The next day I went to meet someone I needed to tell something. It was raining in Williamsburg. Kids ran past McCarren Park smiling, no umbrellas, soaked. I had a little collapsible black thing she gave me last summer when I lived in Brooklyn and we were still seeing each other.
The modern man can travel in every circle. Sit at a table with farmers playing poker in Nebraska, hipsters snorting Xanax in Berlin, travelers smoking hash in Nepal, and day traders talking stocks in Manhattan.
This plane keeps us all together, and as these chattering Chinese fly us to Jakarta I am wishing you could be who you were. I show you how to fill out the customs form. I have been here before. You haven’t. All I want for us is to stay whole.
Gone at 21. Can anyone understand how terrible that is? You waited your whole life to have your freedom. You knew that you wanted to be left to make your own choices when your time came. Then to have that taken from you.
My sister, brother and I grew up on 80 acres of flat, rich soil, in a climate so arid that it wouldn’t have been farmable if it had not been for the vast underground water source called the Ogallala Aquifer. Canal systems and man-made reservoirs help deliver water down from the Rocky Mountains.
Those of us who live far from home experience a longing for it that you can only know if you’ve lived away for a real length of time. We romanticize where we’re from and talk about it with an appreciation we didn’t have for it when we lived there.
It’s not just Korea. The last time I visited China, in both Beijing and Shanghai I met scores of young men and women who had moved there for the opportunity it offers entrepreneurs. The expat community in Seoul is dominated largely by English teachers for good reason—teaching gigs here can be excellent.
For awhile I swore by the mantra “we’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be.” It’s a comforting idea, and if you repeat it until you believe it you can use it to quiet down your restlessness. But it only really works when you’re actually satisfied. I don’t believe it consistently. We don’t always make the best choices for ourselves.
When I was 25 I decided to quit my job and move back in with my parents. Before I moved, I was living on the coast of San Diego County, working for a newspaper in Del Mar, where I was the only reporter and photographer. I worked less than 35 hours a week and could surf before and after work—sometimes surfing during work hours if the waves were good enough and I had my three stories for the week in.
With five alcohol-related tickets before I was 20, I probably got in more party trouble than your average Nebraskan youth. The fines and rehab and jail time were a waste of money, but not a waste of time. Having the world collapse on you imparts a lot of valuable lessons.