Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Pattern Part 2

Author's note: I wrote this whole post without having realized that I already wrote a post about my pattern this month. They are radically different, come to different conclusions about why I do what I do, and yet ultimately both are important parts of my pattern and have led me to make the same decision. Understanding them and how they fit together is slowly leading me to a better understanding of myself. Yes, to some extent they may be arguing opposite sides of the same point, and yet that is the beauty of being human: not always hanging on the logical, and instead reacting to and living with emotional responses.

Anybody who knows me knows my pattern; I’ve written about it, talked about it, and lived it for a really long time. Save up a bunch of money. Often, sell a car or the promise of a first-born child for extra cash. Pack everything into a ridiculously small (for the amount of time I’ll be gone) or ridiculously large (since I have to schlep it myself) backpack, depending on how you look at it. Go. Adventure. Peruse. Find the beauty and excitement in each new day in a new place. Be wowed by simple differences, by people with different cultures and practices; eat new foods and stand on the tops of new vistas or swim in new lakes, rivers and oceans.
One of the new rivers I've found nearby to swim in.

Often on purpose, I then take this to an extreme, in an attempt to suck every last endorphin, pleasure and moment of joy out of it. I call myself a travel addict, and this is why: I go seeking the hit, overload on the hit the way you would a meal that’s just too good to stop eating, and wind up comatose and lamenting your inability to know when to say when. I do this on purpose so that when I go home, the everyday will be welcome; the lack of new and exciting will come with a sense of peace, and I’ll be able to work on settling in without having to listen to the small voice in the back of my head that says, “But, I like it out there in the world.”

This is perhaps not really that big of a confession to make anymore, but my pattern was all about going to get what I needed and hoping, desperately, that this time it will be enough: that the 3 months backpacking through Australia would exhaust me enough that I would never need to do this again; that diving in the underwater caves on the Yucat√°n was something so amazing that it would tide me over for the rest of my life; that a summer in a hiker’s hut in the Alps working for a quickly degenerating alcoholic and beautiful views above the clouds from the summit would help me to realize that what I really wanted and needed was what was waiting for me at home: the chance to live a normal life, where these adventures are only part of the package, not the whole shebang.

I know, it sounds ridiculous to even say it. It sounds ridiculous to think that I could saturate my need for the unknown and the new adventure once, and never have to do it again. It sounds ridiculous, and yet somewhere in there, I thought it was the only way to do it, based on one small assumption: that I could not support my travel habit if I didn’t live in the States and have a job that would pay for it.
I kept coming back because I thought I had to; that that’s where the money was made. I kept coming back because I believed what everyone kept saying and what was implied: that there’s no way to make a living outside the States, that there’s no way to make a living without benefits, 401K’s, that life is not worth living without the creature comforts that are wanted and expected in the States. Ok, no one said that last one to me, but it’s apparent in the everyday there. In Boquete, I have seen perhaps one stroller; most women carry their children on their hips, without diaper bags. Most Panamanians don’t have cars, and therefore the public transportation – while fun, colorful and entertaining – is much more advanced than in a town of the same size in the States. It’s true that you can live on a lot less down here, but you also need less: there are fewer smartphones, two-car households, new fancy anything, multiple heavy bags of vegetables for sale at the local markets for more than $6. It is a relief to me because I live better here on less money, with fewer gadgets and a simpler way of life, and, despite what I’d always heard and always said, I’ve found work: more than I can do, and more than enough to sustain me while also giving me my time to write and continue to explore; jobs that could go with me if I left.

I was always looking at my pattern the wrong way, invisible audience. I thought the answer would come in figuring out how to fit into an American society; in getting a job that didn’t eat the life out of me, despite the fact that anything revolving around working for someone else outside of my own hours always has. I thought that my travels were a way to recharge, and yet I could never understand how people thought they could rejuvenate in the two-week window they would get a year at a corporate job. I had it all wrong not just because I was trying to work for someone else, but because I was trying to live a life I had never really wanted.

I am blessed, however, with an inability to stay in any single situation for a long amount of time if I am unhappy, and therefore I would escape again – even as I berated myself – almost every year, searching once again for the joy that I always found with little more than a backpack, a pair of tennis shoes and something to write in. I had my pattern wrong because I always believed people when they told me I was escaping, when in reality I kept running TOWARD my future, my joy, and my happiness, only to find it, get a hit and decide that I now had the strength of character to go back and try again: try to fit into a culture and a way of life that had never spoken to me, that I found confining and chain-like.

Even though I decided it awhile ago, and, in fact, on some level knew it before I left, I have realized that breaking out of my pattern has nothing to do with ending my desire to be abroad. Instead, it has to do with finally letting go of the idea that I am supposed to fit in the American box. Breaking my pattern has nothing to do with going back to a life that I ultimately always want to escape from. It has everything to do with running toward the life I have always wanted without apology, regret, or looking back. It has to do with closing the door once and for all on all the ideas I’ve had on the way I’m supposed to live, and finally wholeheartedly embracing who I’ve always been, and the truth that most people probably knew about me before I did. That’s right, invisible audience: breaking the pattern has little to do with going back, and everything to do with embracing the new adventures.

This morning as I sat outside in the yard, drinking local organic coffee and writing in my journal, a line came to me that I can't get out of my head:

If I want something different from what I've always had, I have to do something different than what I've always done.

You guessed it: I’m staying.

Love and new life kisses,