Permission Into the Unknown

Currently, I’m reading A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. I started it the night before we left Prague, while I lay in bed, windows open, listening to the sounds of the city fall asleep, a warm glow of whiskey sours emanating out from my belly and the low, rumbly gloom of an escapade coming to a close shadowing my eyes. I am only into the second chapter—essay, really—but something she wrote at the beginning echoes within me:

Three years ago I was giving a workshop in the Rockies. A student came in bearing a quote from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno. It read, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”…The question she carried struck me as the basic tactical question in life. The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration — how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

Knowing what I want has been a rare occurrence. Quite the opposite is true: knowing what I don’t want is much easier. The good bits of my life—those greasy, grimy, sublime pieces that stay in my washing machine of a memory—are the ones that I hadn’t planned, hadn’t known I needed, hadn’t seen coming. Those are the times that have shaped me.

And becoming someone else? I have always liked starting over, taking on a new persona, discovering parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. Well, parts where I had a hint of who they were but either I was too afraid to crack open my skin and let them venture out because it ran perpendicular to who I currently was or the resistance coming from those who already knew me. Moving, physically transporting yourself to a different city where no one knows you, allows that reinvention of soul and self. Starting over, starting fresh, shaking off the shackles of familiarity, this is how we grow. This is how we find strength in the unfamiliar and the unknown.

Life has become dull and rote lately; more than lately actually (um, hello? Bear rising has been a common theme on this blog). I had known this before leaving for Europe. I kept it at bay by watching my net worth and career grow. It was easier to make excuses than make change; isn’t it always? Yet, at the end of the day, I still come back to an empty life, a solitary life, a life of ones (one desk, one chair, one bed, one pug, ones…). Looking back through my journals and mining the memories I do keep, not once have I wished for the picket-fence life. I don’t need or particulary want a man; truth be told, I think it would just mask my unhappiness here in Boston for another year. The trip to Europe has made it much harder to continue ignoring the bear.

So, maybe it’s time to get lost. Maybe it’s time to permanently let the bear out. Instead of being in my head and writing about how I’m biding my time, I will write about the great, wide world. Maybe the characters in my head will become flesh and bone on the page with more experiences and quirks than I can come up with by sitting in a cottage a stone’s throw from Walden Pond. Maybe, by losing myself in a different culture, a different city, a different job…something different, I’ll shake loose the stakes and find “love, wisdom, grace, inspiration.”

Image of me on a ferry crossing from Denmark into Germany
A happy me, on a ferry crossing from Denmark into Germany in April of 2018.

The friend I went to Europe with took this photo on our ferry ride from Denmark into Germany. We had been in Europe for two days and the newness was intoxicating. I felt alive there on that ferry; tired but thrilled. I felt wild. I know there was quite a bit of a traveller high going on and maybe I am naive for comparing my everyday life to the life I lived for ten days over there but fuck it, I’m naive. It’s one of the few traits I actually love about myself (that and my ass, ‘cause a girl’s gotta love at least parts of herself if she can’t love it all, not yet, right?).

I don’t know what the future is going to hold for me but that feels a hell of a lot better than knowing that I’ll be in Boston for the next ten years of my life, working to increase my bank account and completely depleting my soul. On the return trip from London to Boston, I re-watched Eat, Pray, Love (which is a good movie but nothing like the book). Liz says:

“Do You know what I felt when I woke up this morning, Delia? Nothing! No passion, no spark, no faith, no heat, absolutely nothing! I think I’ve really gotten pass the point where I could be calling this a bad moment. And it just, it terrifies me. Jesus, this is worse than death to me. The idea that this is the person I’m gonna be from now on?!”

Delia, her friend, basically says that is what happens to people.

Not this woman. I have healed from my divorce. I have healed from being beaten and smothered and having to always be the responsible one. I have done my time. I am ready to fling myself into the next big adventure, whatever that may be, wherever that may take me. I have learned that I am a capable, smart, and gregarious woman and that I do not need to be afraid of what I do not know. My beautiful, lovely, fat bear is getting a permanent reprieve from her cage. This is not a mid-life crisis; this is a mid-life shake-up, shake-down explosion.

It’s permission to step into the unknown.