October 04, 2004
Just Dating Thanks
It's my one-month anniversary. Though I can scarcely believe it, I've been back in the United States for a full month already. What really amazes me, however, is that my trip - two years of my life - already seems like a dream.
Tomorrow I start a new job in San Francisco - doing some contract work for a former employer of mine. I've lined up a place to stay, and for at least the next 3 months, San Francisco is again my home. I'm not complaining about any of it - it confirms my belief that opportunities abound - you just have to be open to them (and have some damn good timing). But, this settling down - even if it is temporary - makes me feel like it’s the end of an era.
Everyone wants to know if it's weird to be back (it is and it isn't). Everyone wants to know if it was really two years - and did the time fly for me as much as it did for them (it was and it did). Everyone wants to know my "favorite" countries (India and Mongolia). And, of course, everyone wants to know what I'm going to do next (I honestly don't know).
The way I see it, my life is in dating mode. Currently, I'm dating San Francisco. I like the city, I enjoy its company, but I'm not at a place where I can commit to anything permanent or long term. I want to have fun, see how things work out - but I'm not ready for another long-term relationship. At least, not yet. After all, I just got out of a two-year commitment. Jumping into something else doesn't seem like a wise option, does it?
And, of course, I've got some baggage from the past. In fact, there is one aspect of my last relationship that I am having serious trouble getting over. I've kind of grown attached to it actually, and giving it up - well, I'm not so sure I can do it. I'm talking about my column.
The column began as a forum for me to share my ideas and observations about the world around me as I traveled its various nooks and crannies. I wanted to share my experiences - to "show" a little bit of the world that I was seeing, though my own eyes and in my own words. But, the column became more than that. It became a challenge for me as a writer - could I maintain a weekly column for a full year – or even longer? It became a vehicle for venting my frustrations - especially in places where I was alone. And, it became a habit that I liked having - a little bit of structure in an otherwise structure less existence.
But, most of all, it was a way for me to document the moments - to remember all that I was doing and seeing and feeling and thinking. I figured that years down the road - when I was an old woman sitting on my front porch and reminiscing about the "good old days" - that my columns would provide me with something more than pictures and memories. That I would have stories - my stories - to read over and over. They would be a permanent reminder of the Technicolor flourishes that only youth can provide, without the watered down Doppler effect that experience and time impart upon an aging memory.
Over the past two years, so many of my adventures have been documented and shared with all of you. Yet so many more never made it past the rough drafts - usually for lack of time but sometimes because the power of a new experience superseded the need for past documentation.
There were romances - and potential romances - with Casanova surf instructors in Australia and (harmless) cyber stalkers in Thailand. There were moments of blissful communion with nature - when my brother and I swam with whale sharks in the Philippines or when, in the Australian outback, my friend Alex and I watched the evolution of the most brilliant red, orange and pink sunrise I have ever seen. These moments and experiences all warranted a column, but somehow they were never realized.
I promised stories I never delivered - about weddings in India and interviews with western swamis. I began stories surrounding issues like Tiananmen Square, the problems with girl babies, and the international communities impression of Americans - then never finished them because I felt like they were too important to rush though and wanted time to research them more fully. Now, months after the fact, their important has not diminished but the time required going back has suddenly become limited in supply.
Ultimately I've decided I need the column to remain a part of my life - at least for a little bit longer. There are too many stories left untold, too many tales that still need telling. Just because my traveling life has been put on pause, doesn't mean the rest of my life is in a holding pattern. Just because I am in the United States, and not some exotic sounding country in the Far East, doesn't mean my quest for information or my desire for adventure has abated – or that my wanderlust is over.
And, just because I have another job, doesn’t mean I am no longer a writer.
So, while my column will flash back to those as yet undocumented moments during my adventures overseas, it will also focus on my reality today – and the adventures that come with it. The column will continue to evolve and change, like I myself will evolve and change. Both eyes forward but with one hand occasionally reaching back - to remind myself of where I came from - to help me in where I am going.