So, today is a ‘me’ post. For me, I mean.
Those of you who know me well enough will not be surprised by this post and its contents, I wrote a few of its ilk while I was on the AT. It is the post I write when things are a struggle and I like to remind not only myself, but the world around me, that sometimes things are not perfect or all sweetness and light; in fact sometimes there are times when life is downright hard and a bit unpleasant, but we have to face it anyway.
The thing I want to tell myself is this, I am not who I thought I was.
I seem to have been carrying around this quiet delusion for some time now that I am some sort of old soul, world traveller, throwing off the mantle of conventional society. That I have inside me the desire to rid myself of all my worldly possessions, stuff a bag and set off to meet new people, make new friends and explore fascinating new places all on my own (funnily enough, in my mind this scenario is always set to some type of rock power ballad from the 80’s, like I have my own personal band following me everywhere I go, ready to launch into a rousing theme when the time is just right. That right there should have given me all the clues I needed to realise that actually maybe this idea of who I want to be is just a product of watching too many TV shows or movies with powerful women characters striking out on their own and overcoming some type of adversity. Curse you Baby Boom, Gilmore Girls, Juno etc.).
It is altogether possible that I invented this imaginary personality for myself after slinging a backpack on four years ago and heading off to do some walking and camping in the woods, on my own. I mean, how powerful must a young-ish lady have to be to do that? Most people would say that she’s pretty darn bad ass and that after that sort of adventure, there must be this deep desire to just keep going on such exciting excursions; normal life couldn’t possibly have any meaning for a person like that.
And you know what? I bought into that.
I wanted so badly to be that person. I look around and have so many people in my life who just seem to be so bloody amazing, it’s unbelievable. I wanted to be that fricken awesome too.
My mum is so selfless that she has given up the past three years of her life to become a fulltime carer for my grandmother, and yet still finds time to worry and me and my sister and our lives. My sister has continually climbed the career ladder at the US Embassy, is married with her own home and makes amazing macaroni and cheese. My father was a phenomenal teacher, revered by his students and credited for many of their successes. I have a best friend who owns her own business and is responsible enough to own her own cats, without worrying she’s going to have some major change in circumstances that would require her to wonder what would happen to them. I have an amazing friend who is a dog trainer for a living, training dogs to help disabled children. Talk about job satisfaction and making your life count for something. I now have numerous friends I went to school with or worked with who are responsible enough to have children. Children, for goodness sakes! Some have more than one of them! I have friends who are zookeepers, bird trainers and one who runs an Audubon bird sanctuary. I have friends who are so successful, they can work a couple of months and earn enough to go off traveling for half a year with no worries about what they shall do on their return. I have a friend who owns a house where she can keep her horses in her back garden, coming home from work she can saddle up and go riding in the mountains within half an hour. I met a guy hiking on the trail who is now a videographer and presenter for National Geographic.
All of these people and their amazing and different lives. And I want to be just like them.
But I’ve never worked out how.
Everything I have ever tried has never stuck. No matter how many versions of my life I try on, it’s worse than clothes shopping for me; I can’t seem to find anything I like or am comfortable in. I am the person in a perpetual search for who she is and where she fits in.
And so I have tried on my latest attempt, traveling with Loops in our motorhome. And finally, the penny has dropped, a piece of the puzzle has finally fit into place. But not the one you’d think.
And here it is: I’m not a traveller or adventurer. I’m not built to wander endlessly and I don’t have some wondrous backwoods survival talent. I miss home. I miss more than anything my family and friends, the ones I’ve already taken a lifetime to make. I miss having a place to call my own, in my own home town. I miss going to work and seeing people every day. I miss having some sort of timetable to my life. I realise that my personal satisfaction in life comes from feeling I have a purpose, which for me comes through work with animals. I realise that actually most of the time I have little self-motivation and I am not designed to potter around all day trying to find something to do. I like being organised and scheduled and writing to do lists in my diary. I realise that actually I want to have a house that is my own and full of pictures and furniture that has a history to me. I want to have a garden, even if I have to weed it all the time on my hands and knees. I want to have elderly rescue huskies on whom I spend exorbitant amounts of money to buy treats and toys they destroy in five minutes, but it makes them happy. I want to live with the person I love, but not 24 hours a day. I realise that appreciation of the people I love comes from having them in small doses (and them not telling me to wash towels on a hot cycle).
So, this is what I’ve learned about myself in the two months of living and traveling in the bus.
And it’s important that I’ve learned these things, that I recognise these things about myself and acknowledge them. Because while we have been travelling there have been times I’ve laughed, been in awe and wonder, learned new things and added some delightful new people to my life. But there have also been more than enough times when I’ve cried and hugged myself, felt sorry for myself and so unsure about what I’ve chosen to do. I’ve been more angry and frustrated than I ever have felt before and argued more than enough for the rest of my life. I’m feeling like a failure, and I haven’t understood why.
And now I do. It’s simply because I am finally finding out and accepting certain things about my personality and lifestyle that I didn’t realise where there. And that’s a good thing for sure, but also very hard. It once again means that something I am trying that doesn’t fully fit. There are elements which are positive and enjoyable, but those which are also not good or healthy for me.
And I’m sure that this is a process everyone goes through, even all of my awesome listed people above.
Maybe I should listen more closely to what my mind and body tell me, and not fight against it so much. If I had, I might have remembered that at the age of 24 I set off for a solo three month excursion for New Zealand, and while I still have some memories I smile and talk about, I was so lonely on my own, I came back after a month. Maybe I already knew I wasn’t built for world travel domination.
Or that although I hiked the AT, I didn’t do it on my own at all. The very first day my mum and dad drove me to my drop off point, my mum hiked Springer Mountain with me, and when I set off the next day I met up with Bunny and the Ninja Ducks. Of the 192 days I spent on the trail, not one of them did I spend alone. I was with friends the whole way.
Maybe I should have realised that I have gone to work pretty much every single day since I was 16, and that the one year I took away from work, I spent marching through mountains, not sitting on my backside. It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that boredom would not become me.
Nor the fact that thanks to both my mother and father (but mostly my mum), I have been endowed with a fair amount of common sense and a hefty dose of independence, making it quite a big ask of myself to be confined in what is essentially a tin can 24 hours a day with a man who also has these characteristics; and to expect there to be no butting of heads.
What I really should have paid attention to though was the fact that for almost the past 10 years of my life I have had an amazing support network of friends by my side. People who have seen me at my best and worst. The people who I call when I need sage advice, who put me on my ass and tell me how it is. Those who can empathise and agree, or can tell me when really I’m being a plum. Who I can invite for fajitas to celebrate our friendship, kill some zombies with as a way to escape from the world or who I can call for a cup of tea, a movie or a walk if I need a shoulder to cry on or to put the world to rights. How on earth I thought I could get by without them is beyond me.
But I know all of this now. I can see it clear as day. And so if nothing else, these realisations give me the building blocks on which to go upwards. And if I build them high enough, I shall be able to reach the heights of awesomeness above where my friends and family are waiting for me.
PS. This is a disclaimer for anyone who has read this and thought ‘oh my god, she’s giving up and coming home without Loops and not going to be traveling and blogging anymore’ – I am still traveling the USA with Loops and Belle. All it means is that I have realised this is not a forever plan for me, but more along the lines of the two year plan I started with. It also hopefully will help me realise how to cope better with our travels and get more out of it than I have recently, given my general nuttiness I have been suffering.
Normal blogging will resume with my next entry….coming shortly!