Wednesday, July 1, 2009
A little analysis.
(Self-portrait, I-5 outside Stockton, CA)
I've discovered a few things about myself from my thirty-three straight days traveling around North America. Many of them have to do with what I can handle, what I am willing to fight and strive for, what I am and am not willing to finally put up with, and the things I need to do to make myself consistently more content. Being away from my "real life" has given me a fresh perspective on a few universal truths regarding beauty, the insecurities and flakiness of others, and the inevitable measure of time.
I can foresee some of these personal conclusions being lauded by many and a few not being terribly liked by several others, though frankly I don't care about either reaction. I am clear-headed, focused, resolute, tired, and smiling. Though there are personality traits I will never fully conquer such as not being able to live fully in the moment or getting over my "home-body" comfort zone, in the last month I have squarely kicked those traits asses, though maybe only temporarily. It was grand.
I was reminded of things I love, made aware of things I hate tolerating, and was pleased to rediscover so many of my strengths that lay dormant in my daily life. Across forty states virtual strangers made me feel like a part of their family, as well as funny, intelligent, clever, desirable, reliable, and trustworthy. Feeling special is not something I have ever been comfortable with, but the last few weeks have been a constant reminder that others think I am. That was nice.
I also learned about my country and my fellow Americans. There really are no such things as "red" and "blue" states. There are only hard working Americans of various ethnic and economic classes that are trying to better themselves and the qualities of their lives, raise their kids well, pay their bills promptly, and get laid as often as possible. Thankfully, some Americans are still optimistic and hopeful. Many have dreams, and a few even have plans on how to achieve their dreams, though sadly those individuals are few and far between.
Most Americans think that their lives are nothing special, not all that terribly exciting. In many places across this country, citizens think there isn't much to do, that they would probably be better off somewhere else. We as a society are just not that satisfied. I'm not sure if the myth of the great and invincible America, where anyone and everyone should be able to succeed and thrive no matter how high the cards are stacked against them, is doing more harm than good. Life is not a Little League, not everyone gets to play their desired role or deserves a medal for showing up. Life is hard, and those with the most skill, talent, and work the hardest don't always get the awards. There is a sad lack of entitlement that so many of us cling to as a floatation device in the rough seas of the world and it is an illusion. Yet that doesn't mean we should stop chasing our goals, we should just be aware of what could or could not happen and be prepared for that.
Thankfully, I did get to see a wide variety of both positive and negative aspects of my fellow citizens. Witnessing a white couple in Kansas refuse to be seated next to a black mother and son left me speechless and terribly confused, while seeing countless acts of kindness by Good Samaritans on the roads, in restaurants, and in every state I visited filled me with hope.
I don't have any conclusions or helpful advice other than the phrase I have uttered before: Do your best and enjoy the moment. I have essentially been sleep-deprived and sore consistently for the last thirty three days, pushing myself, constantly on the move, living out of a bag, unsure of where I was going to lay my head the next night. That lifestyle is not for everyone, and at some point it wasn't my favorite thing either, but in the end it was well worth it.
Here is the last photo taken of me on the trip, a portrait by one of my favorite photographers, Megan McIsaac, in Portland, Oregon after she modeled for me. I think it is an accurate description of the dualistic aspects of my personality as well as showing my exhaustion and readiness to go home. Now I am left with about twenty thousand images to sort through, as well as a month's worth of stories to record, edit, and regurgitate to family and friends. Thanks again, North America, it was great getting to see you again.