Some days I’m unsure whether I should accept circumstances- or fight them. Is it time to give up on living ten lives? And instead live one or two?
So many places I want to go. So many jobs I want to master. So many lifestyles left unexplored. Physicist, biologist, anthropologist, animal conservationist, science teacher, book writer, travel writer…when is it time to give up? Or do I keep barraging myself? Criticizing myself for not being able to make definite progress in any one field. Instead, feeding all interests, simultaneously, ineffectively.
Why is there a burning inside me? One that won’t go away unless I’m fantasizing about the day that I have achieved all these goals?
I don’t want to give up… I want to fight. How much longer will I be able to fight, I wonder.
I think the most magnificent things we witness are those which inspire curiosity. The most magnificent moments? When we think we have the world figured out for a mere second only for something so sublime and foreign to cross our paths, changing our perspective forever.
What is seen in not ineffable. There are words to paint this beauty in a vain attempt to capture such a spectacle. What I see is a vast canyon, showing us to what extent we know nothing of the true, detailed, and eventful past that nature has ventured. We are simply visitors. Letting my gaze fall effortlessly upon one of the seven wonders of the world, my thoughts fittingly arise from a single source: wonder.
An additional angle, a new lens, an intensification of passions. This is what I receive from listening to others. And it’s also what I can give back.
I headed for Chicago around 2 p.m. a few days ago. Took me all day and all night to get there from Minneapolis. I sat next to an incredible person–Mark–who recounted to me every.single.job. he’s had in 36 years. He was hilarious. We sat behind (and in front of) Amish people who smelled like a walking dumpster. On a train. They believe in using trains but not in using showers/deodorant? I need to be enlightened.
Near the Colorado, Utah border
A few pages back, I recorded all of Mark’s past employment. Swing dance instructor, ski resort worker, bartender, horse groomer, website builder, photographer, stage manager, singer, usher, barista… the list goes on and on.
I think what really resonated with me is that there is no perfect job for someone–we are not “destined” to serve a purpose…we aren’t destined to do anything. And we aren’t fitted to a single kind of job. I do believe that we are naturally inclined to be better at some things. I might have a natural disposition for sports. But I choose to pursue or avoid this talent. And I’m not obligated by fate to do so. I told him about my trip and his eyes instantly lit up. He told me he’s always wanted to do something similar, but couldn’t bring himself to make such a leap.
“I’ve been thinking about it for so long, and you know what? After meeting you, I’m going to do it. I’m finally going to do it. Thank you.”
Direct evidence that by meeting people, you begin to look at your own life differently.
Back in Chicago, I showered–YES– ahhh felt beautiful… and I took a nap. Then my host and I experimented with Romanian Food..was soo yummy. I’ve had a cold for the past five days, and menstrual cramps for the last three. This, paired with the cold, snowy weather has been brutal. Lack of sleep on a train doesn’t help. Having a place to sleep, shower, and feel at home in is something to be savored. In the morning, I went to a corner market and got all the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. I made them for my host as a thank you…because I am honestly so grateful.
I love that he’s always eager to try new things with me. It’s exciting. Having company while exercising my interests is rewarding. Especially when that person is just as curious about life. Right now I’m on the train meandering through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains…and wow, this sight is worth every penny.
People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful. I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.
On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.
He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you. That’s what I heard while I was talking.
His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.
Chicago; from the top of a church at the University of Chicago
Today, February 20, I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a soft, warm towel around my wet body. I lifted the towel up to my face and stood still, as I became enveloped by a memory, bringing me back to a life of simple wants and few needs. For a moment, I rose up, floated away, and was back on the train…washing my face in a tiny bathroom, absorbing my wet skin with inefficient paper towels. I was in the bathroom of Union Station, patting down my face with a T-shirt. I was in the bathroom of countless strangers’ apartments, removing water with whatever I could find–toilet paper, dirty towels, hairy cat-infested cloth, my own two-week-worn sweater. I rose up, soared away to drying my body with a 5-square-inch camping towel– not knowing if the prior dampness was semen or water.
And now I am here, motionless, buried within the warmth and softness of a clean, sweat-smelling towel. I laugh without restraint, without wondering why. I’ve been home for three days now.
Pulling my body upright, I turn to analyze myself in an unblemished mirror. So many mirrors across the country have shown the same reflection. I close my eyes and open them once again and I’m gone– I’ve risen up, floated away. The mirror I turn towards is clouded, scratched, vandalized and I see a vague reflection which resembles my own. I’m on the train, being casually thrown side-to-side by the unpredictable motion of the platform beneath me. The image I see is smiling, slightly, in good humor.
I close my eyes and reopen them to see my shell, my cover, my preamble. My mask. I am in joy, in gratitude. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am lost, I have finally found. I am tired, I am–at last, rested. I, at last, am warm. My face is pale and sleep-deprived as I see my reflection in Chicago. Rosy, alert, clear of acne in NY. Smooth skin, restless eyes in D.C. Sticky hair, glasses, and a spotted face stare back at me through Colorado.
A forced smile, an eager smile, an optimistic smile, a genuine smile… an effortless smile I flash in the mirrors of private restrooms. Bathroom of Japanese food in NY, the deli of Time Square, Thai food in D.C, of a bar in Manhattan, lunch in Sacramento, in the mirrors of countless train stations. And now I’m here,in my own…space. I smile, not knowing what kind.
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.
. . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.