My final day in Kansas City presented me with a unique challenge. Because I’d originally planned to drive home that morning, I had no scheduled destinations for the day. After checking out my options online and flipping through the “Visit KC” guide I’d grabbed in my hotel library, I decided to head to the Kansas City Zoo.
I wandered the two miles of trails at the zoo slowly and deliberately. I took time to notice the details. The colors on the bird’s feathers. The petals on a flower. I stared into a gorilla’s eyes for a while, wondering what he was thinking.
My heart broke for species so endangered only a few of them remain. I took a ride on the sky tram and sat for a while by a lake.
And as I walked and as I noticed, I was overcome by all of the emotion of the past four days – and of the past year. I sat down at a picnic table and pulled out my journal and a pen. I started to write. And I didn’t stop for two hours. And by the time I was done, I felt an inspiring mix of peace and possibility.
Feeling lighter than I’d felt in a year – or perhaps even longer – I headed back to Kauffman Stadium, where the sun was shining. There would be no rain out tonight. I revisited the Royals Hall of Fame, and made my way to my seat. Glove in hand and fully decked out in new Royals gear I’d picked up the day before, I sat down to watch the game. And it was like all was right in the world. There were so many memories here. I could hear my mother screaming for Willie Wilson like she was still sitting next to me. I could still picture the fireworks in the sky – the first ones I remember seeing. The crown scoreboard, the fountains in the outfield – everything was as it should be.
During my four days in Kansas City, I fell in love with the city again. But more than anything, I fell in love with the woman I became as I walked these streets. Unstoppable. Ready to take on new challenges and responsibility. Ready to grow. I realize that my life truly can be anything I want it to be. And where I go from here is entirely up to me.
I am the girl from Kansas City. And Annapolis. And Wheaton. And Iowa City.
I am the girl who sang on the rocks. The toddler who broke her arm falling out of a high chair while dancing. The girl who wanted a Mickey Mouse balloon more than anything. The girl who played softball and ran cross country. The girl who invented a radio station with her childhood best friend. The girl who played guitar and wrote a musical. The girl who moved to Iowa and became a Hawkeye.
I am the woman who is moving forward. Who can travel alone to a city and have a marvelous time. Who has accepted all that her life has been, and who has fallen in love with all that her life can be.
I do not know what tomorrow holds.
But wherever this journey takes me, there will be no holding back. There will be dancing in public and laughing hysterically. There will be adventure and spontaneity. There will be honesty and forgiveness. There will be unadulterated joy and raw, serious pain. And I don’t intend to miss a minute of any of it.
Because I am strong. I am unashamed. I am beautiful.
I am the girl who sings on the rocks. And I am ready.