Since I started this job six month ago, this is the first time I’m taking a week and half off and using my vacation time. Of course, it’s not like me to go to fancy, fun places. I take vacations to visit my parents, and my parents unfortunately have always lived in middle-of-nowhere kind of places. It’s something I’m more than used to by now, but still, mulling it over in my head, it does feel rather ironic and weird that I’d go on a week-long vacation from New York City to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

My dad jokes that I brought the cold with me. At one point, right here was the coldest place in the country, colder than Alaska, with it having reached -4 degrees faranheit here. I don’t know how true my dad’s claim is that it was that cold that rest of the country was warmer than us, but I can jokingly lament that I used my vacation time for one hell of a miserable weather.

My parents currently work as couriers for U.S. Bank. My dad especially drives a lot and routinely in the night times from 9:30PM to 2AM. I’ve been tagging along for the rides and helping them. This past Tuesday, it snowed a bit, but the problem was the heavy wind. The winds were so strong that little flurry of snow flakes completely engulfed us for over an hour. The 8-wheeler truck ahead of us got so scared that it was driving 25mph in a 55mph zone. My dad said he hadn’t really experienced anything like this in the past year that he’d been doing this gig. For me, it was more terrifying than the worst fog I’ve driven in back when I lived in Bakersfield, California. It can get extremely foggy in Bakersifled in the winter, so all that’s to say that my so-called vacation here was at one point all sorts of terrifying.

The worst part of the whole trip though has been my ordeal to get here. There’s this small grey suitcase I take with me on long trips especially because it’s considered a carry-on. I don’t remember when airlines started charging $25 for checking in luggage, but that little grey suitcase has always been my way of saying fuck you to that fee. This time American Airlines said I couldn’t be defiant any longer. My flight’s boarding would begin at 6:40AM, and I got to JFK security checkpoint at around 6:20AM. I had enough time to make the flight, but the airport security wouldn’t let me through because my grey suitcase was too big and said that I needed to check that in. I tried to argue that it was small enough to be carry-on, but there was no time for that. Long story short, I missed my flight, had to be rerouted from JFK to La Guardia Airport, and when I got to Chicago, my connecting flight to Iowa got cancelled because of severe weather conditions. My dad confirmed that it was extremely foggy in Iowa. I spent almost an entire day in that Chicago airport, crossing my fingers that the flight I had a standby ticket for didn’t get cancelled and that I would be called. Two cancelled flights later, I barely got into the third one at around 9:30PM, and when I got to Iowa, it turns out, they weren’t able to ship my suitcase from Chicago to Iowa and I had to file a claim. Dad was right to point out that suitcase was the cause of all my problems that day, and there wasn’t much in it except some clothes and an electric shaver.

In Iowa, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my parents, and I’ve been seeing a lot of the Iowa landscape, going from this city to that city, dropping off yellow bags with “U.S. Bank” label on them. Being the pastor’s only son still (I don’t think this status will ever change for me unfortunately), I’ve had to meet with some church folks who wanted to buy me and my parents lunch and spend time with us. I genuinely appreciate the connections, but I also have not been fully present in these moments. I feel bad that amidst all the heart-to-heart chats, I can’t say I was fully present with my parents. I’m with them physically, and my mind wanders to how I’ve disappointed them, how I wish things were different for them, and things like that. I wish the best for them, and I’m always worried I haven’t been a good son to them.

Among other things I’ve been reflecting a lot on the workplace I’ve taken vacation from, and the people still working and living there. A lot of my coworkers have told me that disconnecting completely from work is the healthy thing to do, that it’s self-care. I don’t know. For me, work has pretty much been my whole life these past seven months. Trying not to think about it feels like I’m suppressing an integral part of my identity. Moreover, I spent more time with my coworkers on a daily basis than anyone else. I can’t help but to miss them.

There was a significant personnel change right before I took my vacation. I can assume there’s been some important changes back at work, and while I can’t really write about it too much in detail, thinking about work has me deeply wondering about the future. As I reflect on the past, and all that I and the non-profit program could have and should have done differently, I wonder if the important lessons were learned, if I could really be different and better this year.

Aside from work, on my mind is my singledom. There’s been an odd kind of awakening within me. It’s the realization that I’m a rather lonely person. I’ve built these invisible walls around myself. A coworker astutely remarked that my whole life, I’ve been hiding in my man-cave. I came to really like a person again, and it hurts worse than before for the conclusion of this like to be a friendship where I have to wish her happiness with another guy. I don’t think I have a right to feel hurt. I should be happy for her. I should be happy myself, having started this weird thing known as online dating and having some incredulous successes.

I’ve been texting back and forth and talking on the phone for hours with someone I know through OKCupid. This person apparently finds me sexy, likes that I’m kind and thoughtful. I like her a lot too I think, and I’d like to actually physically meet her. We set a date too – the first chance we can once I come back from vacation. I want to let myself feel happy about this. It’s definitely long past time I leave my man-cave. As much as I don’t feel ready, it’s definitely past time. But happy is not what I feel. And this time away does not feel like any sort of vacation.

I mean, it’s not like me to take a vacation to anywhere and just enjoy myself. That idea always felt pointless to me. I’d go if someone else I was attached to wanted to go. I’m here because my parents are here, and I haven’t seen them in a long time. So I like being here for that. There’s is just, as usual, too many things happening around me, and way too many things colliding in my mind.