friendship, luck, memory, mental health, opinion, travel

The Photo Album

A few years ago, near Christmastime, my Dad and I went walking around Home Sense. For those who don’t know me, I love to wander around all of those home décor stores. Quite often I don’t buy anything unless I am buying for somebody else but when Dad and I are in the neighbourhood, we always stop in for a gander around. This day in particular I was cruising the aisles and a photo album caught my eye. It said “Dream Big” in embroidered cursive lettering over a map motif.

At this point I had a huge travel bug with a whole three countries under my belt (Canada/Home, USA, Guatemala). I had very limited funds, a huge air of confident determination, and a zest for life unmatched by anyone.

I check the price and it is $16.99- steep for a trinket as a theatre student. I leave the store empty-handed and Christmas passes. I am still thinking about this photo album. Thoughts swirling into my head about the big dreams, future travels, and achievements that I will be able to slot into each of the 500 places.

I went back to the store and bought it- student loan money well spent. I bring it home, gleaming with light. I flip through the pages and am so excited about what life will bring me and for the future moments that I will sit and sift through in years to come.

Fast forward half a decade.

I turn in my bedroom- the photo album resting on my shelf.
Every time I come home it is sitting in the same place. Front facing forward on the shelf above my bed, the muted pastel tones of the map imagery and the beautifully embroidered “Dream Big” on full display.

Now years down the road, several promotions, over thirty countries visited, unbelievable goals achieved, adventures with the love of my life…

The album is empty.

Not a single picture resides in the designated plastic sheets.

I have dreamed big and do dream big, but my dreams keep changing. Every time I go to print some photos of places I have been, people I have met, or any other incredible thing I have been lucky to experience in the passing years I stop.
Is this enough for the album?

Which pictures do I choose? What represents the journey I’ve been on? What dreams to I incorporate? Do I put in pictures of me? Just pictures that I have taken?
Why the hell am I putting so much thought and energy into a photo album?

Looking back for me is sometimes difficult. With all of the successes and fulfilled dreams came loss, grief, illness, mental health issues… which can sadly taint a lot of the incredible moments I have had from time to time. Equally difficult for me is looking forward. I get overwhelmed with planning and options and what is best for me.

This time I open the album. I was drawn to it. It was a moment of hyper-focus and direction while knowing it is empty. I touch the silky black interior and flip through the pages. I am thinking about the dreams I had, the dreams I have and the time gone by. As I am thoughtfully going through an empty album, lost in the moment and a page falls out.

It is from my late best friend.

She didn’t put it there. I got this album after she passed and I received this paper from her Mom. I must have, at some point that I cannot remember, placed it in the album.

I read it. I read it again. I read it another time.

There are times since her passing where I wish I could speak to her. She was someone who spoke my language when I wouldn’t even say words. We were soulmates in a way. She always knew what to say and how to say it and when to say it.

I read it slower:

“I know that Your plan for me is greater than my plan for myself. While at camp near the campfire pit I saw an acorn and I felt compelled to pick it up. I had no idea why, but if you tell me to pick up an acorn then I’ll pick up an acorn. I had no idea why, but it must be part of Your plan for me. It may be for later, but for now I think it is meant to be hope. It is the hope that You have plans for my life still, and they are greater than my plans because I am still yet to think of something that includes an acorn. It is also to remind me to trust You and Your plans for me. I always want to plan out my own life because I don’t like change, but this is to remind me to trust that You have a plan for me and so all I have to do is listen to you and obey You. Please continue to help me and talk to me throughout the year; I feel like this is the start of something new, the start of becoming who You want me to be. With all my love, Carolyn.”

This conversation that she had with her God had me floored. I’ve read it before, but it has been a while and it was not as perfectly timed.
I am not religious or really spiritual in anyway. But maybe she picked up that acorn long ago to have the hope she needed in her times of need, to write this, and for me to read it many years later.

This may be her way to talk to me in the way that she can. Why else would I have been so drawn to an album I knew was empty?

Either way. As a twist of fate, a matter of coincidence, or just plain old luck, I got some much-needed advice from my best friend:

To have hope, trust the process, understand that there is something bigger than me.
I am becoming who I am meant to be and I am not alone.

“With all my love, Carolyn.” – Carolyn Felker

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