Note: I wrote this in late March 2017.
As my time here comes to an end, I am realizing this world is a giant convolution of all kinds of things all at once. In the three weeks I’ve spent in Scotland (mainly on a farm just south of Edinburgh, with some days in Edinburgh, Glasgow and The Highlands) – and since I left home three months ago – I haven’t so much grown into a more enlightened version of myself as much as I’ve become comfortable with who I am now.
Before leaving on this trip I was hoping to discover a new person amid these cities, mountains, fields, planes, trains and houses and take them home in my body. I was hoping to return as someone else, someone whose heart was not irreparably shattered a year ago, someone who doesn’t struggle daily with anxiety and depression, someone who knows exactly what they want out of life and wakes up with a mission and a smile at 7:00am every morning. I thought maybe being away from home for four months travelling around the world would rebirth me into a different person– because a different person wouldn’t have my problems.
This trip is illuminating that not only was that hope impossible to fulfill, since I will always necessarily be me – with all my “flaws” – but more importantly: those flaws are not flaws, they are the building blocks of my identity from here on out. They are wounds on my spirit that make me more resilient, because these wounds will heal and leave a mark to remind me of what I have survived. For the wounds that don’t heal (like my mental illness and other trauma), I’m figuring out how to live with them and to know that dark periods do always end.
I am learning that no thing is one thing. Every thing is connected. Any thing is in every thing and every thing is in any thing. No thing is truly separate.
So my heartbreak? It hurts because I loved someone and for a time that love was beautiful and made me deeply happy. The painful memories? They are lessons learned. My mental illness? It allows me to be more empathetic, thoughtful and grateful for good days. My medication? Pharmaceutical companies are usually amoral and this has global negative repercussions, but my meds help me and millions of other people feel better. Veganism? It has a smaller fossil fuel footprint and arguably saves lives, but requires a lot of privilege and often works within colonialist hierarchies. My relationships? I love my friends and family, but I also need space alone. Nature? It’s in us. It’s in the city. The City? It is part of nature, and the two are not two, but one spectrum of lives, buildings, policies, ideologies, goods and services. Nations? They are socially constructed entities built around problematic philosophies but they also house incredible people who are subverting nationalistic agendas while being proud of where they came from. Death? Goddamn! I am terrified of it, but it forces me to enjoy every single freaking moment I get to breathe and eat and dance and hug people I care for. Love? We all know it can involve the good, the bad and the ugly– on repeat. We see cyclical patterns represented in every realm.
It’s all in waves: life, death, pain, joy, repression, revolution, love, loss.
Waves can be pointed out as separate events: each making its mark with sound in the air and powerful pressure on sand and rock, and yet when we look at the ocean it’s impossible to single out where those waves are out there. They all whirl into one another and create a cold, blue, beautiful, lively universe. The ocean gives us life, it is where we came from at one point (but this planet came from somewhere else, many places, before that), and it takes life away. The waves come in, distinguishable for a brief moment, temporarily revealing time to seem like something that exists, and always they leave once more; back into the vast, moving unknown where time and space are fluid and every thing is in every thing.
This is not to say that whatever happens, we should accept it because it’s all part of the cycle of life. Social justice matters. Human rights matter. Surviving trauma looks as many different ways as there are survivors. Mental illness can require medication and that’s ok. But for me, right now, in my own very comfortable life, this way of thinking is useful and soothing. I have a tendency to want to categorize most stuff as one thing or another: better or worse, healthy or unhealthy, black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. But that is not how the world is no matter where you look. It’s far more complex.
And so as I pack my things to move on to Ireland (then England, The Netherlands and Germany), I know that I will – in a month – not be returning home a squeaky clean new person who doesn’t have to deal with any of the anxieties or hopelessness I had before I left. I will still have trouble getting out of bed most mornings. I will still cry over the person who abandoned me (and the abandonment itself). I will still have much to learn. I will still be healing, as it is a process that never ends. But I will also be a stronger person, a person who has grown, a person who knows themselves a little better, a person with some new tattoos, friends and memories. All these things can exist at once, and they are not at odds with one another: they allow for one another to be.