The journey to a new life is not straight, especially emotionally.

On Day 5 of my cross-country trip to my new life and career in North Carolina, I felt exhilarated to the degree of “pinch me, I’m dreaming.”

The afternoon and night before in a suburb of Phoenix, I was reunited after more than 35 years, with my cousins and their families. It was an instant, glorious bond. Not only were they family, they suddenly were dear, loving friends.

For the first five hours today upon departing Phoenix toward Albuquerque, the ever-changing geography and beauty kept me entranced. My spirits soared with the vastness of the landscape, which signaled the endless possibilities of my future.

Miles into New Mexico, I noticed I had traveled more than 1,100 miles. Signs for San Rafael, San Mateo, Santa Rosa and Laguna appeared with the passing miles — the familiar California town names juxtaposed with a desolate landscape that had begun to give me the sense I had journeyed to the moon instead of just two states away from my home of the past 25 years.

Instead of focusing on what lay ahead in North Carolina, I was awash with grief for what I had left behind. Not my job. Not Sacramento’s beautiful rivers, its ideal climate or even all that was familiar.

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What panicked me was the loss of the family and friends whose distance from me was becoming painfully more apparent with each additional mile on the odometer.

This bipolar eight-hour day on the road was a keen reminder that this journey to a new life will have its bumps.

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