A few weeks (months?? Time is a mystery…) ago I was in New York catching up with a coworker, who casually mentioned I had never followed up with the unexplained death of the other fork in the road cliffhanger. Whoops.
So yeah. The other fork in the road is dead. Not like, dead dead. Maimed, maybe? Missing some key parts to keep it functioning? Too many flat tires on a dirt road to nowhere? Maybe I outgrew it or it outgrew me, but I am definitely not the same person I was when I sweatily word-vomited all over the local coffee shop about my nervous shits.
Working out this revelation with my friend Jake, I told him how I visibly cringe when I reread some posts, overly cognizant of how different I am now, of how much I’ve changed.
Yeeeah, but isn’t that a good thing? Do you really want to be the same person you were 6 years ago? I hope something’s changed, right? I mean, at some point your words aren’t for you anymore. They’re speaking to someone else, where they’re at in life…not you. Can you imagine if they weren’t cringeworthy? It would almost be as if you hadn’t grown at all…
My penchant for documenting emotions and events of the Now has been inducing cringeworthy moments since 1988, and it’s bound to produce more in the years to come. And just like the value I believe my childhood journals hold for my non-existent offspring, someone, somewhere, might be going through the same struggles I was when I wrote those now cringeworthy thoughts, and maybe someone somewhere can relate? Yeah, aight. That makes me a little less nauseous.
When I hit the road with this Quit Your Day Job|See the World|Fall in Love|Find Yourself thing (aka, chasing a sticker I found on the ground at a music festival in Austin, adopting it as my mantra), I dove in head first without checking the depth of the water. In a place I desperately needed direction, I saw the sign and took it literally, as one does with directional signs. I quit my job. I saw (a chunk of) the world. And I found myself. In a lot of strange places and in some weird ass ways.
I tried to skip the demand I was least looking forward to from that incredibly bossy sticker, the falling in love part. But in the end, I did that too. I fell in love with scooping frozen dog poop in Finland, a little lamb in Norway, feisty (read: scary huge) horses in Ireland. With Scottish cockney rhyming slang, strange Bosnian humor. With being in the minority on the smoking definitely recommended trains in Poland, the crisp, clean, can-do streets of Switzerland, the equally gritty underground streets of Berlin. With thru-hiking, with being a dirtbag surrounded by dirtbags, waking up covered in five days of filth, overflowing with this weird cocktail of emotions: miserable, exhausted, broken, yet full of purpose, stoked out of my mind, knowing without a doubt this is where I belonged. With the awareness of how rare it is to find those ingredients in one single life cocktail. With riding the wave, destination unknown.
And just as quickly as the Life Seamstress took me in, she spat me back out, as a floppy patchwork doll sewn together with wild hair, stitched with a crooked smile and a bright red misshapen heart. I survived for awhile by binging on memories, inhaling the past until I could no longer pickup the tiny traces of thrill that fueled me for so long, until each breath started to feel like Harry Potter would feel if he suddenly became a Muggle. WHAT??? NO MORE MAGIC!??!?! I know, right?
If that sounds awful, it was. But as a fortune cookie once told me: Change is not merely necessary to life. It IS life.
These days I wake up to a series of calculated face licks designed to elicit movement, which is my dog’s (already inches from my face, monitoring signs of life) cue, to extend his cat-like claws and paw at me aggressively to get up, play with him, feed him, preferably all three at once. I tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, yawn and stretch and you know the rest. I work from home. Sometimes I make dinners from a box delivered to my doorstep. I binge read books from a list I’ve had since college and sit on my porch thinking about how much it’s changed since I bought the house, (almost a decade ago, huh, well I’ll be), and how they really need to do something about this intersection. I get excited about new flavors of sparkling water and find myself having conversations about it. Repeatedly. Ya, of course there’s more, but you get the point. (I mean…sparkling water.)
Finding that sticker on the ground seems like six lifetimes ago, not six years. When I think about everything that followed that fateful acquisition, even though I straight-up lived it, I sit here now and wonder how the eff I did it. I ask myself the same questions my own internet doubters once asked. How did I pull the trigger, take that leap, put reality on pause? People oohed and ahhed (and poo-pooed and booed) and I was all like, yeah but you can do it too! Anyone can! Yet here I am, standing near another ledge, desperate to see what’s over “there,” but I can’t even get close enough to feel that thrill of the depth unknown. I’m surrounded by these concrete obstacles my psyche actively constructed while I was busy gushing over sparkling water, obstacles preventing me from taking another running leap. The mere thought of deconstructing those barriers feels like so.much.work. So complicated, time-consuming. Figuring out the details, the logistics. Putting forth the emotional energy required to even make a major life decision. Gah. I can’t even.
Perhaps the worst part of all of this is finger-tapping access to the endless internet supply of people who, much like the 2014 edition of me, have already destroyed their own roadblocks (or maybe they’re the lucky ones who never constructed them in the first place, which means they’re definitely missing out on Cherry Lime Klarbrunn) and dove head first over the canyon. I’m constantly taunted (haunted?) by people living their #bestlife from behind the glass.
I started the other fork in the road out of need. The need to not feel alone. The need to know I wasn’t the only one pushing aside the shiny Societal Life Manual in favor of the dusty books in the back of the library, the ones you really had to dig deep to find, brush off, to discover something worth reading twice.
And it helped. The internet is a big place. I was thrilled to discover a community of people reading dusty books, ones not filled with stories of climbing ladders measuring any form of success. A community who understood there’s a whole world to explore outside of the bubbles we all live in. Physically roaming the globe highlighted I was not alone; the rise of social media smashed it in my face. Hard. And now I’m in some sort of mental recovery after suffering this metaphorical head trauma.
Basically, I’m over myself.