Here I am, half a world away from the place I´ve called home for the last dozen-plus years, living the dream, wandering a new continent, and the longer I am here, the more I realize that what I need to do is write.
There´s a part of me that wants to be disappointed. I can write anywhere, this part of me says. Why can´t I put it aside, make the most of this opportunity to see new places and explore new things? The pressure is immense. After all, when, realistically, will I be here again? I should make the most of it while I can. All this business of facing my personal darkness and finding something like redemption or purpose in my work can be done later, when I get home and have nothing better to do.
When I look back, this part of me says, I will regret squandering this opportunity to explore. The worst, most insidious thing is this: the voice is right. It has a legitimate point.
After all, what is the purpose of travel, if not to see new places, meet new people, explore the vast and wondrous variety this world has to offer? To shuck the comfort and security of the familiar and find yourself anew, shorn of the habits of mind and life that normally circumscribe your passage through this world, and, you know, have a little fun while you do it?
Thing is, all that shucking and shearing and finding myself anew has led me to a different conclusion than the part of me that says I need to make the most of my journey-as-journey says it should. That what I thought this journey would do, take me outside myself, offer me respite from the darkness always hovering over me, is not what this journey has done. What this journey has done is, rather, the complete opposite: it has brought all the things I thought it would liberate me from to the forefront, and demanded that I face them.
Son of a bitch.
I remember the last time I did this kind of thing. Ten years ago I went walkabout in western Europe, did the backpacking thing before I was too old and soft to do it anymore. I remember feeling a constant pressure to keep moving, see new places. After all, when would I be back (answer: ten years and counting). Part of me wanted to stop somewhere and just be. Get to know one place in a little depth instead of lots of places superficially. I feel the same pressure now, only the relentless insistence that I keep moving, keep seeing new places and experiencing the giddy and frightening imbalance of learning to navigate them, is trying to distract me from the thing I´ve realized I need to do.
I need to write. To cultivate my writing practice, because it´s the only thing that´s going to save me from the darkness within.
I know. It all sounds super-melodramatic. But how else shall I characterize the battle for the state of my soul/spirit/sanity?
Because I am going to regret the choices I make. I am going to regret not seeing more while I´m here, and rightfully so. If I had it to do over again, with the kind of perfect knowledge only hindsight can offer, I would do some parts the same, and some parts very differently. I would be in a better place, spiritually. I would have chosen a more-likely-to-be-viable traveling companion for this latter half of my journey. I would have done more research and planned more consciously. I would have seen and done more.
And hey. I still could. I´ve got a couple weeks left. If I really pushed, I could see and do all kinds of stuff. All I would have to do is put this whole following the call of my personal redemption through my writing practice aside, just for a couple of weeks –and where´s the harm in that, right?– and go do it.
But I won´t.
Every choice comes with a price-tag: a cost you have to pay, something you have to sacrifice. If I want to follow my calling (and that´s what it is; I am fortunate in that I have always known what I wanted to do and to be, even if I have not always listened to that call, or followed it when I was) then I have to accept that I am squandering an opportunity to experience a part of the world I may never come back to. And not only that, I have to teach myself to positively affirm that I am doing the right thing for myself at this point in my personal storyline by doing so.
I have to have faith that what I will get will be worth the cost I will pay for it.
That´s some scary-ass shit right there.
At the same time, there are signs, both internal and external, that I´m doing the right thing, making the right choice. As I write this, I have crossed the border over to the Chilean town of Osorno, gateway to several stunningly beautiful national parks and, further south, to the majesty and wonder of Patagonia. But it´s raining outside, and it´s going to rain for the foreseeable future. Being someone who´s lived in Seattle for a dozen years, the rain doesn´t scare me, but it does make me wonder if perhaps the world, in its own way, is telling me to stay inside and do my work.
Or at least write this. I haven´t decided if this is part of my work, or just a particularly insidious distraction (yesterday was my website´s all-time busiest day, and I´d be lying if I said it wasn´t gratifying, and that at least part of the reason I´m writing this now is the hope that more people will visit; hey, I never said I was enlightened, or even particularly evolved).
But whatever I´m doing here, I think that I´m done. I believe it´s been helpful, and even possibly interesting to others. But now it´s time to go, because I have work to do.