If there’s ever a lesson that has had to be repeatedly and forcefully beaten into my brain, it is this:

I am not an island.

I do a fantastic island impression. I spice up the place with festive beach decor and roast pineapple kabobs on the grill and wile away the day with my nose in a book, suspended in a hammock hung between two palm trees. I live the life of an island well and really do enjoy and benefit from solitude. But at some point, I can’t do it all on my own. I still need to ship in produce and coffee and sheets from IKEA.

When it comes to this lesson, I’m like the kid who keeps touching the burners and is surprised when his fingers get singed. I can be taught it time and time again, but before long I’ll end up reverting back to my old habits of monasticism.

However, I think this time the lesson will actually stick due to the intense nature of the way in which I’m learning it. If not, there may be no hope for me.

Every time I’ve stopped to see friends on this journey, it’s not just been fun. It’s been essential, and that’s putting it lightly. Whereas prior to my arrival on their doorsteps I was downtrodden and weary, within minutes of being in their familiar, loving presence I became re-energized and fulfilled.

Case in point: my stay with the lovely Nancy in Portland.

Nancy and I go way back. Way, way back. All the way back to preschool, when her sister Carolyn and I were best buds. Recently, we’ve kept in touch by becoming pro facebook messagers. She’s a rockstar photographer and has been an invaluable resource to me for all things photography, but more than that I value her friendship because she is just a rockstar person, one whom I look up to in more ways than I can count.

For example, yesterday we went out for lunch, and she decided that we should have dessert first (in the form of seriously amazing vegan cakes) before our lunch order arrived. That should pretty much tell you all you need to know.

Before I arrived at Nancy’s, I was feeling a bit burnt out. For a girl who fancies the comforts of home, sweatpants and Gilmore Girls and refrigerator included, this trip has been antithetical to my normal mode of operation. Which is precisely how it should be. But nonetheless, I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of new people, places, and things I’ve been experiencing. By trying to navigate cities solo. By parallel parking in a minivan.

Enter Nancy: familiar face, heart of gold, fan of out-loud laughter. I was feeling better within minutes.

The light bulb in my brain sighed as it clicked on once again. It’s not enough to muscle through life on my own, even if I can (and, though it pains me to admit, I can’t). Because I was not created to muscle through life alone. I was created to live in relationship with God and with other people. That can be easy for me to forget when I’m living it up Food Network style on my sofa. But being out here, separated from the family and friends who abundantly fill my life with joy, it’s quite clear. Lesson (re)learned.

In closing: please note which plates both of us cleaned.