We can’t let ourselves be the people things happen to.
I plan to thru-hike a trail north of Houston over my Thanksgiving break—first by myself, then with a boy, then again by myself—but a week long walk in the woods is starting to feel much more intimidating than my 10-month jaunt around the world. The world is full of interesting, friendly people. The woods is full of time. And maybe I’m not sure if I can handle a week with no distractions from my own mind.
My return to regular life came saddled with a long distance boyfriend (who didn’t last long), and a weird new set of daily expectations. More than one year later, I’m still struggling with the monotony of routine—the thing I was most craving when I was living out of a backpack—and even more than that, I think I’m struggling with the monotonous people who don’t struggle with routine.
Boys I’ve dated since my return have found my experiences enviable and my adventurousness enchanting. I have turned myself into a shiny pebble that boys like to show off to their friends. But as they sit around just checking off the traditional boxes in their ordinary lives, I feel myself squirm. I thought I wanted this security, but I just can’t see it. This is not the life I have chosen for myself—and I don’t know how to be with someone who has.
I find myself staying with boys who are lost. Those who have not yet reached their potential, and so their routine has not yet been determined. They are exciting and carefree… and irresponsible and young. They have let themselves become the people things happen to. And, frustratingly, I have let them become the people who most often happen to me.
My favorite podcast airs an episode about depression, and I find myself agreeing with certain statements a little too frequently. But I don’t feel personally sad like I did once before—instead I just feel sad for most other people.
“When I was depressed—and I think a lot of depressed people share this—I really didn’t believe that anyone was happy. And I believed that people that were happy were faking it…”
What if I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that someone can legitimately be happy in a typical, mundane life, with a typical, mundane job? What if I want more so badly that every single day that I don’t find it feels wasted and sad?
I want to be someone that happens so badly. I don’t understand people who don’t.
Looking for more, I applied to the Peace Corps back in August, and they are considering sending me to live and teach in China until my 30th birthday. Back when we were speaking, The Bartender told me I had to go if I got it. It wasn’t that simple then; it’s still not that simple now.
Serving would mean leaving my entire life behind and letting the Peace Corps happen to me. Turning it down would mean letting my reasonably happy existence continue to happen to me, without very many more chances for change. I am constantly consulting my compass, but I still don’t know which of these feels more like the move in the right direction.
I am introduced to a boy who asks me intrusive, intimidating questions and worms his way inside of me too quickly. He is also in the midst of a life-changing decision, and it makes me feel safe to know that I’m not alone. He is fluctuating between teaching and music and I wonder if maybe I have been approaching my life all wrong. The only job I’ve ever loved doing for free is writing. It was the only thing that kept me grounded during my year away.
Why have I been letting teaching happen to me—always too scared to look at my words as a legitimate career option?
I lose my wallet in the last five minutes of our weekend trip to Austin, and as usual, I wait longer than most before thinking I should probably cancel my credit card. When I get an email the next day from a girl asking how she can return my wallet intact, I am perhaps the only person who is not really surprised. I’ll keep my naïve optimism and let the kindness of the world happen to me, even if it means dealing with the fact that sometimes I expect—and experience—strangers treating me better than my ex-boyfriends.