People I meet these days don’t really know what to make of me. Whenever I share my story with someone new, I am met with a wide range of reactions, many of which are settled under the umbrella of confusion. Sometimes there is awe. Sometimes there is jealousy. But most people settle on some version of “Have fun while it lasts!” The most common frame of reference people have is of a life tied to responsibility to others, accountability to a mortgage or a landlord, and the expectations of their culture. There is a specific order in which to do things- school, job, marriage, kids, retirement, death with vacations and a few good meals peppered in there. I am not immune to the treadmill of “one thing follows another”, but for the time being, I have stepped off and I have zero interest in getting back on. This is new for me. But I don’t have an answer for the question “What is next?” and I don’t want one.
Depending on your perspective, I am either really fortunate or unfortunate to be accountable only to myself. Most days, I feel both ways at the same time. Since my dog died, my only responsibility is to pay my car payment and cell phone bill. All other expenses are optional or the price of living a life. Professionally, I want to make art and write, but I don’t want to be an Artist or a Writer. I often use those labels for simplicity's sake, but those identities are just a portion of my day. Mostly I just want to be known as a good person. Additionally, I’m not trying to find myself. I know who I am and I’m content. What I am trying to do is occupy myself and combat restlessness. Hence the wandering.
The thing I like most about myself is that I can talk to almost anyone. I don’t subscribe to the idea that “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”, but I do feel genuine curiosity when I talk to strangers. Somewhere along the road, I learned how to be charming and trustworthy. I’m interesting but non-threatening, and if I put my mind to it, I can win over even the most anti-social introverts. My AirBnB reviews note that I am sweet and adorable. I regularly get invitations to stay with people who are virtual strangers, and I weirdly trust their intentions more easily than the people who actually know and love me. Those people know that I am sarcastic and somewhat judgmental. The strangers think I’m cute.
You meet all kinds of people on the road- The dad towing his family from Minneapolis to San Antonio who invites you to share their picnic, the book store owner who gives you a hug and calls you “Kiddo”, the Lyft driver who gives you her phone number and encourages you to move to Louisiana and teach high school. Some of these interactions turn into important friendships. I met a woman in Amsterdam 14 years ago who I know would put me up on her couch if I showed up in Canada tomorrow. But most of them are temporary and often don’t even end with us knowing each other's name.
But as I continue to simplify my life and “bum around” for lack of a better term, I’m thinking more and more about those weak connections and what it takes to trust people to host you and to be worthy of their trust in return. I have the next 6 weeks figured out, but who knows? Maybe someone I haven’t met yet will help me figure out the 6 weeks after that.