I used to think I had something unique to say, something original, something unthought-of of, something unspoken before, but what these past few months have taught me is that I don’t.
I don’t mean that in an existentialist, or even nihilistic, sort of way as if my thoughts specifically have no value, rather, I have just met so many people, with their stories, with their experiences, with their knowledge of life, with so much power and gravity behind them that I have begun to realize how little I have done in this span of time that is my life.
I could try and write about leaving the West Coast back in October, after having spent nearly half a year on the road out there. Or I could write about the troubles I have been having in the Van mechanically and the budding excitement that has begun to grow within me in learning simple fixes to my problems. Or I could try and write about the different regions of this country, how they compare, how they contrast, what sticks out and what you don’t normally hear about.
And yet, none of that would be authentic, none of that would be original – not because it wasn’t authentic at the time in which I experienced those realizations, rather, because it would no longer be my experience. It was my experience, but today as I write, it is not my experience. A lot has happened in the past two months in my life, not in dramatic spikes, but in sets of realizations that have gradually come about as the result of boredom and stagnancy.
I guess what I am realizing is not that I have nothing to write, but that it is through the experience of writing from which I derive knowledge of my world. As abstract as that may seem, it is quite simple: I feed off of my experiences and so long as my writing is an experience, working-through something, then I will continue to develop. Simple as it is, it is a struggle I am constantly engaged with – do I capture or do I create?
I feel as though I have been programmed to capture, be it through my writing, my storytelling, or my relationships. It is as though I feel compelled at any moment – to tell where I have been and what I was doing. It is though I have taught myself to categorize my actions through thought. It is though that I must have a conclusion to each action, an explanation for each decision. While in reality I function most of the day without this complex at play, it is when I try to reflect on my day that I feel it come out most.
All intellectual stammering aside, I am still writing and that must be worth something. And yet, it isn’t – at least in the sense that it is snowing outside, well below freezing, and my plan up until this point was to live through the winter in my van … in the mountains. Sure, I can come up with some thoughtful comment like “The number in my bank account continues to grow every day, because my expectations of what I need to live continue to shrink,” but at the end of the day I am pretty near broke and don’t have a fucking clue what to do.
I can’t help but criticize myself at this point for majoring in Philosophy. I can’t help but see all of these faces that asked me, “And what are you going TO DO with that?” “Nothing,” I replied sheepishly, grinning because I had the moral high ground above their unknowingly utilitarian expectations of my college degree. Well, who is grinning now? The philosophy major with less common sense than a chicken with its head cut off, or the person sitting by a fire, keeping warm, having realized the bitter, cold truths about practical skills in this world while it was still summer.
It is not that I am helpless or hopeless, I will find a job and I will be okay (or so I tell myself), but it signals something deeper to me that has been going on in the recesses of my mind for some time now. I have been so concerned with abstractions about who I am going to become in my life, what I am going to do with the limited time we all have, where I will go and who I will meet, that I have forgotten perhaps the most important thing there is to do in life – to remember that my feet are still touching the ground.
I guess that is what I am trying to do, just learn how to focus on taking steps on my own. For so long I feel as though I have walked (run really) with the knowledge that there is something to support me should I loose balance or should I succumb to fear, but at this point of my life I no longer want to rely on these handrails of safety and security, the structures set up to keep me from falling to my knees, or my face (hopefully not).
So I think that is what I have begun to learn as I have been trucking all around this country, pretending seasons do not exist, that I want to learn how to stand on my own to feet – not out of indignation (maybe a little) or some masochistic desire to feel pain, but instead that if I am going to do the things in life that I think will make me happy, it is going to involve a lot of risk (calculated I hope).
I find myself constantly repeating the saying “By age 50, you have the wrinkles you deserve.” I forget where I heard it first, and I am sure I have a friend out there that will remind me, but it is such a telling expression about life. At a certain point, you have a decision in life – the degree of the agency in any decision is very subjective – nonetheless, you can make a choice. Do I want to continue in this direction? Is this what I want for myself?
I can’t really answer those questions at this stage in my life. In fact, I don’t know if there is truly a right answer to questions like those. At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to stay warm and fed and it is important not to forget that.
So, I guess if there is one decision that I am looking to make for myself it is this: to learn how to deal with gravity. I think if I can just begin to tap into that, even just a little bit, I might be able to feel a bit more stable on my own two feet, maybe even learn to dance, who knows? At least I will know where I am and will be able to feel my own weight.