As of today, June 9, 2018, I have been back in Oakland for exactly one month. Understandably, many of my acquaintances believe I am still on my European quest, and in a way, they aren’t entirely wrong.
It feels dramatic to say that a three-week trip changed my life, dramatic, but accurate.
I’ve always sought to be an independent person, not from a lack of compassion or sympathy for others, but because I love the freedom of feeling truly alone.
I wrote, several years ago, about the misunderstanding that often accompanies introversion. I’d like to add now to this initial treatise. There is so much to be found through solitude, so much that comes from silent observation, so many precious moments that are the result of being alone.
One of my happiest moments on the trip was sitting by myself in Regent’s Park, watching the sunlight through the plane leaves. Listening to the music of the fountain across the way. Seeing the people walking down that wide and stretching avenue. It was a quiet joy, a joy that didn’t need to be shared. Perfectly self-contained and crystalline.
I love being home, don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful moment when Scout came running down the stairs to greet me asking for belly-rubs. (Scout is my cat FYI.) I love getting to revisit my favorite spots around Oakland, viewing everything with slightly different eyes. I love sleeping in my own bed, reuniting with friends, having the ability to write and share my writing regularly.
But I miss the freedom I found on my journey. I miss walking for hours every day, everything new, everything unexpected and somehow pre-determined. I miss the sights and smells, the awkward confidence that drove me to place orders in other languages, the overwhelming wash of the cities, the giddy pressure of switching trains and navigating strange streets.
Every moment I spent was a moment of testing myself, and for the most part, succeeding beyond my wildest dreams. I had always suspected that I was competent and powerful, but on my travels, I found the data to prove it.
People ask if I made any friends on my trip. And I always answer with an evasive, I met many wonderful people. And I did in fact meet a variety of interesting human beings, but if I’m being quite honest, it wasn’t about that.
It was about the world and about me, and about me in the world.
It sounds selfish, it sounds self-centered, and it is, but it was also necessary and it was beautiful. To be truly alone in a new space, where no one at all knew me, spending time with myself, following my own feet wherever they led me. And realizing at long last, that this is not only acceptable, but wonderful.
That was indeed life-changing.
And as I re-adjust to the demands of my “real life”, I continue to seek for ways to regain this feeling of independence. It is a balancing act, of course, but after all that I’ve accomplished, I feel certain that I can do it.
Thank you for reading.