Sunday, February 1, 2015

A life on fire

My life was on fire. Bright and surreal and imminent.
That's exactly what it was - life was now - while I stood on a shifty Bangkok pier wondering how wild all this was. Flanked by over-lighted temples and pagodas and high risers kissing the dim clouds. 
A life on fire, I thought, and I liked the thought of that.
Currently: my time in Southeast Asia is fading and dimming.
A week or so more and I'll be gone. To a whole new continent with new foods, new people, new experiences. New everything.
The old - the now I'm in this second - will be just that, old.
Time is a strange thing, you know? Present and future and past collide in the most peculiar of ways.
I have a mix of emotions right now as I move forward to Africa.
But one emotion is stronger than the others, infinitely more ruthless and more precise in its intensity.
I've mentioned this before, but at that time I was a little drunk and writing like a madman without a plan. The last week I've been very anxious because this post, and the words it contains, has been boiling in my head - making me feel like it was those scrambled eggs in those stupid DARE commercials - waiting to be released (that's what she said?). I've talked with my family about it, briefly, but nowhere near as long as with all my new travelling friends from across the sea.

Asia has changed me, along with the locals and fellow travelers. I think this whole blog is a testament to that, so I won't ramble on again about that.

On a boat a few days ago, I was asked if I was nervous. Not that nervousness that precedes telling a girl you like them or at that single moment before you cross a busy Indian street in Mumbai during midday traffic. No, he meant that I probably had a persistent nervousness that has followed me along this journey like a cancer, that has maybe trailing me even longer than that.
I laughed when he said this, but then I felt it.
Had I really been ignoring it all this time? I was a madman. I was without a plan. And I was indeed nervous. My friend elaborated, knowing I'm a man of goals, both extravagant and tiny, and I'm nervous right now because I'm indeed goalless.

I'm wandering without a main goal. Except for one.
Which is simple and complex all at once: 
I have to keep my life on fire.

I can't go back to my life when it wasn't this way. I can't go back home and get stuck in an office cubical staring at that poster of a cat hanging off that wire. Not after who I've met, what I've seen (both great and horrible), and what is out in the unknown still left to find and experience. This fellowship is that double-edged sword cliche. I'm thankful - more thankful than anything I can ever describe with words - but at the same time, I hate the fellowship for doing this to me.

For giving me this opportunity, this incredible taste of life, and then letting time snatch it back after these 8ish months. And then, just like that - a snap of the fingers, really - and I'll be back home, feeling trapped. You ever feel an emotion before you know you're supposed to have it? Like knowing you're going to love a person before you actually love them. Sorry if that doesn't makes no sense, but that's what it is.
So I've made a plan. Sort of. Kind of. Not really.

I'm coming home after this journey, that's a given, because I miss my family and friends something fierce. There are times traveling where the homesick hits my heart like a brick and I need more than anything to be at The Swiss again, laughing and getting rowdy with people whose presence, love, and own hearts, make me feel so incredibly and completely whole.
And my family - my crazy, odd, family - that I miss more than anything in life. There is no one like them in the world and I love them with every single atom that I am.

But with all that said, the fact of the matter is simple: I need to go back to Tacoma, stay for a little while, and then, you guessed it, I must leave again (and of course come back home as often as I can).
This is pompous of me to say and downright makes me feel instantly full-of-myself, but I'll just say it: I deserve to do good things around the world. In an even more insane, narcissistic way, I believe my purpose in this life (Viktor Frankl believed his purpose in life was to help others find their purpose) is going out into the world and making it better.

I'm good at being self-loathing and can rattle off a list, longer than a Thanksgiving shopping list for a large Amish family, of things I don't like about myself or am horrible at, but I certainly know what I'm good at.

It has taken me a long time to embrace it, to really own it, and be proud of it.
But I believe I have one shining talent, the kind you scribble onto resumes as the being in the top %1: I'm good with people. Hell, maybe even extraordinary. 
I think I can change people. 
I think I brighten people's lives. 
I think I can make the world a better place one person at a time. 
I bring hope and a sick, almost delusional amount of optimism wherever I go.
Sometimes, I feel like this crazy cat lady. Except replace cats with people.

And I need to shine that light. My fire needs to be shared. Like any talent or skill or trade, you have to exercise it. So I must mold it like fresh, clean clay.

So, I will go out into the world and do just that.
To where and to do what? 
I don't know and that's, to be honest, the single most scary fucking thing I can think of - to know what you're supposed to do but be held back by fear of failure and cost, both financial and emotionally.

I know, all of this is absolute CRAZY TALK. I'm an asshole to think that I have the right to demand anything, really, from life after receiving the privilege to attend nine years of higher education and riding a free trip around the world.

The logical thing - the respectful thing - would be to payback what I've been given: go home, grab that 9 to 5 job, and somehow try to eek by paying off that $105,00 USD loan that hovers over me and threatens to drown me daily (this actually may scare me more than anything).

But what I've realized is that I can earn money anywhere in the world, so why not keep traveling and do that?

So I will. But I can't ignore my talent and I need to find a job out there that fits it. There's plenty of NGOs doing good humanitarian work the world over. There are jobs that teach English in poor countries. There are bartending jobs out there where I could change lives simply by listening to those in the bars who have no one who actually listens to. There are ways to help those in need working with colleges in remote cities. Etc., and so forth.

Whatever it may be, I need to calm this nervousness. I need to start planning.
Maybe I'll even convince some friends back home to come with me (looking at you, fellow social workers and artists and the rest of you lovely, talented people), but if not, that's okay. Another thing I probably don't deserve: the best, most loyal friends around the world (I would even venture to call them family). An added bonus that MasterCard would call priceless: they endlessly believe in me, who I am, and strengthen me when I don't believe in myself. I think my friends/family wouldn't forgive me if I didn't do this. If I did come home and stay put, do that American Dream, they'd be just as angry about it as I was.

That life, for now, just isn't for me. I once had someone at Pepsi tell me I was "too bright a bird for a cage" and what I need to do is finally take that to heart and accept the compliment. I've always been bad at that. Terrible even.
And more than just accept it, I need to own up to it.
To prove that I am just that.

I've fallen in love with these countries and it hurts me to see injustice and poverty and all the things that keep me up at night - all the things I don't post pictures on Facebook of.
I can make a difference here. Anywhere and everywhere.
And I'd be a fool to waste that God-given gift.
My life is on fire and I can't let it go out.
Most of all, by deciding this, I think I can help ignite others, make their lives burn with uncontrollable beauty and hope.

Actually, I know I can.
And I will.

So, I'm a madman with a shaky, undefined plan and debt up to my ears and back down to my toes.
I should do the smart thing. I should.
But I simply can't. I won't.
If friends and family and everyone in between already believe in me, in my talents, and my ability to do something really important and big in the world, well then, so can I.

And it's about time I own up to that, too.

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