21 January 2008

Flick on a switch

I ran into a former coworker on the street the other day-- she was one of the nice ones-- and after all of the obligatory catching up, she mentioned that I seemed to have gotten back to myself. I was the person she knew and loved, finally after six months of so-called disaster. I started thinking after I heard that...is happiness that fine of a line? A couple minor adjustments, and a switch flicks from one end of the spectrum to another, from miserable to happy?Granted, I wouldn't say I'm ecstatic yet or even that I've fully found myself. But I do know that I don't wake up every morning highly conscious of the fact that I lost myself. I remember that I felt the most myself when I was in Europe...I was spontaneous. I traveled alone and hiked the moors. I stood by myself in San Pietro, surrounded by thousands of people speaking a language I could not even grasp. I threw my coins in the Trevi fountain, the quarters that Jenny had given me specifically for that purpose (I had written a poem about it freshman year). I kissed a lot of frogs-- which is not a "me" characteristic at all-- but the point is that I wasn't afraid of living. I made a mysterious connection across a bookstore, one that was ruined as soon as we talked and entered into reality. I climbed cliffs and snuggled on precipices. I lived on a diet of creamy tomato soup, scones, and tea, and I didn't gain any weight because I was so blissfully happy. I felt like I was surrounded by spectres of literary icons, peeking out from behind spires and lamp-posts, like a happier version of Jude the Obscure. Now I still can't shake the feeling that ghosts of memories, experiences from last year, lurk around every corner and pop out like a Jack-in-the-Box just when I think I'm finally myself again. I pass a street corner or restaurant and BOOM! it's like the wind has been knocked out of me. Maybe moving is the solution. But maybe that's running away.
I can't say I'm completely happy in the moment I'm in, where I am, who I am. I have only been able to say that twice in my lifetime. I'm the type of girl who always wants more. I think that's why I always related to Belle from Beauty and the Beast-- she is not satisfied with her lot. And maybe that's why I have such a hankering to travel, to Norway and Ireland, Brazil and Romania, Switzerland and the south of France.
I read this article, "GPS for my Lost Identity" by Laura Dave, yesterday in the New York Times. It was in the Modern Love column, and I think that it perfectly expresses the feeling of losing yourself (in this case, both literally and figuratively) and the pains that it takes to find your way back again. Sometimes you just need to drive and seek something awe-inspiring. It's pretty remarkable. Or even something familiar and comforting. When I was back in St. Louis and started to feel claustrophobic, I would hop in my car and drive west, purposely taking the side streets instead of the highway. I would pass through suburbia and park in front of the polka dotted awning that distinguished Carolyn's, an old-fashioned cafe that nobody at my university knew about because it was outside of our "bubble." Somehow over the course of an afternoon with a good book, a piece of pie, and a polka-dot motif, any troubles or alienation seemed to fade into something that was, if not pleasant, at least manageable. So I guess that's why I take such pleasure in the simple things...because they take me away mentally, even if I can't afford to travel physically....

1 comment:

Chele said...

I know what you mean by loosing yourself and that feeling that your vacation or adventure is over and now your reality is back, I really enjoyed this post because I can relate to the feeling you lost the happy perosn you were. All we have is hope ...I think. I hope you find yourself again, my support to you..also if you ever do take that trip to Norway, I grew up there so I know the places you should go.