Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Road Within

This probably won't be one of my research-intensive posts.
It probably won't be deep or insightful.
And it definitely will not be 100% coherent.

I have been flying the friendly(ish) skies for the past many hours, eating cheap pretzels, breathing recycled air, watching brainless television.

Give me a break.


Many of you know I have just returned from a trip to San Francisco. The (chosen) few on my Facebook friends list have certainly seen random snapshots and synopses of said trip. You might ask, "Why the heck aren't you posting about your adventures?"

And I might answer, "Because. Those experiences--though shared to a certain extent through conversation and photographs--are my own. I ingested them, absorbed them, lived them. I don't want to become the person who publicizes every event or describes every encounter. I am a relatively private individual. If you see me, ask me. I'll tell you about some of the things I did, the sights I saw, the paths I walked. Sometimes, I don't take a camera on my adventures because I want to be focused on breathing the air, the new, exciting air, rather than lining the sky up for a great shot. So I do want to talk about San Francisco. I did have a great time. But you might not find a lot of specific, "I ate at this place and tasted this food and saw this girl and watched this commercial and rode in this taxi," type of posts on here. Just sayin.....or actually I'm NOT!


Long answer from a long-winded guy.

Traveling is so incredibly important to me, and it is exponentially more important (and more rewarding) when the destination is new. Few things in this life are more dear to me than experiencing a new place, meeting a new friend, or living a new culture. So, needless to say, this trip was much-needed and much-much-appreciated.

As is the case with other great traveling adventures, this one has created a great amount of excitement and hesitancy in my heart and mind. I find that every time I travel and experience a new thing, a new way of life, I reach a crossroads constructed by the realization, the shocking revelation, that my life is one of many. My problems, my pleasures, my worries, my fears, my joys, my desires, my obstacles, my victories. All of these belong to one tiny person in one tiny city in one tiny state in one (not so) tiny country. I am not important. ((Thanks to those friends and family members who immediately furrow their brow in worry and debate whether or not to call and reassure my pensive mind that I am, indeed, important to them)). I do not mean this in a depressing or self-degrading manner. I simply mean that my life is insignificant in the scope of the world at large. The thirty square miles that house the majority of my daily and nightly activities is a needle in a haystack of needles in a field of needlegrass on a hillside get the idea.

This is such an amazing and frightening reality because it tilts the scales in the opposite way of our default state of mind in which ME, the individual, is all-important.

And this IS the default mode for all of us. Like one of those stupid toys that pops back up every time you knock it to the ground, our pride returns without any help from the outside. All its power comes from within, and like a rush of adrenaline, our independent heart minimizes any images, experiences, and memories that might remind us that our world is not the only world, our coffee shop not the only coffee shop, our friends not the only friends, our anxiety not the only anxiety, our fear not the only fear, our failure not the only failure, our love not the only love.

Traveling counters this default state of mind. I am exposed to other people, other lives, other areas, that exist completely independent of my involvement. The Cedar Lodge in El Postal, California existed before me and it will exist after me. The cab driver on Bush and Leavenworth and the lady who shared the fare had a childhood without me, without each other, and they will both have the same separate future.

This realization presents a crossroads, as I mentioned before. It creates a great opportunity for change, for encouragement, for battle, but it also creates an opportunity for nothing at all. This moment I have, right now, can either make me a better person or a worse person. All of the new experiences, new adventures, new encounters of this past week can either be a series of blows to the stubborn toy of my pride and independence or a list of reasons why I should never expand my horizons again.

Because, and I'm probably losing most of you out of boredom and/or confusion, we WANT to feel like we matter. We want to feel like our problems our the only problems. It serves some kind of sick pity party, some kind of justification for folding our hand when we should have raised. We want to feel like our victories are the only victories because it makes us all the more accomplished and deserved.

So....what does all this crap mean? To me, this crap is a struggle against my tendency to convert my life into a hole from which there is no escape or observation beyond my walls of dirt. This is a discussion about my struggle against selfishness and independence and vanity.

And right now. I'm winning.

You see....a trip is not only going one place and coming back again. A trip, every trip, is going some place and never returning at all.

I am not the person I was when I left for San Francisco.

The trip I started then, continues now, and if I am smart, I will continue it tomorrow when I drive to the grocery store one mile from my driveway. If I am smart, I will see in my neighborhood the same truth I saw on the cable car streets of San Francisco. If I am smart, I will hear the same message in the Gulf winds that I heard in the concrete breeze:

It's not about me.

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