The sun is out, the term is wrapping up and a cool breeze moves through the trees. Our campus has a certain feel this time of year, closure and calm, students making their way back home as we shift into summer mode. Moscow (Idaho, not Russia) has been my predominate home for the last three years and for all the growth and change I’ve experienced here, I’m coming to terms with the closing of another chapter. This is the last of my time living here and I’m brimming with the anticipation of all the new I’m about to step into.
In the distance I see a friend, or at least, a former friend walking toward me on the opposite side of the street. I’m absolutely overjoyed to see him and make my way across, stopping to ask how he is. He responds nonchalantly, saying he’s fine, and asks me what I’ve been up to. I scan my brain for what I might tell him- so much has been happening. I’m about to work as a raft guide, I’ve booked a flight to India and will be backpacking the North with a group of people for three months. After that I’m going to South America for a while and I’ve also been working on my first book. As I speak he shifts uncomfortably, and I instantly become aware of the awkwardness in the air. I’m not blind to the fact that over the last year most of my old friends have decided I’ve lost my mind. I’m still not entirely sure why, as deep depression paralleled with the illumination of societal programming and its influences on who I am and why, multiplied by the bizarre and strange phenomena that has me starring into the cosmos when I close my eyes seems really normal to me. Oh well (I’ve written a hint of sarcasm in here, but I’ll add this in case you missed it).
I wonder what about this moment is off though. Does he think I’m lying? Am I oversharing? Is my reputation so tarnished it really doesn’t really matter what I say or do right now? Whatever it is, he is dying to get away from me and I can sense it. I wrap it up, feeling the twinges of disappointment as I shed another layer of innocence: not everyone wants to be your friend, no matter how much love you might feel for them. Despite the momentary blow to my ego, I grasp a bit tighter to the fact I’m about to break out of the life I’ve been living for a brand new adventure. I really have no idea what I’m doing and am only excited because I’m too young and inexperienced to know how many failures I have coming my way. It’s the summer of 2009 and I’m 21 years old.
That year I do go on to do all the things mentioned above, sins writing a book. Or maybe I was. It was always supposed to be a memoir of sorts, although at 20 years old I don’t know what I was expecting to write about. Through my travels that year, I obsessively filled the pages of over 14 journals. I was so in awe and yet constantly so uncomfortable in my growth that it was the only thing that gave me any sense of grounding.
A decade passed me by, over 50 journals slowly stacking against the book shelf, the idea of writing a book still somewhere in the back of my mind. The inspiration just wasn’t there though and I was surrounded by distractions: work, school, relationships, and generally trying to mold a life that allowed me to flourish in the confines of other people’s realities. Throughout that time I consistently felt like a fish out of water, or maybe perhaps more like a bird in water. I knew I was meant to fly and yet couldn’t figure out why I was always drowning.
This last year has made it especially apparent, serving me up a strong dose of anti-illusion and leaving me with the side-effects of regret and disappointment. Like a medicine inducing coma long enough for me to finally release my firm grip, I realize it was my own choices, or the fear of making specific choices, that had been the culprit keeping me submerged all along. Even if you’re a damn bird, taking flight is scary as hell if you’ve never done it before.
Like most people, I like security. I like having a stable home, clear cut guidelines of what my job is, what roles I am meant to play and with whom. I like juggling hobbies that often sit on the way side for months to years at a time, because knowing they’re always within arms reach makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something even when I’m not. On top of this, being a sentimental type creature, I like to collect things. Physical objects help to materialize our experiences, preferences, relationships and generally serve as proof that we have really lived. In a world constantly reminding us of impermanence, our things can help us to believe we have more control over the passing of time than we do.
As the chaos of detriment and the plummets of change rocked my world this year, illusions like home, career potentials and relationships began to crumble. Downsizing ensued and I was forced to begin releasing what felt like excess. Things, I have also come to realize (albeit with complete resistance- I’m a Taurus) are equivalent to responsibility. Between my various collections, hobbies and general interests, my domestic responsibilities hit an all time high. Over 30 animals to care for. Over 50 house plants to water. A 500 sq. ft. garden to keep up with. An almost 2000 sq. ft house to clean and organize. Way too many potential crafting options with no time to do any of them. This was all fine and much of the time I thoroughly loved it- I flourished within it. Like a well-oiled machine it ticked away and I was its proud engineer, all the while knowing there was a serious flaw in its design, but being way too stubborn to ever admit to it.
Eventually the flaw caught up with me. As human beings we dance between ideas of free-will and destiny. Is it one or the other? Or can they both be in effect, simultaneously? Free-will would indicate that as a conscious human being I have the ability to design from my own decisions and therefore life will unfold according to the steps I make from moment-to-moment. Partially true, sure. Sometimes though we try to design lives we think we are supposed to live, or want to live, when life obviously has been busy making others plans behind the scenes.
On the other hand, destiny is harder to conceptualize or understand. Destiny would allude that there is a purpose to all of this, that there is truly a grander unfolding underway and we’re all involved. I was 12, maybe younger, when the feeling of destiny became apparent to me for the first time. Like the pull of gravity to the soul, a magnetic force that calls to you somewhere from the future. I felt it, like an unspoken language whispering to my path, reminding me of something once known but temporarily forgotten. Destiny, when it visits you in its many forms, can either feel like a calming surge or an alarming shock, depending on how much of it you get and when. When you don’t want to see it, it is especially brutal.
Since I took that trip to India those many years ago, I knew I was supposed to build a life of travel and change. Visions bombarded me as walked the streets of India, smelling familiar smells I had never been exposed to, knowing I knew these streets not from the past, but from the future. Like a reel across my inner vision, playing quick snippets of the future, I began seeing what my life would one day look like. The visions that year forward were strong and clear, flashes into what felt like someone else’s life, but what I knew were to be my own. I tapped into a freedom and a lifestyle that both inspired me and left me paralyzed, because in those visions I also saw all that I would eventually have to lose to get there.
And so in the years that followed, I clung. I built a life of rooted stability. I sought out things and responsibilities that made it so I would never have to leave. I held on to the safety of someone who I knew was not right for me. I hid myself away, trying to sneak by in the socially accepted reality that I sucked at hoping destiny wouldn’t come looking for me there. I was scared shitless of becoming the person I saw in my visions because that would mean admitting that everything I was building was eventually going to crumble.
It was June. I had 48 hours to pack, and as I shoved most of my possessions into boxes, I knew full well that a part of me was already making plans to never really return. As each item slid in, a slight detachment began to take place. It was only a few months ago when I was laying in my bed, scanning my room and thinking how I’d never be able to let go of these things. Trauma has a way of breaking apart who we think we are and what we need.
Artwork from friends, crystals, plants, knick-knacks collected from around the world, handmade drums, guitars and a plethora of other items I’ve acquired over time. Despite downsizing this past year, I still own a ton of things, each one with a story, each one baring witness to my many lives, houses, friends and hobbies. These items have seen me through many moves, internal and external, and letting go of them would feel like letting go of a piece of myself.
Yet, I’ve already started letting go of so much of “myself” this year, or at least who I thought myself to be. Now that I’m living abroad, with little intention to return permanently anytime soon, those boxes have started to feel like burdens, parts of me sitting stagnant, taking up space, responsibilities still needing to be dealt with. Literal memories collecting dust, similarly to the memories sitting unattended to in my mind- literary opportunities, stories ready for exposure and to finally be taken off the shelf and to be shared.
The sky is clear and blue, as a breeze moves through a kaleidoscope of tropical leaves above me. This is my third time floating this river somewhere in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, and my last for the summer. Within the hour I will learn there are leopards in these forests who sometimes eat the local cats and dogs, which will leave me with a new sense of perpetual perturb that I will probably carry for the rest of my life (this has nothing to do with anything, except that now we can both fear for the lives of cats and dogs around Costa Rica). A coworker floats behind me and catches a rapid, sending him quickly toward me. This is perfect timing because a new idea has hit me and, as I’ve come to know about myself over the years, I enjoy a good mouth purge as soon as something has developed. …Talking about barely developed ideas out loud is a strong suite of mine.
As he knows, I’m going to Europe to backpack for three months this fall, and then possibly returning to Central America after that. I potentially need more money for this trip and haven’t been sure how to go about it. In so, I’ve decided I’m going to sell everything I own and use it as the premise to write my first book. He smiles and says that sounds awesome, and I smile too, knowing he actually thinks it’s awesome and I am so happy with where my life is.
This September I am holding an auction, the precursor to the book I intend on working on this year while I travel Europe and beyond. With an invitation to family and friends, items will be spread out for viewing and bidding, each item accompanied with a short story about where it is from, what I was doing or going through at the time, or something to do with a snippet into what it means to me. The proceeds from these sales will help fund my travels and my writing. It’s been over a decade since I started telling people that I’m going to write a book. I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve failed enough to know that it’s just part of the process. It’s the summer of 2019 and I’m 31 years old.