Explore. Look around, look around. Look at where you are. Look at where you started. The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.
Those are the words that come to me when my writing teacher tells us the day’s prompt: “Explore.” Those words from Hamilton, which I, like much of the country, fell in love with.
What does it mean to look around? To really look? I’ve been feeling half-dead for some time, I realize. Bored, yet anxious, which is a particular form of awful. And then guilt, to top it off. Guilt at feeling bored and anxious, when so much is going right, so much is going well.
Gratitude. That’s what I need to explore. Just saying the word, writing it, hearing it reverberate in my brain, makes me pause slightly and take a deeper breath, which is what I need. I need these deeper breaths. I need to stop breathing shallowly.
Yesterday, I did something crazy that fits right in with the “Explore” category. I bought a ticket to Istanbul. And I reserved an apartment on AirBnB. The ticket was a great price, the apartment so much nicer and so much cheaper than anything in California.
Yet, last night, fear began threading her tentacles into me. I thought about catching Covid-19 on the flight, getting sick in Turkey, not being able to leave, and dying alone in a foreign country. Hey, it could happen. (It actually could. Right?)
I thought about getting lost, getting victimized, getting overwhelmed. I thought about the expense. I thought about God. And lightning.
No. Not really. I don’t actually think I’m going to be struck down by lightning for daring to live a little, daring to travel, which is something I used to love to do. I considered myself a traveler once upon a time.
I’ve become timid.
There is a part of me that fears retribution for pushing my luck. I’m not sure where this comes from. It might be a Catholic thing.
It would be worth exploring that.
I know from experience that the world is more benevolent than it seems when one hasn’t traveled in a while. And I’ve gotten woefully out of practice.
But where is this fundamental, deep-seated fear coming from? I don’t think it’s based on anything remotely real.
Imagine someone from almost anywhere in the world thinking of coming here. California leads the world in coronavirus cases. We have wildfires burning all around us. The air is pink and smoldering. The heat wave has me wet with sweat every night, rivulets running down my sides.
I woke up last night to acrid air. Dread filled my heart. I knew what it meant. This is the third or fourth year like this. I tell people this never used to happen. “Wildfire season” was not a thing, not in my consciousness at all here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sure, wildfires occurred, but not like this. Not in these numbers and not with this ferocity. Not so vast nor so close.
Fire is engulfing homes in Vacaville, less than an hour from here. People are fleeing as I type. I read at 4 a.m. on my phone this morning about a woman who ran for her life in her nightgown, with one shoe on.
Guns, disease, fire. To someone that doesn’t live here, that’s what my home is about. Not to mention sky-high, untenable prices for real estate, rents, food, certainly healthcare. It’s a mess.
And I’m afraid of Istanbul?
I know from experience that it’s highly likely I will find a more functional society and situation when I get there than the one I left. For one thing, my dollars will go a lot farther.
The last time I lived overseas, I was able to save money at about ten times the rate I can here.
I’ve wanted to go overseas again… all my life, really.
My youngest child starts college this fall. We drive to UCLA in late September. A few days later, I board a flight to Turkey.
My son “moved out” (at least to a house-sit situation for about eight months) just a few days ago.
Once Nina is ensconced in her dorm room, I am free in a way I haven’t been for more than two decades.
I still have Luigi here, but he is better, and almost ready to return to his rented room in Berkeley. I think with support from our son, he will be okay there, at least for a while. He has been here with us since the pandemic began, since March 17th, the night before California issued the shelter-in-place order.
My sister lost her job at 7–11 for stealing a taquito. I got the message last night. I’ve been expecting something like this. I’ve been saving a little money for her knowing she will need it someday. I’ve been factoring her into my plans and thoughts and budget for a long time now. I’m praying my aunt leaves her a little money when she dies so the burden doesn’t fall exclusively on me.
For years, my stance was to let Bear fall where she may. That until she stopped drinking I would not help. I would not enable. It’s finally dawning on me that her health is already greatly compromised, and that if I don’t accept her now, and help her, as family, I may never have the privilege.
Explore. That is what essay writing is about. I read somewhere an author who said she didn’t know what an essay would be about when she began it. That it was the act of writing the essay that allowed her to discover what she thought and felt about an issue, her self, her life, life in general.
I’m that way too, yet I seem to forget it frequently.
I know from experience that I don’t feel alive if I’m not writing.
And I have not been writing.
And I feel half-dead.
Coincidence? I think not.
I’ve occupied a very uncomfortable place for quite a while now. I am in a kind of purgatory, and it needs to stop. I need to end it, this kind of hell I’ve created for myself. My life is going well. My kids are doing great. I have a great job.
Yet, I live in a state of constant, low-grade fear of the other shoe dropping.
That, in a word, is ridiculous.
I know, ostensibly, what I need to do. The usual. Meditate. Practice gratitude. Develop my Self. Trust the universe. All that.
What I really need to do, however, is prepare. Establish a corollary income. And passive income. Build wealth. Make myself and my family as secure as possible.
I have made so much progress in this area. It’s worthy of a whole set of articles. But, I’m not there yet. I’m still dependent on my job. I am not my own boss. I am not free. Not yet.
What does it mean to be free? To be secure?
Certainly, I am more secure than most of the world.
And yet. We could definitely be more secure, especially if I want to be able to support my family when/if they need it, as I’ve supported Luigi, my children’s father. As I wish to help my sister.
I believe the world has gotten harder for young people than it was when I was in my 20s. When I was 19, I was able to rent an apartment off Piedmont Avenue in Oakland and pay the rent from my barista job at Gaylord’s Cafe. The very notion of that being possible today is absurd.
So, I want to leave money for my two kids. That means I need to earn and save enough for my retirement and for them to have a stable ground from which to launch.
No one thought of these things for me. But, again, it was easier in those days.
I do have goals. I do have dreams.
I am going to Istanbul and then down to Izmir. I will be in Turkey for a month, working the whole time. The time difference means I’ll be working 5 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Monday through Friday. But that’s okay. I think that’s do-able. I’ll sleep till 9 or 10 a.m., then explore the city until 4 or 5, have a nice lunch somewhere, and then settle in to work.
I have an EU passport. So do my kids. So does Luigi.
And we have never used them.
The US is in a bad way. The world beckons.
Thank you, Asriel. I think I will.