4 Month Reflection
For the past year, I worked second shift at a homeless shelter. Every night at 11:37 PM, I would reach the familiar red glow of a stoplight on my way home. Every night, I waited for the light to change. Up until this point, my drive had been undisturbed. I live in the outskirts of the city and this intersection was the only thing preventing me from the comfort of my bed. As I idled in an empty intersection, my mind was a busy street: why couldn’t I just go? Why adhere to this damn stoplight? I thought of all these repercussions that seemed unlikely. A police car hoping to test my patience, a vehicle I neglected to see beforehand. I felt like I was creating excuses to abide – a reason to stay put.
After a minute, my presence was acknowledged, and the mercy of a light finally flashed green. But that moment made me realize that I am no stranger to excuses. I let them dictate my life. I often have ambitious ideas that I convince myself couldn’t possibly be my own. That the time, the money, the equipment, the skill to make these dreams into a reality was unattainable. I would sit back and idle until ultimately the idea escapes me – perpetually rooted at an empty intersection. As I turn into my driveway, I felt mediocrity set in, and began accepting the notion that I wasn’t meant to do great things. My excuses were quicksand refusing to let me go.
Within 24 hours, I had a booked ticket to Spain. There is something refreshing about this spontaneity, even if I was putting all my chips on a mediocre hand. It felt good to take control and write the narrative of my life. For years, it felt like I was sheltering myself with boarded windows against an inevitable storm. This is what I always wanted to do and there was nothing to hold me back except myself.
But after 4 months of traveling, I am lost. Tired is an understatement. I feel like an arrow that was drawn back and released with no clear target. Although the rush feels incredible at first, the speed eventually subsidies, and the wind is now bending me to its will. I find myself getting turned in directions that I couldn't imagine myself in and being bent almost to the point of breaking. And yet here I am, perpetually floating in the calamity of it all. I don’t know what the world wants me to do.
Recently, I reread The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. It is somewhat curious that this book was brought to my attention again almost exactly 5 years since my first solo trip abroad. Completely unintentional, yet somewhat curiously appropriate to mention. This time, it felt like the author was speaking directly to me. In the story, the boy, a shepherd from southern Spain, sells his herd of sheep to find his treasure in the pyramids. He was given no guidance, no promise - just off interpreting omens to get to where he must go. He crossed over to Morocco, as have I and there his journey began. Without revealing too much, the boy trusts the world to give him a sign and go with it. Even his darkest moments never set him back from his treasure - it was all essential toward its discovery.
“You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.”
I found comfort in this story and for the first time since I left, I am at peace with the unknown. The lows are not as low as they have been in the past. Not even food poisoning in Moroccan heat or sleeping one cold night on the streets in Spain can diminish what got me there in the first place. For me, it was that brief reflection at a stoplight that sparked an idea. Maybe that was my omen, as cliche as it is so admit. I still do not know what the world wants me to do. And for now, that’s okay. I have time and I am looking for signs to guide me where I need to go.
Thank you to the following patrons for your support:
Alice Schlotte, Ang Schaefer, Anistie Held, Cailie Kafura, Casey Benish, Cindy Luttenberger, Dena Rose, Evelyn McLean-Cowan, Joe Truesdale, John Currier, Joris Hermans, Julie Balson, Nicki Halopka, Sara Beggs, Tonya Geldbach.