I've had this recurring nightmare ever since I was a little child. In it, I'm driving a car on an endless bridge over the water, presumably the ocean. Oh, and there are no railings on this bridge. Oh, and the bridge is JUST wide enough for my car. Oh, and sometimes there's people in the car, which only adds to the anxiety. The nightmare ends in a variety of different ways. Usually I reach the end of the bridge and wake up, or else I forget what happened. I'm pretty sure I never fall in (though I've been blown up and hit the ground in those "falling dreams" - twice).
I think as a result of these dreams, I developed a mild (self-diagnosed) gephyrophobia - an irrational fear of bridges that brings on anxiety when crossing one. I would close my eyes, look away, hold my breath, go to my happy place - anything to rid the thought of a collapsing bridge from my mind.
Now, I conquered that fear of bridges all by lonesome. I remember being like seven years old and forcing myself to keep my eyes open when we crossed bridges. I would think things like: "Look at these other cars: they aren't falling through the floor... maybe I wont either...?" Employing tactics like these, I crushed that phobia with the iron will of a seven-year-old... but I still get that twinge every now and then at the first bump signalling the junction of road and bridge...
And then quite suddenly, I knew where that fear orginiated. My mom was again suggesting that I go to Virginia and see the place where I was born. "Oh!" she added. "And you can drive across the Chessapeake Bay Bridge!" I instantly had a hunch that it was some nightmareishly long bridge over some never-ending water... and then instantly had a second hunch that the source of my greatest fear had been located at last. "Yeah," she continued, "It's this huge bridge..." I pulled out a (GPS) map, and saw THIS:
Ho. Ly. Crap. I about peed my pants just looking at the map.
Now, I didn't go to Virginia beach to face my fears - but that was definitely an added bonus. Truth is, I knew I was going to Virginia long before I knew I was taking this trip. I'm not sure why I wanted to, but I was very preoccupied with visiting the motherland. I've never had any particular attachment to Virginia; after all, I moved away from there when I was about two years old, so I don't really remember much. But I was surprised how much I learned about myself from visiting Hampton, Virginia.
Again, I can't say that I remember Virginia... but I know for a 100% fact that both my nightmare and my irrational fear of bridges came from the Chessapeake Bay Bridge and the other series of bridges in that area that seem just as long. When you're on these bridges, you can't see anything but bridge and ocean. The Bay Bridge itself is TWENTY MILES LONG. As I drove across the bridges, I had these... impressions. Not flashbacks; not memories. They were like imprints on my psyche. I could feel the familiarity of the situation, which was strking considering that I can't recall ever driving over such a series of bridges. And the Bay Bridge was THE bridge of my nightmare.
As I drove into Langley Air Force Base where I was born, I had another strange realization. Recall, if you will, this post I wrote about driving into California and seeing - no, feeling - the ocean.
"There's something about the Ocean... some primal connection I feel to it deep in my soul. If I had lived anytime pre-1800's, I would have been a sailor, no question. When I saw the ocean I just sighed and realized that if the trip ended now, it would have been worth it. Lucky for me it was just starting."
I wrote that weeks before I got to VA, and I've felt it for a long time. Now get this: Langely Air Force Base is literally on the water. You can see the ocean from the hostpital. The base is bordered by it. No wonder I feel such a connection to the water: the lull of the tides serenaded my newborn soul for two years. Add the numerous beaches of the area into the equation, and it's easy to see why my love of the beach is so ingrained.
And so, after touring Langely and the Hampton area, I turned in for the night.
In the morning, I conquered the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and then headed to Virginia Beach to relax the day away. And relax the day away I did, after touching the Atlantic Ocean - the culmination of my coast to coast odyssey.