Thursday, October 31, 2013

Silliness: Part 2 - The Build-up

The heartbreak, loneliness, disappointment and exploitation I felt in Scotland didn't sink in in any meaningful way. In the following years, I perfected the art of leaving and hatched farther fetched and more ridiculous dreams of traveling the world.

At 18, three months after coming home from Scotland, I landed on the Western Washington University campus my freshman year of college only to pack up and transfer to community college nine months later. In the first month of my freshman year, I tried to move out of the dorms and into an apartment with high school friends only to have the move vetoed by my parents. My college career continued to scatter as I attended one community college to transfer to another in Seattle, to finally land at Washington State University in Pullman to then transfer to WSU - Vancouver one year later. At the end of five years, I had attended a total of six higher education institutions and moved nine times, with the tenth move landing me back at my parents' house in Bremerton. 

My ideal career path was just as scattered as my home addresses. I graduated high school thinking I would pursue education, then switched to biochemistry and pre-pharmacy, only to finally graduate with an English degree and bucket loads of science electives. I wanted to be that teacher in the African villages, then the pharmacist doctor who would deliver drugs to poor countries, only to give it all up in a large dream to walk around the world volunteering and writing poetry to make a living (because, you know... volunteer work and art sell). My boyfriend and I called it "the Plan" and drew a line from one part of the world to the next. I would have been happy to pursue English teaching abroad with him, however he became more concerned building a professional life after college and I landed back home in Bremerton, trying to decide if I would volunteer with this organization or that, take this career path or that, and generally, hatching a plan to leave Bremerton as quickly as possible.

Rather than understand my desire to leave, I believed the scheme came from a love of the world, experiences and adventure. This belief was not unfounded or entirely incorrect, but there was something deeper there as well that I refused to address. Like the need to keep moving even while in exotic or new places. Or the inability to think further ahead in my plans than the landing of my feet in a new location. In each of my adventures, I left a very small margin of error with both my finances and my safety. If anything went wrong, I didn't have savings to do more than get me back to Bremerton.

The plans grew more and more radical. Six months working with street children and former victims of prostitution in Kathmandu. Dead-end job with Raytheon Polar Services in Antarctica for six months, live-aboard and sail the world in the six month off season, repeat. Nursing degree followed by career as traveling nurse indefinitely. On and on the dreams piled with some catch as to why I wasn't off living them or setting them in motion. Rather than invest in one dream or the other and focus, I would float until I couldn't anymore and frantically run toward the option easiest to execute. I remained in flux, either between the desire to leave or the return home when things didn't work out as I had planned. I was making a career of dead end jobs, a scattering of college classes leading nowhere, and the ability to leave at a moments notice.

After nearly two years of floating in Bremerton and around Seattle, moving another five times, and working a total of four temporary and semi-permanent jobs, I'd hatched the perfect escape plan. With $5,000, I was going to live in Mexico and Central America for at least 18 months. I would work on my Spanish skills, I told myself. I would decide if I wanted to work in Orthodox ministries or live in a monastery, I told myself. I would come back finally knowing if I wanted to go to graduate school and what to study. I convinced my friends and family this was not running away, that I had purpose and plan to this trip, and that I would do my best to include them all in my travels.

These were not lies as I fully believed the reasoning myself, but there was something deeper just under the surface of my good intentions. This something peeked through as I sorted and got rid of nearly all my possessions. The feeling of escape was tangible as I either waved goodbye or completely ignored people in my life, be them on good terms or bad terms. While still trying to love and honor my family, I was also trying to annihilate history and ties to my Washington hometown and city. This was to be the ultimate of all leavings, and I hoped against return unless to cuddle a nephew or celebrate Christmas with the family. Good riddance was the phrase held in my heart as I left. My attitude that peeking something sabotaging my intentions and spinning this trip as my greatest movement yet.

Four months into my trip, I landed back in Seattle for my uncle's funeral. I was home for 10 days before I left again, this time for Alaska and this time very much aware of the fact that I was running away. In the face of death, I could no longer keep up the pretenses of movement for adventure and the alleviation of poverty. My noble intentions now stripped away, I was forced to view my budding legacy as that of a professional runaway. With the finality of my uncle's death, I finally experienced the bitter taste left behind the person who leaves.

Exhausted, confused and suffering a little bit of PTSD, I returned home from Alaska after four months. My thermos was dry, my crackers were gone, my uncle was still dead, and I needed to finally look at why I couldn't stay in one place for longer than 3 months.

1 comment:

  1. Katie, I love your writing. It's so honest it makes me cry, but in a good way. Your courage to be vulnerable is inspiring.