocked on my aunt’s door to say goodbye but didn’t hear a response. I was half shocked she wasn’t’ already awake. I knocked once more before deciding she needed her rest. I left her a card that I’d written the evening before precipitously hanging on the top of a door handle. I hope it doesn’t fall, I thought to myself. I just wanted her to read the note and get the photo I left of her, Bryan, and me during a family vacation in Hong Kong during the summer of 1994. The three of us look so happy.

My brother picks me up at 5:00 am on the dot - the byproduct of having a father in the military, whose father was also in the military. “I don’t sleep much,” my brother tells me in his truck. “Yeah,” I don’t either I say. I think the only one in our family who does is Danny,” a reference I make to our youngest brother.

As the mindless chatter of sports talk blares in the background all I can think about is whether I should have woken up my aunt to tell her I was leaving for probably a very long time. Am I going to regret not saying goodbye to her in person, I wonder. I consider asking my brother to turn the car around before he casually tells me, “It’s fine.” He doesn’t convince me. I just feel bad for making him go back.

I arrive at SFO several hours before my flight. I am surprised by how lax security has become. I didn’t have to take my shoes off, remove my laptop from my bag, and wasn’t even certain I needed to remove my sports coat, which I did voluntarily.

I take a seat and the only thing I can think off is how disconnected we all are and how we could all benefit from being a little kinder to one another; strange things to ponder in the wee hours of the morning, but it’s on my mind as I watch people look over texts and emails while waiting in line to go through security. TSA agents numbly wave people through. Where are we all going? What are we all doing? I think to myself. Maybe the early AM minutes just have me a little too sensitive.

I take a sit in the corner and ponder buying a $9 vegetable juice. Seems almost immoral but the hell if it doesn’t at least look appetizing on the airbrushed poster. Plus, I know I’ll have a throbbing headache when my flight touches down in New Jersey. That always happens. Nothing against New Jersey, it's just dehydration. A little sustenance can’t be a bad thing anyway, especially if it’s healthy. Hate to say it, but I’ll probably fork over the dough and grab one.

I am optimistic about what’s to come. I always am deep down inside. It is my nature I suppose. Though I find life tragic at times, it is laced with an undeniable beauty and a profound sense of meaning if you know where and how to look for it. I am grateful for the life I’ve led thus far, which is to say, happy about the things I’ve seen, people I’ve met, achievements I can call my own, and the possibilities ahead. If I could only zap myself from dwelling too deeply into the past I’d be all set. My mind seems to live there. A penchant for nostalgia would be my self-diagnosis; romanticizing about a time that once was.

My dear friend Karen, a 36-year old anesthesiologist from Houston, Texas told me the best advice she ever received was, “Don’t be reckless with people’s hearts, and don’t tolerate people who are reckless with yours.”

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