If my thoughts were steps I would have walked the circumference of the earth 100 times by now, plunging into every ocean and walking along its floor. If my anxiety was a mountain, Everest would only be the second tallest mountain on earth and if my depression were a valley it would be called the Valley of Death and I would be afraid of evil.
I live in the heartland, born here, raised here, and my school is bought and paid for here. My job and apartment and daily life circle around this cycle and will disperse when it's done. Often I grow vastly concerned that I will be viewed as being stagnant, of staying comfortable rather than taking risks. Like I said, I've lived here my whole life.
But movement is happening all around me. It seems that everyone that was born here wasn't meant to stay here and they get on planes, trains, and automobiles and head out to every corner of the globe, some I just barely get to know before they're gone. "Hello, my name is ______ and goodbye." Then they are off, farewell. I think I am inspired by all people, those that leave and those that stay. The ones that leave though are the ones that get my mind running in a whole number of directions. It causes me to start asking questions like, "What the hell am I doing? Am I getting left behind? Am I choosing comfort over what I truly desire? Why am I still here?"
Every day I stay in this spot I am taking a risk. I risk the temptation to stay in place, to grow cold, to not inspire to be greater. I risk giving in to the drawing force that tries to envelop me and cause me to no longer branch out.
But none of this is really what I want to say. I am attempting to say that I am still moving, even by staying where I am. I am moving to a college degree, I am moving into a position I desire with my craft. I am moving to a better understand of who I am and the dreams that make my hands grow clammy and keep me up in the night with excitement. I am moving towards a greater love for people. The heaven, hell, and soil of where I am is filled with more than I could ever imagine in a lifetime.
A friend of mine once said that travel wasn't about the destination, the changing of physical locations, but rather the openness one demonstrates to new experiences, people, and ideas. Travel isn't leaving the country if you get there and still stay in your own backyard.
I remember road trips to California when I was younger, Dad's voice in the front seat saying. "We're here," as soon as we cross the state line. But as road-trips turned to plane rides California started to feel more like Oklahoma, the similar pricey restaurants, the comfortable resorts, the private beaches, and nice rental cars. Sure there is the ocean, beach, sunny weather, but that's just a backdrop if I don't engage with the people, their inner workings, and my surroundings.
I once read a book about just that. It depicted a man's journey in a Volkswagen bus from Texas to Oklahoma. The decision was based on a whim and the man's journey, nothing short of whimsical. So I decided I would go to Portland this past summer. It was my first trip where I gave myself permission to fail, to be vulnerable, to control the nights and days as I saw fit. I stayed in a hostel with forty other people, heard their stories, walked by foot or took public transportation, held conversations, and even saw familiar faces, not people I knew, but I knew their spirits, meaning, "Oh that's such and such back home" or "This neighborhood is like _____." I even found Edmond, Oklahoma there. I stopped and got ice cream there after getting lost in Washington Park. But I didn't feel the need to go into any of the shops or explore that area because I was familiar with the scene. The people were kind and welcoming and asked me about my backpack and my torn up shirt, but treated me nice and maybe it was because I had money or maybe it was because they had a good spirit within them and I think for some it was both. But I didn't stay long in that familiarity and soon I was on a bus heading east into the City of Roses.
I got lost in Portland, that's what I remember the most and I loved that feel. It's like life, we set out in a direction to see what we will see. There was no agenda, nothing to achieve, just a presence of being. The thing I remember most about where I was staying was the homelessnes, was the woman who ate a donut with me, who hadn't showered in I-don't-know how long and who kept asking me if I knew where her family was, she was trying to get back to them. I remember the conversations with the hotel clerk who told me about the Pokemon Go gathering on Mt.Tabor and asked if I wanted to go. The smiles the check out lady and I exchanged at Powells when a book passed between our hands that we were both excited about. The phone calls home and the I-miss-yous and be-home-soon and I-love-you. The encouragement from the lady at the tattoo shop who was torturing my ribs, how she kept saying I could do it and it's looking great and just a little bit longer and you’re doing great and I'm sorry for hurting you. The sunsets on the beach and meeting my mom at Haystack Rock and grabbing a dinner we knew wasn't good for us. I remember the rafting in Washington with my father and the twelve foot waterfall and the guide that looked like Thor who said we may not make it and afterward said great job guys that was my first time. I remember my Uber drivers, the one who had lived in Oregon his whole life and the one who took us to the grocery store and waited on us and who produced music for The Fray.
But this too reminds me of home, not the comforts, but the people. I think of the man who mentored me and gave me the book Tuesdays with Morrie and how he was my Morrie and how God was with him then and is now with me when I go to his funeral and read over our emails. I remember the man from Sudan who worked in the dollar store that's now closed in the Plaza. He was one of the lost boys and wanted to go home to see his family. I hope he made it. I remember crying with my brother on the couch, because of pain, of joy, of life and a love so big. I remember strangers that were made family because of shared experience, acquaintances that are friends because of breaking bread together, AA meetings and NA meetings and Celebrate Recovery and friends that will be forever whether or not they are here or there.
I don't plan on being here, in Oklahoma, forever. For now, I am*, but I know that regardless of where I am, there is always movement and always people more than willing to share their own stories and expand my perspective.