13 October 2012 § 2 Comments
The night I stopped traveling, I went to the hill across from my new ‘home,’ set my backpack down in the grass, and panicked.
What should I bring in first? If my compass goes inside, adventure will still come tomorrow, right? I leaned against the fence and realized that I knew where I would sleep next week, a knowing I hadn’t claimed in years. I searched my pockets for ideas; my new cell phone fumbled out, and fell to the ground. I picked it up, hit Redial, and asked “what next?”
“You’re there, aren’t you,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing.”
“You don’t have to know what you’re doing,” she replied, “just do it.”
I wanted to go to the airport. To close my eyes, point at the departure board, and buy a ticket for ______. Instead, I sat next to my backpack and cried. The orange streetlight above me buzzed, then blinked out. A reminder of all the meaning I’d attached to the dying of orangeglow over the years; New Year’s after a friend’s suicide; a relationship seven years in the making and the seven weeks it lasted; another that I could never have. Sometimes a streetlight is just a fucking streetlight.
Ironic, I thought, that I live for new experience, and push the boundaries of comfort as often as I can – yet to stay might pain me beyond measure. Usually, to step into a new city for me is bliss; to explore its underbelly priceless education. Remaining, or to be the remainder (of what’s left? what’s left of me?) in a domestic town where most people speak my language, and know more or less the culture that informed my rearing, seemed at once to be a waste, a time of stagnation where I would fall into old bad habits, develop new forms of laziness and lose the instinct that on the road is the most important tool I have.
A year before I’d done the same: I set my backpack down in my prison cell-sized room in San José, Costa Rica where I was to live for three months, stretched my arms, and, fingers touching either wall, asked the concrete what came next.
This is what I do.
It took one and a half days to find my dressiest clothes (in a dusty duffel), a new hat and a smile. By that time I knew not only where I’d sleep, but also of the fluidity with which it could change. That if I really wanted to buy a plane ticket, I could. But what I’d leave behind was the opportunity to discover what happened if I kept my energy in one place.
By the end of the week, I was laughing in the second row at a poetry slam on Hawthorne, tapping into roots I hadn’t grown from in ages. As Anis Mojgani delivered poems with adorable charisma, I scribbled in a notebook that was, so far, unfamiliar with radical inspiration, words written in the dark, and literary abandon. “I invite you,” I wrote to myself, “to a lifestyle that four years ago you renounced with crossed arms and bitterness. To integrate your recent learning how to be you. Find your patience; maybe life will change today.
Shine,” the pages said.
This is going to be good.