“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.”
~ John Schaar
[December 26, 2011: reclining in “lounge” chair in Beijing airport as I await my plane to Incheon 3 hours from now.]
I just came off of twelve hours on Air China where I thought I beat the system by asking for not only an aisle seat, but one in the emergency row! My delight, as I made myself comfortable, soon plummeted when a large guy who obviously had had half a keg before boarding (he reeked, he snored) squeezed himself in the seat beside me. His discomfort led to mine and my “zen-ness” completely evaporated when two unruly children screamed, giggled and engaged in simultaneous fits of crying behind me.
This was my Christmas night. I chose this.
I’ve just left 10 days in Pasadena. Having missed the last four Christmas’ being elsewhere, I was initially excited to be going home. Yet, what I thought would bring me happy nostalgia of my younger years, ended up being pretty much a week of strong melancholy.
Was it the hard truth of aging around me? My upcoming 37th birthday? My parents needing more help? Me worrying more? Was it the complications screaming out loud in the lives of family/friends through potential divorce, addictions, body pain?
I tried to be in the moment. To recognize that this time, here, being able to hug my parents or share a kind word with friends, was fleeting. Because the next time I’d be back would be summer, six months away. And although time goes fast…gosh, does it go fast…it becomes an extensive stretch being away that long.
For the sake of capturing good moments, to feel that there were some honest times of beauty and simplicity and love, I will write them here:
*dancing salsa with my mom one night after dinner
*talking with my cousin whom I rarely see, and sharing a meal with him and my uncle
*the way the condo looked with lights and candles and a fire glowing
*a walk on a gorgeous day with my mom around the Rose Bowl
*sitting on the grass at Caltech with my dad trying to finish a crossword together in the sun
*wine and cheese, blankets and a lit tree, conversation over crackling fireplace with a dear friend
*kind and supportive words from my girlfriends at dinner in Old Town
*homemade meal by friends in San Gabriel
*the mountains…the clarity of the mountains
Hmm. Seeing it all listed here makes me wonder: what more do I want? Some people are lucky to have just one of these experiences.
So, where does this dissatisfaction come from?
I guess it lies in the leaving. I hate the leaving. The build up of last minute things to do, the packing, the look in my dad’s eyes as he searches for what to say that will ease his breaking heart, my mom trying to be strong and supportive. I hate that for weeks our connection will be on a video camera, rehearsed conversations of the weather, health updates, and recent news.
Knowing about this impermanence has led to my manic helpful role while I am home. I try to fix and prevent and patch up once the initial homecoming joy wears off and the reality of things becomes clear. There is difficult stuff happening to the people I love most. So, I want to help in the way I know how…by buzzing around them, asking questions, offering advice, creating preventative protocol.
Somehow, it does not seem like enough.
Then, I struggle with the alternative: coming back home.
There’s a duplicity in the life I’ve chosen. I love both being abroad and being home. When I’m away, I ache for my family, to be in my favorite places. When I’m home, I itch to be “out there” again, learning, experiencing, doing. This tug-of-war has been happening the ten years I’ve been abroad. It is familiar. It’s just part of this whole thing.
Some people have looked at photos or heard my travel stories and said: I want your life. And everyday I am grateful for where I am. But, there are things that we give up to be here; precious, important things. It’s not always easy.
Schaar is right.
It’s not about where we’re going; not about that final destination. The discomforts of travel, the bouts of homesickness, the person I am in each place I land; they’re all parts of the path-making…and I’m gonna keep at it.