I've edited this post probably close to ten times since I put it up nearly a month ago. I've found myself going back to read it, not intentionally to improve it, but because I'm incredibly proud of it. Tonight was one of those nights. I've been back in Calgary for about 27 hours now, and the jetlag is real. Current time is just after 4am, and of course I'm wide awake. I pulled up The Place To Plant Dreams In as a reminder of how much I learned, grew, and questioned over the last ten weeks. (Not surprisingly, I also edited it. Again.) Coming home has been sweet. Lovely. I can't believe how comfortable this bed is. The ceilings in my living room felt taller and I appreciated the space, and all of the stuff that fills the space, more than I ever have. I kind of expected that, but not the way it would feel. And I guess the line I wrote about getting stuck again, essentially my fear for more fear, that reads:
I worried I wouldn't find what I was looking for. That I wouldn't change. Wouldn't feel things. And that instead, I'd come home all the more willing to remain one of the unlabeled pack, making an even more permanent home in Calgary for the next 25 years, because I would be afraid.
It got me thinking about the future, both immediate and long-term. I always think about the future and the past, mind you. But reading this now after visiting three more countries and flying on even more planes, I look to my one-month-younger, unjaded self for guidance and inspiration. This was before I went to Kyoto and got completely turned off by the crowds and how exorbitantly overpriced the whole city was. Before I lost my JR pass five days into my Japan leg. Before I started to wonder what the point of any of it was, when the sadness set in, when I realized I didn't have to be in a foreign country across the ocean where no one can understand me when I speak to feel the loneliness I already had inside. When I got into frequent bouts of anxiety about coming home, because I didn't want to, in spite of all of this. Travel did take a toll on me mentally, and in those moments it's made my world feel very small. I talk about that concept quite a bit in my piece as well. But I blame myself for that. My fear, and my fear of fear, for making my own world small intentionally. That did happen - I paid too much attention to how other people portrayed their lives, and I met a guy and got involved with him too quickly after my ex moved away. All those things made living in the shadow of other people's successes more comfortable than the life I already had to call my own. I failed to recognize something more important, though. That I'm depressed. Deeply. I have been for the majority of my life. I've dealt with alcohol abuse, self-harm, and I've attempted suicide before not because I was bored. It was because I was hurting. And sometimes, my world becomes small not because I make it that way. Sometimes the walls close in by themselves.
I'll take this opportunity to make a quick segue and say that having a panic attack in Tokyo is absolutely terrifying. Especially when you get lost trying to go where you're going - or where you think you're going - and you do find a subway station but one where the gate gets you way too close to the moving trains for comfort while you wait. I forgot, for decades until I visited Japan, how badly being next to any large, fast-moving vehicle frightened me. When I was a child and standing at the bus stop, and a yellow school bus that was not my own would pass, I screamed. My friends would laugh at me but the idea of these vehicles moving past shook me from somewhere deep inside. The day I lost my JR pass, I had made a plan to visit Okunoshima, a small island near Hiroshima that's gaining popularity for being overrun with bunnies. (It's actually nicknamed "Rabbit Island" or "Bunny Island" if you Google it.) Because of heavy rain and flooding in the area, JR had closed the Kure Line, which is the train line that takes you to the nearest station, from which I would have taken a ferry to Okunoshima. I was doing some digging via Google Maps and found out they had a bus that went there instead, but when I actually made it down - hours behind schedule, since I was so disorganized and honestly, my head my probably somewhere else - I had missed the last bus by about ten minutes, and the next wouldn't come for several hours. I was looking for somewhere else to go and anxiously I was looking through my Lonely Planet guide. (I'm not a planner - I always suspected this, and it was confirmed over and over to me during the course of the trip.) I settled on another island nearby, and it was on the way back to Kobe - which was also loosely planned - that my JR Pass went missing. I don't know what happened, honestly. I was waiting for a train for a long time, nearly 45 minutes, and last I checked the pass was either in my pocket, or right next to me. I was waiting for a Shinkansen train, which is the name of the commuter bullet train that runs between cities in Japan. I remember sitting there and being absolutely terrified of them when they passed, because they were not only massive, but unbelievably speedy. I would stand on the platform and wait, and eventually watching the shinkansen roar past was too much, so I'd have to sit. Sometimes I wouldn't even look up. When I realized my JR pass was missing, I was already on a train back to Kobe. I got off at the next stop and went back to the last station, but it was nowhere to be found. I figured that if I had simply left it on a table on the platform, anytime a train passed, it would have gotten blown over the edge and lost forever. The shinkansen platform was elevated, too, and the local train track was several hundred feet below. If my JR pass flew off the edge, it also would have been shredded. Easily. I remember that day even though I want to forget it. Those next two to three stressful hours. Sitting there on the empty platform, in disbelief, shame, and crippling, childlike fear every time a shinkansen would pass. I never thought about jumping in front of one. It was too terrifying. But I did wish I could sink into the ground, or at the very least, go back in time and simply take the train back to my friend's apartment. At least if I was hiding out there, I wouldn't be getting myself into trouble, making stupid mistakes.
I never told anyone about the JR pass. No one at home, not my friends, not my relatives abroad. I had already lost my phone on my way to the Philippines and my whole family there knew. Then I lost/left behind countless other important things while I was in the Philippines: my last pair of contact lenses, my sunglasses, and the list goes on. By the end of the trip, I realized I could have taken $3000 out of my bank account and torched it before I left. That was the estimated value of things I lost, as well as the money I spent replacing them to some degree. It was less than a year ago that $3000 was a figure I could not keep in my chequing account to save my life. It was a breath of fresh air if that number existed. I don't intend to be so careless and responsible. I truly don't. I've been misplacing important things since I was child, and I never knew why I did it. It's never been intentional. I was chastised by EVERYONE I knew, especially my parents, for being so forgetful for someone so young. And I can answer that now, at 25 making mistakes not acceptable for a 10 year-old. I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't thinking. I wasn't thinking because my mind was somewhere else. My mind is always somewhere else, because I don't know how to slow it down.
I do know what mindfulness is. I do yoga, I meditate, I light candles, I channel crystals. All of these things have helped me, tremendously. Yet I still get impatient. Rather, I'm impatient by nature - I get that from my dad. I've gotten so frustrated with all the things in my life that started out good and ended up difficult. I didn't learn how to stick things out. I wasn't taught how to commit for the long haul. And growing up in this age, specifically, where everything is disposable including people's worth and young people are encouraged to change their minds, I've always had a really difficult time making decisions. No one told me that as I got older, decisions themselves would become more difficult and evermore consequential. I didn't realize that the world would welcome my change but grow intolerant of my mistakes. This is a difficult world to fuck up in. Everyone is watching. And while it's easy to assume that while people are watching, they're criticizing, that isn't always the case. Many people are truly great at the core. But the person who always ends up criticizing, is you.
I might not care to start a business, or even stay semi-planted in Calgarian soil the way I have been for the last quarter-century. But I do still have lofty ideas for my future. Huge plans. And if you knew what they were, you wouldn't call them crazy or unrealistic. You'd tell me they're do-able. They make sense. But they're going to take a lot of hard work. This is the truth: I'm not ready. I'm not mentally prepared for any of the things I truly want in my life. Not my career, not my ideal relationship, not my hypothetical, possibly-nonexistent-forever children. It isn't because I'm in any way less worthy of these things, nor that they are things I actually fear at the core. I look at the future and I'm not afraid of it anymore, because I know that good things are nothing to be afraid of. I don't fear myself, either. My instability doesn't scare me in any way, shape, or form, because I understand it. I know where it comes from and how it manifests. But that doesn't mean I know how to fix it. Prevent it from causing issues. It doesn't mean I've risen completely above it. There is a tremendous amount of work needed to be put in before I get to where I want educationally, professionally, and emotionally before getting serious with anyone. But I realized that the work I need to do before that takes precedence, and all those lofty goals will fail, WITHOUT A DOUBT, if I don't take care of myself first. It isn't a matter of fixing myself, like I have a broken part that needs replacing. I tried that already. I spent $5k on therapy, I did all the things I thought would fill the holes in my heart. But they didn't work. Instead I took another $5000 out of my bank account and torched it, and got severely burned in the process emotionally, because all of the things I did to try to fill my voids left me feeling like I wasn't enough. This work begins and ends with the knowledge that I am enough. I am so fucking enough. And you know when you're enough because that's when a $200k windfall OR your boyfriend moving across the Pacific Ocean doesn't shake you at the core, compromising your sense of self - you feel it on the surface, it changes the landscape of your life, but you know what you're made of and the weather doesn't change that. That's when you know. And I knew. I still know. I just have trouble believing it, often, and right now and for the next little while, my mission is to uncover all the reasons why.
If you got the end of this post, thank you. Thank you for sticking it out. And thank you for believing in me, because if you read my posts (and you keep it a secret - no one tells me when they read anything), a part of you does support me somehow. This is as much about my immediate future I'm willing to share right now. I'll have news coming in the next month or so, although I don't know exactly what it will sound like. The Place To Plant Dreams In ends with my farewell to Calgary, and I will say that it's definitely happening. But where, when, and how I go is up in the air - seriously no hint/pun intended. If it goes off as planned, I'm just going to do it, and I'll tell you all what I did after. So as weird as that sounds, I hope you don't find out. I hope I find the courage to stop asking permission and just answer my own 'yes'. I know what I need in my life right now, and a part of me is surprised that its drastically different than what I expected. The other part of me isn't though. The other part already knew. It always knew.