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It’s Valentines Day. I’m alone, and yet I’ve never felt more alive. Never felt more loved. Been on the train for almost 6 weeks now. If I turned back after Minneapolis, out of fear, I would’ve never met all these people.

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The train is riding about 50 yards away from the Pacific Ocean shore. Today I’m making the trek from L.A  to San Luis Obispo– one of the most visibly stunning rides I’ve been on thus far. The sun is gleaming through the train windows and allowing me to witness indescribable beauty. But I will try:

The ocean far and wide, dark blue waters illuminated by sunlight pouring, enveloping a cloudless sky and highlighting the crests of waves as they break, glazing over the light brown sand, which is sparkling just as bright as the reflective water above.

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On the bus to Los Angeles, sunset

Few things I know for sure. Few things I think I know for sure. I know that, to me, there is nothing more important than showing love to other people. This takes priority. And the result is that I’m not depriving myself of anything. By putting others first, I’m actually receiving the ultimate joy of providing love and support to someone who deserves it. Every single person on the planet deserves it. We didn’t choose this life.

This is what is what deserves attention…what is easy to discern as a path worth pursuing… and what is most meaningful to me. Treating people lovingly is not only the right thing to do tomorrow, or in 6 months, but is also the right decision in this moment, this very second.  The right decision is timeless.

 

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On the train, through the Rocky Mountains; Colorado

There are so many people we deem “crazy”–but what is  “normal”? Just a word that segregates us…and put us at opposite ends of an imaginary, inaccurate spectrum. Terms like “normal” and “weird” create distance between us and the unknown, between the familiar and the unfamiliar. This distance is scary until I realize the person I’m talking to has felt all the same emotions I have–until I realize that we all endure hell every day and struggle to find means to cope. What am I afraid of? The ways we are similar outnumber the ways we are different.

Talking to strangers has allowed me to appreciate human nature in all its forms. There is no one single form that is most beautiful. The fact that every person I meet has an entirely different tone, different laugh, different talent, different perspective–this is where beauty is found. Human nature unifies us–and the ways we differ don’t necessarily have to divide us.

So much I do not know. So much I’ll never know and never become aware of. My own interests are limited to the sliver of experiences I’ve had in merely 20 years. I have to accept that there is no absolute right way to live, no right passion to pursue because absolute knowledge does not exist. How do I expect to make the perfect decision if I’ll never have a perfect awareness stretching over the entire world and all the seven billion people populating it–each individual’s life, each individual’s past experiences?

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The Rock& Gem show in Tucson, Arizona

I can’t and will never have a flawless assessment of a worthy lifestyle. What is worth pursuing? There is no way to tell. You can only pursue something apparently. If something becomes more worthy than studying physics, than living near my family, then I will make the appropriate decision and correct my path.

After Portland, I headed for Tucson, Arizona to attend the Rock&Gem Show. In Eugene I met the sweetest homeless guy– I let him use my phone and gave him warm, dry socks after the city got hit by a massive snow/ice storm. We had a good conversation, revolving around the conditions of his homeless life. He had a heart-warming smile. Two things people can’t come to terms with when I speak of my trip: that I’m alone, and that I only have my backpack. He was surprised mainly that I was alone. “Don’t talk to people like me,” he joked as we smiled and said goodbye.

If anything, I want people to know that fear is obtrusive. It also serves no beneficial purpose unless we are running from mountain lion. Alertness had aided me. But flinching away from a conversation just because what we are looking at is unfamiliar to us, this..this cuts us off from potentially enriching life experiences. Later that night, the homeless man (Gary) used his friends phone to text me. “We should hang out before you leave.”

Kindness is everywhere, and its production is not dictated by whether you graduate high school, whether you’re homeless, whether you’re on drugs, whether you’re educated ( Sometimes. Education tends to inculcate acceptance, tolerance, perspective and therefore limits mistreatment of others with opposing beliefs/ways of living). Beyond this though, achieving a masters degree, wearing a suit every day–this life produces kindness equivalent with that of a stay-at-home mom who never graduates high school.

I’m affected by both lives in the same way, to the same extent, by both of these people whose lives have zero similarities. What do you say to that? What does this mean?
On the train to Portland, OR I sat next to a woman with so much energy that I knew she suffered without it. I’ve laughed that laugh before. She told her story. Another story. Another perspective. She was insightful, polite, and modest. Returning from a court hearing in an effort to retrieve her two daughters, to win custody over them. Her husband is abusive (she says). Physically, emotionally abusive. Has hit her, cussed her out. Her church actually banished her for divorcing him.

We talked a lot about addictions, morals, family, love, loving yourself, jealousy, worthiness. More specifically, sibling jealousy and how it relates to birth order. I confessed my discomfort of the unspoken distribution of love in my family. And when it is spoken of, I’m accused of being loved the most and being handed everything. She told me to stop punishing myself and stop feeling guilty for being loved by so many people who give me opportunities. Appreciate it…move on. No guilt. Continue to re-emit and reflect the love I receive. I need to believe that I deserve it.

She was kind. She is kind no matter what God or Gods she believes in. I hope she got her kids.

There are so many types of people. Holy shit. Such variety in tone, behavior, appearance, outlook. How could I ever seriously believe I won’t find someone to spend my life with?

Some people put me at ease almost instantly; while it takes me much longer to feel relaxed around someone I don’t identify with. Whenever I’m around my host, I can’t help but feel incredibly engaged and expectant. I knew there was so much potential if only we asked the right questions about each other. The third night, we asked the right questions–questions that revealed a rare and beautiful connection between us. I laughed harder than I had in weeks– a genuine laugh–and I had never been able to relate with a guy, concerning so much, until meeting him.

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View from the top of the Rockefeller Center

We were lying there and for a brief, powerful moment, we stared at each other fully aware of what was to happen next. I broke away my gaze and went to the bathroom. I returned to find him closer to my side of the bed. I got under the covers as he inched further towards me. For a second he gave me this intense, sexy look and a quick smile. After a few moments of silence and a few deep breaths, he placed his head closer to my pillow and told me how attracted he was to me and how our conversation only intensified that attraction. I felt my heart race instantly and blood rushed to my face. He positioned his face so that our noses brushed up against each others as he exhaled loudly. He said he really wanted to kiss me. I took a few moments to respond. No words came out though. I just gave him an anxious smile. He knew I felt exactly how I did: In complete awe of one another and that chaos had brought us together. He kissed me and then..you know..

Little did I know that this would be the third guy that would kiss me on my trip. I did not plan for this…

The next night:  I didn’t allow much to happen. I liked him but I also told my host from a different city( D.C) that I liked him too. I had crazy mixed feeling and I couldn’t wrap my reasoning around my choices. I felt so uneasy. I also like my NY host so much that when he wanted to touch my body more than talk, I took offense. I wanted to continue talking, laughing, and getting to know him. By his behavior, I couldn’t tell if he only liked my body. I was getting frustrated with being treated as a shell of a person, empty beyond my “sexy” body as I kept being told. If I hear that word one more time…

Coming from my last host, I already felt materialized. My present one had the same tendencies. He would change the topic of conversation and inch towards me convincing me to consent. I was angry and a little hurt. I turned over and let my mind wander until sleep cradled me.

Change is a beautiful thing. Interacting with others is a large facilitator of change. I hear their stories, so different from my own, and realize how their life’s course has proceeded for so long without my knowledge of their existence. I didn’t know them yesterday and now I do. And I’m a better person because of it, because of my awareness of someone’s life.

Why would I ever be afraid of people? All they consist of is a voice and a life of suffering, faced with the same challenges I am. All they are is blood, organs, flesh, language, with some combination of experiences with limited conditions. I have to assume that everyone is more or less like me.

When I reached Sacramento, I didn’t know what to do. I had a vague plan but I didn’t intend on sticking to it. I was hot. Stuffy. Three days without a shower. Glasses. Sweater. Soccer sweats. Running shoes. Unfocused. Apathetic. Longing. Confused. Self-conscious. Self-loathing. What does one do with this outlook? When bombarded by these stray, uninvited, destructive, inaccurate assessments of life?

I can’t remember her name…but does it even matter? She is identified though her actions, her words. She was so interested in my life, in my trip.. asking me where I’ve been, where I’m going, who I’ve met.  This soul sitting next to me fully entered  my thoughts, absorbing each word as I spoke it.  When someone is really listening to you,  you can see it in their eyes. She told me where to go once I get off the train–take the metro to Market East station, which is where old town  and historical monuments are.  Once we arrived, she led me to the metro area and wished me good luck–the most genuine good luck I’ve ever heard.

IN Philly I spent the day mostly walking. No host. But feeling free. Entirely aimless. I truly loved the lay-out of the city–simple to navigate  and the streets looked similar to Charlottesville. I took a train back to D.C to stay with Braden, my old host for a few days. I need to write about the conversation we had one night: him talking about his passions…what classifies a passion.. and also of how he judges someone–not based on their job/contacts/likes/dislikes but based on how they treat other people. He referenced the purposelessness and misunderstandings involved in war. People are so much more than their religious beliefs or the labels society creates for them. He said the only part he’s concerned with is the treatment of others, pointing  out that couchsurfers invite me to stay with them without knowing what I believe in or without having similar interests. I’m still treated with kindness– and this treatment takes priority.

I spent the night on the train and woke up in Charlottesville, VA to witness a sunrise that makes me glad I didn’t kill myself a year ago. I would’ve died without seeing the Virginia horizon encompass a rising star, awakening my heart and my mind. It felt like waking up in a warm bed next to someone you love, whether family or friend. You open your eyes and are suddenly fully aware of1901892_10201731712349320_1283227702_n how you woke up in this bed, with this person, and not in a different bed, perhaps alone. The warm bed is enough. More than enough. But sometimes you’ll wake up next to a person you care about and maybe that person is still sleeping. I just kind of take a moment to let gratitude envelope me– and, for a small part of space-time, I’m comforted by pure amazement.

The sun rose, lit the sky on fire and awakened my heart. Charlottesville was a nice, vintage looking town. I arrived in town with the intention of finding a homeless shelter to shower in. I found it, but chickened out in the end. I’m glad though. Not sure how smart that would have been– 20 y/o girl in a building with several homeless men. Also glad because I learned how to endure feeling “dirty.” Four days without a shower felt disgusting. But I conditioned myself to stop thinking about it, believing I looked OK without. The biggest problem, surprisingly, was my feet sweating and my socks stinking.

I should mention the girl I chatted with on the train out of Atlanta. Thirty-six y/o mother of two. Single mother of two. We talked about our lives, mostly about her, and I’m glad. I love learning about people. I love experiencing that circumspect feeling of knowing what others go through. Simple facts, simple conditions of her life help illuminate and redefine my own life. She was pregnant in high school with her son. The father was seemingly non-existent: in and out of jail, incapable of providing even his presence. Her kids don’t see or talk to him 18 years later. I told her about my trip and she said she admired me, told me she would love to mirror my decision if she was without children. She made me laugh and I made her laugh too. Our lives, running independent of one another, had collided on a train at 3 o’clock in the morning. When she left at 5:30 a.m, she left me sitting there and I was a different person at 5:31, alone with my thoughts.  Each person I meet offers an opportunity to look at  my life from an angle previously unrecognizable. What is more enriching than that?