"Girl with Balloon", Banksy, 2002, Exhibit - Prague 2022
I got the chance to travel with my daughter through London and Prague recently. It was a chance for some one-on-one time with a 19 year-old who has clearly become her own person. Much like my travels with my son last year in Iceland, when he was then 20, it was an opportunity to not only experience new places and people through their evolving perspectives, but to rethink my own well-established assumptions, as well.
It's a bit of a juxtaposition - traveling with kids who are evolving into the future while being immersed in learning about the past -whether it is a millennia-old glacier or centuries old church. Seeing the world literally come into focus right in front of your eyes is something to behold. For all those years of wondering whether the perspective and grounding that comes from time spent away from a screen will ever actually appear, when it does, as a parent there is a sort of exuberance that arises.
As I have written about earlier, part of traveling for an extended period, mostly "solo" and without a set plan, was about letting go - a foundation of really facing fear. I cannot speak for anyone else, (it's challenging enough for me to do that for myself), but I have certain habits that are more apparent when fear enters the equation. Among these are planning, (sometimes in spreadsheets, sometimes on a napkin, sometimes lying awake in a state of perpetual insomnia), to control the unknown and the uncertain. My hope was that I could slowly let go of this, not so much because it would be "nice", but because it was a necessity if I were really going to find joy in this experience.
When I was traveling with my daughter, taking in her commentary about the architecture and people of London or the Banksy exhibit and Bohemian Symphony we stumbled upon in Prague, it became much more evident to me what was happening. For all the "self-development" rhetoric about letting go, there hasn't been much dialogue about "loosening the grip". I witnessed my daughter, as I had with my son a year earlier, as a young adult - someone interacting with their environment - not only its structures, it's history, but also its people - in ways that were new and evolving. She spoke about releasing judgement and it made me realize that there is a difference between opinions, facts and judgement. What a lesson!
In Iceland, my son resolved an issue when we were returning our rented campervan when I could no longer maintain a patient demeanor. In Prague, my daughter took control of navigating city streets that seemed to allude my ability with a less-than-cooperative Google Maps app. They didn't need me the way they used to. That is clear but what was becoming evident was that I needed them in ways I didn't in the past. The irony, though, is that in doing so, I had to loosen my grip - of my own expectations of myself and of the embedded imprints I had of who my children were. Being "my kids" was less and less of their identity, as it should be.
For me, at least, "letting go" is really hard - this idea of simply releasing something that no longer serves you and do so wholeheartedly. I am not ready for that yet - not when it comes to my kids or my past. I understand it is necessary. I understand it is healthy. But I didn't learn how to swim by jumping into a pool the first time and I won't learn to let go by just turning off the proverbial light switch. It's a process - and for me, it starts with allowing for a less firm hold.
I can loosen my grip, though. That's what I've been doing all along. I've been gripping a lot of things. Some things I have completely let go, and that gives me a chance to grab onto new things. Others - they're going to take a while.
It's interesting that the people I have been holding onto most tightly are the ones that made me realize this. Travel is full of the unexpected.
Until next time,