Giving our Selves
Our work has the potential to be such an insane act of love. When we give forty hours a week to something or someone, we are literally giving a part of our Selves to that endeavor.
We should give it to something worthwhile.
We feel this uneasiness
because we’re always trying to get ground under our feet
and it never quite works.
We’re always looking for a permanent reference point,
and it doesn’t exist.
Everything is impermanent.
Everything is always changing…
This is not actually bad news,
but we all seem to be programmed for denial.
"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
Chattanooga, TN - August 7th, 2013
Standing on the long balcony outside of my motel room I call my Dad, who I haven’t talked to since leaving over 5 weeks ago. I tell him about the route I’ve taken and the people I’ve met. We talk for over half an hour about the people and places that I’ve seen. When I’m done talking about myself, I ask him “how are you Dad?”
"Well, Lynda left me yesterday. Just stood up and told me that she’d gotten an apartment and that she was leaving. I figured there wasn’t any point in getting in a fight. I just said ‘alright’. And she left."
My Dad’s wife told him that she was leaving, and his response was “alright”.
August 8th, 2013 - Nashville, TN
The cheapest hotel I can find in Nashville is about 20 minutes outside of downtown. 60 bucks gets you a room with a bed, warm showers, a locking door and free continental breakfast. Golden.
I arrive in the late afternoon dog tired. My body tells me that I should chill in the air-conditioned hotel room watching Battlestar Galactica over Wi-Fi. My higher faculties argue instead that Nashville is a music town, that I love music, and hence that tonight is no time to slouch around the hotel. I find the address to a music venue, unload the bike, and soar away.
I arrive at The 5 Spot wearing my Dad’s leather vest over a tucked button-up shirt, black boots with a spur attached, and my hair swept to the side. I am stupidly proud of the cowboy persona I’ve created for myself and the life I’ve been living for the past four and half weeks.
It’s beautiful (and maybe a little scary) how being in a new place allows us to drop our everyday identities and imagine ourselves to be someone new. I walk into the bar not as a scared college kid without direction, but as an adventurer with no ties or obligations.
I sit alone sipping a beer, watching the first band and enjoying the thought of how goddamn mysterious I must look with my spur and leather vest.
The second performer leaves a lot to be desired, and so I take a short walk around the block and return with a big cigar. I order another beer, sit near the back door where everyone can see me, and then conspicuously dip outside when I have just the right buzz.
I’m only alone out back for a few puffs before I turn around to see a young woman standing beside me with a cigarette between her fingers.
She asks me for a light.
After 4 and a half weeks spent on back-roads and in forests, the sight of a young woman is an absolutely incredible thing.
I oblige with a match, and it flares up instantly as she bends down, takes the cigarette in her lips and draws in the flame.
"What’re you up to out here all by yourself?" she asks.
I tell her I didn’t feel like listening to another bad Radiohead cover… and that I needed to get outside. It’s a cool, starry night in Nashville.
She notes my vest and the boots, then asks where I’m from.
I nonchalantly reveal that I’m from Seattle, and that I traveled here on my motorcycle. I only mention the most impressive details—how long I’ve been travelling and the fact that I have no particular destination—after she asks.
That’s when she takes a drag, locks eyes with me and says “Well, you must not be having a hard time finding places to stay… I bet there are a lot of cute girls offering to let you crash at their places.”
Between us the thick aromatic smoke of my cigar is intertwined with the thin wisps of her cigarette.
I chuckle kind of halfheartedly and mention that I’ve been camping a lot… and that I have a girlfriend at home.
The porch light bleeds through the smoke, and the air suddenly changes—she asks how long my girlfriend and I have been dating. She asks what her name is, too.
"We just had our one year anniversary in April", I tell her.
Suddenly the careful tone of strangers leaves her voice, and she says “You need to call her every single night”.
I’m a little bit surprised, but I just smile and nod. I don’t expect this girl to understand how important isolation has been for me on this trip. That I left to remove myself from everyone, everything for a little bit. Myself included.
She locks eyes with me again, but this time in a different way. “I’m serious,” she says. “You need to call her every single night. No excuses.”
She has a boyfriend, she tells me. “He’s a musician, and he’s gone a lot. I know how hard it can be to have someone you love out travelling. It’s a big challenge… even if you feel like you know and trust someone completely. “
I get back to my hotel room incredibly late that night and my body takes me to the bed like a magnet. Before collapsing into the sheets I pull out my phone and type one text:
"I love you. I miss you. I think about you every day. Let’s talk tomorrow."
I slip my boots off and I sleep without the vest for what might be the first time since leaving home.