Not Much Time Left
I don't have much time left. Don't worry. I'm not dying or at least not that I know of. I mean, we're all hurdling ever closer to our utlimate transition or finale, depending on your existential point of view, but you get what I'm saying. I just don't have a ton of time left. I don't think any of us do.
This isn't a new feeling - I have had for a while but it's been pretty loud lately. I haven't quite been able to make sense of this whole existence thing from as early as I can remember.
When I was in first grade, I sat on the end of a brick wall in front of my school waiting to get picked up. I distinctly remember wondering "why was I born a boy and not a puppy?" What six year old thinks like that? There were more important things to ponder like Reggie Jackson, Star Wars and ice cream. Though I thought a lot about ice cream, too - particurly Sealtest coffee ice cream.
Then when I was a teenager, I had convinced myself that I was going to die when I was 54. I don't know why 54 but it just kept showing up in my mind. It wasn't that I neceassarily thought 54 was so old but it was still a long enough period for me to feel cautiously optomistic about my future and sadly poetic at the same time. I am two years away from that milestone now and while I hope I was wildly off, I'm aware it's not out of the realm of possibility.
This is especially true over the past couple of years. Early on in 2020, following the death of my mom and then the pandemic, this feeling of getting closer to the finish line was unavoidable. I could no longer avoid the anxiety that kept streaming between my gut and my brain that I better make a big move now or it will never happen. The feeling is still there but luckily, I think it's because of what I am doing this time, rather than what I'm not. But we'll get to that in a moment.
The idea is that I have always had a lot going on upstairs and not all of it is that productive. I still ponder life's biggest questions but this time, not at the exlusion of the life part, too. It's a short stint here and if you're lucky and willing, you get to keep sampling until closing time. I forgot that part for a bit.
Today, I sit on the brink of leaving a good job - or at least good by traditional standards, my home, my friends and family and even an unexpected romance. I am mere days away from a one way trip to Guatemala for at least a week and then 6 months of I have no idea. Me, a backpack and my thoughts. What could possibly go wrong?
I have spent an embarssingly large portion of my life as a bystander. I got an education, a wife, a job and a mortgage but I didn't get the wisdom, the relationship, the vocation or the home. But I'm on my way. The former were largely driven out of fear. Fear of what happens when my intrinsic values do not conform to the extrinsic metrics that I was programmed to seek - success measured in currencies that accumulate and not ones that are interconnected. This led me to wrong jobs, wrong partners and wrong haircuts - all things that anyone who really knew me could tell did not fit me - at all. There's nothing wrong with money, nice things, well-manicured sideburns but they will never fill empty hearts and minds when they are not indicitave of the person they are meant to represent. They will only distract. Eventually, though, the fear grows and you have to double down or be thrown into the abyss.
The universe made that decision for me and hurled me ego-first in the direction that was awaiting me and it led directly to that abyss, and it was scarier than any roller coaster I had ever been on. Though I am now more awake, I have still largely been living on the side and just existing as the main event. I'm not good at watching, reading, learning about things that I want to do. I want to be involved and realized that I could no longer look elsewhere for inspiration. I had to become my own inspiration and that sucks. I had to fess up to the reality that there was an antitode for what ailed me but I was unwilling to take it - moving toward fear and not away from it.
I have no idea how this whole thing is going to turn out. I am excited and scared to death and grateful. It's hard to even write this because I am not just afraid and sad to leave behind all that is familiar to me but also facing the reality that I am leaving myself behind, too. It is what I want to do. It is what I need to do. But at times, it's overwhelming.
I do subscribe to that oft quoted saying that "wherever you go, there you are". I am not running away from anything. But I can't just stay in the familiar where every corner awaits another memory and the commonalities of faces, streets and structures routinely bias my habitual feelings, thoughts and responses, whether consciously or not. I will come back but I will do so with a different set of senses. And when I do, then I really will be wherever I am.
When I was planning this journey, like most other things in my life, I created a huge spreadsheet outlining goals, intentions, places to visit, things to learn, outcomes I'd like to work toward and timelines I'd like to keep. It's all rubbish. This is the one time I am not going to have any outcome at all or at least not one that I have defined before hand. I am not seeking answers. I am looking for new questions.
The shedding process has been painful but necessary. When my ex left in 2014, I could never understand how you grab a box of your things and then just leave everything else behind - move to a new place, start over. I thought it was because she had no feelings attached to the kids' paintings, the family photos, the sofa we sat on watching movies, the dishes we shared meals together with. Now, I realize it was probably the exact opposite. Every single thing was a painful reminder of every other thing, interwoven into a life that no longer existed. As I rid of everything I owned, it was a slow death of who I was, who we were as a family, who we were planning to be in a squall of "could have been". It's much easier to die painlessly and suddenly than methodically disintegrate into an unrecognizable version of what you can never be again. What I wouldn't have done to hire someone like the Wolf, Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction who cleans up criminal evidence after disaster has struck and make it seem like it never occurred in the first place - not a trace of what was.
Now, I'm in the throes of discarding the remaining remants with the exception of the little that I have chosen to keep for my children in the hopes that one day they will find a small recollection or token clue to make sense of the origins of their own lives. My approach of not leaving it all behind but instead, repurposing it all - to friends, families, Good Will - anyone and anywhere so it won't require me carrying it further nor eventually returning to it - was misinformed, however. For when we leave, we do not travel alone regardless of the loneliness that may periodically engulf us. This is notably true at this stage in life when it is clear that there is no me without others. For those who I am lucky enough to surround myself with in this earthly form, there is no simple removal. I carry them with me wherever I go, just as I do those who have moved on. I cannot simply take time to "figure things out" without consequence. I understand that I am nothing more than one small surge in a vast ocean. This exploration will lead to new questions and in those moments, there are unknown connections to be made. For now, all I ask is to ride on the crest of a wave hoping for one great soar before the inevitable collapse.
Now, it's time to be afraid of snakes and unexpected diagnoses and not saying I love you enough. But I'm done with the fear of not measuring up to things I don't care about anymore. I'm done being afraid of failure, of trying, of not being wanted, of what people think who don't really know me, of worry about showing the joy and the pain, the love and the anger, of changing my mind, of looking stupid. I'm not afraid of any of it anymore. As you may have heard, I don't have much time left.
So, I will wander and embed myself in different places and new cultures in a continuing expirement to gather proof that in the end, it really is only love that matters. It is only connection that counts. It is in the minute that we discover the expansive. I have no idea of what lies ahead but then again, I never really did. And I'm not afraid to find out.