Do you feel a relentless pressure to know who you are? To know what you want?
As hue-mans, almost all actions in life are enveloped by the appetites of food, sex, sleep, and self-preservation. Customs and rituals and systems of change vary according to the environment of a country: the times, the culture, the location, and climate.
My sister is an incredible woman. We understand one another, in part because of our shared childhood and the experiences that unify us. I will know no other person in this life for as long as I will know her, Spirit willing, and I couldn’t be more fortunate in that regard.
In our twenties, we got into a fight. One of those raw ones where things got said. It was a pivotal moment in each of our lives and certainly, in our relationship.
At that time in my life, I was living much the product of others desires for me. I comfortably governed by consensus and remained safely in a bubble. Inside, I was aching for something I was unable to describe, something far outside my comfort zone.
Within a few months, I had quit my job, traveled thousands of miles and martyred myself, once again, for someone else. A lover in Havana, encouraged me, standing at an airport counter without a ticket in hand, to learn how to speak Spanish. Two flights were departing: Montreal; Munich.
I choose to live in Europe for over 18 months.
It took me 6 hours to leave the airport when I arrived. I knew no one. I was a second-year German drop out; I knew how to say I speak a little German and that was it. WTF had I done. Everything I knew about Europe came from a Robert Ludlum novel.
I spent a few days exploring the area. I did some things. I saw some stuff. I was pretty rudderless. And yet, I grew my confidence amidst the unfamiliar. I spoke with strangers and navigated new foods. I saw a man drinking a beer for breakfast in the train station on my way to Dachau where my eyes were opened to the visceral, non-Hollywood reality of the Holocaust.
Post the previous reality of Cuba, and with everything in Germany dusted in snow, I traveled by night train to Rome and a hostel full of international reverie: south for the comparative warmth and night train to save myself the cost of a bed. I learned to navigate circumstance.
There, I ate pizza so good I took a trip back years later, just to try it again. I walked everywhere and my eyes drank in everything. I was enchanted and invigorated with a desire to see it all. A man leaving Europe the next day traded me his bus pass for a few bottles of wine and I became someone new.
Perhaps after a few bottles of wine, that’s happened to you too?
I saw seven cities in 21 days: a man wearing a three-piece suit riding a bicycle carrying an umbrella; a world-famous boys choir; Nutella and Croissants; open-air mineral water baths in the center of a city park; late-night fog reflecting fake gas lights on the ancient city streets; a tiny bronze boy peeing eternally into a fountain. I navigated my way past borders with the ease of a Cold War veteran.
And arrived a few months past my 27th birthday upon the Mediterranean. Seated in a plaza, reading a book, sunshine on my skin: this was my first experience of Barcelona. I didn’t dare leave. Living just around the corner from where the prostitutes peddled their wares I rented a piece of floor behind the armoire of a two bedroom apartment with three of my friends for two hundred Euros a month, my share. I was all in.
I dared to be naive. To believe that the best was waiting for me around every corner. That I would make money to offset my expenditures and stretch out my experiences. That events could stream to support my commitment and I would speak Spanish and meet women and eat strangely and sleep infrequently and everything would work out fine.
Barcelona was a city where I was aware in a way completely foreign to me. Presented to the moment, I captivated my senses in a life that was not available where I was born. I prospered. I experienced too many firsts to list and learned through all of them.
Henry Miller said that “the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” My travels overseas were an experience beyond what I thought any one world had the right to imagine.
In 2005, on my return to North America, I had seen 13 countries, the number of transformation, and had spoken words in German, Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish and Arabic. The confidence that developed in overextending myself persists today and informs many of the choices I make, particularly the ones that I intend my future self to be proud of.
The explorations and adventures of my twenties lasted long past when everyone else thought it time to change. I have had the fortune to speak with the homeless and the incomprehensibly wealthy; at different times, based upon my location, climate, times and culture, I’ve considered myself either or both.
Around the time I was returning home, my sister began to reinvent her life, for the sake of her dear dependent, my brilliant, beautiful nephew. I hold him in high regard. I trust that he has little to prove to others and so much to prove to himself. That’s a why with a lasting interest.
It’s ok not to know what you want to make of your one, wild, precious life. Sometimes the long way is the route. I lay claim to that and bow deeply in gratitude for the blessings of my life. My personal experience has been that it’s best to try a few things on before deciding.
I don’t envy my nephews generation. I don’t think he has the luxury of lounging. Cause things need doing and time is pressing. The climate is warming and our culture is slow to catch on to the necessity of new ways. The world is transforming at a tremendous rate: in a hundred years, my local airport will be underwater. That’s just what’s up.
If you know why you’re here, we need your gifts.
The preservation of human life requires drastic action on an unprecedented scale.
Serenely, joyfully, act to shake the systems around you, encouraging them to see with new eyes. I still dare to be naive because I see that, all around, there is possibility.
Create rituals of choice that are custom to your location and be the change.
There is no one way to do this living thing.
No matter your age, the only limitations are those self-imposed.
I’m making decisions my future self can hold on to.
I hope that you feel the same way too.