A lover an age and a day ago gave me a silver pendant with Celtic runes and a tree of life carved into. I loved it instantly. The runes translated to: So above, So below, So within, So without. As is the truth of any material item I shall ever care about, I naturally misplaced or lost the pendant, and as is also true of the workings of the universe and my nature, I found the artist of said piece on St. Patrick’s Day some years later. Some things are meant to be remembered.
I’ve enjoyed the statement because it can be taken in so many turns. For the sky and the earth, for my heart and for my flesh. Or, as is my spirit is in the heavens so is my heart, and as my body is on earth, so I am connected to that earth. There are just a ton of ways to interpret that statement.
I’ve always been deeply interested in decompression, or be, culture shock, or reintegration – that act of returning from a journey. I’ve done so many times, and I have gone through numerous rigamaroles (please excuse my verbose language, I’m reading a silly children’s book called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Design – ape-pre-po, no?)
There tends to be two roles a person simultaneously goes through, that of an interior thought process, and that of a physical adjustment. Physical can include jet lag, dietary changes, sleep schedule, weather changes, currency, language, cultural habits (like bathrooms), social habits. The physical stuff is usually a little bit like tripping… like you’ve been walking on hardwood for months, and suddenly you’re on shag carpet, and your feet aren’t quite sure how to work. You tend to be just bumbling enough as to be annoying to the locals. Realistically, the problem of course, is that you are on a different time wave than the locals. Like your internal clock is functioning at an altogether different speed than the world around you. That is, physically, probably true. Mountain time is a lot slower than city time. If home is a city and you’ve been on a mountain you’re likely to move slower than city folk. This causes city folk a lot of grief. It’s annoying when a tourist is moving too slowly, but understandable. But you, a home body, from the city, moving at tourist time? Well that’s just down right insulting.
And it is insulting, It simultaneously says exactly how much the city construct, and the problems therein, arent relative to you anymore, which is basically rubbing a form of freedom in someone else’s face. It also expresses a fundamental change in the self, something more troublesome, because it’s harder to put a finger on.
Lets talk about time. Time is a very good example of the interior role. Time is a social construct. It is entirely relative. For three weeks I get phone calls from my friends saying how much they miss me. Then I get home, see them, and we all agree it’s as though it’s only been a day, instead of a month. Why is that? What is that? Time. See, we note time by the comings and goings of things. If we wish we could share something with someone we note time because we aren’t accomplishing our desires. If we can share that something, then time is irrelevant because we are distracted in the action of accomplishing our desires.
The interior role notices time. The interior role also contemplates the relativity of such things. The interior role, or reintegration, notices the differences in surroundings, in attitudes, in life paces. It notices the things outside itself, others stresses and worries, others successes. It doesn’t necessarily notice itself as having changed, except when compared to the standard to which it was accustomed.
It’s like this: When you are living your home life, with your job, and your house, and your partner, etc., you have a schedule. The seriousness of issues is relative to that schedule. When you are living the travel life, those things don’t exist, or they exist in motion. My concerns are completely different than my communities. They consider how to pay rent, how to interact with co-workers, and accomplish their goals. I consider where to crash tonight, how to get to my next location, and what steps I need to take on my personal business. Realistically, I have less on my plate, because I’m traveling. Or rather, what I have on a plate is relative only to me. What they carry on their plates relates to many many other people. They are integrated, I am removed.
Except, I’m not… not this time anyway. As mentioned, I’ve contemplated this process many times. Often I’ve reentered my community and smashed about like a bull in a china shop, because I didn’t understand what I was doing, or feeling, or these differences. Or rather, I thought they were differences, and I didn’t feel supported. In my travel I actually felt alienated. Like, here’s my family, all going about their biz, and they hardly missed me, and my adventure doesn’t matter, probably cause I turned away from them to adventure, even though I needed it, and they told me too, and now I’m back and no one cares, and whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
That’s youthe for you right there. Wanting so badly to share, and not understanding ones value. It’s of no value to anyone to brag about accomplishments. It’s of no value to anyone to try and make them change their priorities to your own. Sure, perhaps you had your mind blown in travel, the biggest epiphany in the universe that will change the world. It’s not that no one cares, it’s that it was given to you, personally. It’s up to you to take that insight and re-frame it to be as helpful to others as it was to you. That means understanding what it was telling you, and figuring out how to change your overall person to represent that insight. People around you will see it if you live it. Preaching is annoying. Grasping even more so. I don’t care that you had an epiphany, if all you want to do is shove it down my throat. That’s most people, when they come back from travel.
We are One People, and there is also only one life. When you set off to travel you don’t cease to be who you were in others eyes. Certainly, to yourself, you may shed your skin, your memories and ideals, your name; but others see you as they choose. Unless you come back so different, that it forces them to meet the new you, most will choose to see you as you were. You have to take the time to introduce the new you, to show them that you are more than the person than you were. I don’t cease to be who I was, those experiences and memories live with in me, but I am more than that person now. I have more experiences, more memories, and these ones are different, have shaped me differently, and I have to be kind in understanding that you, my old friend, may not be ready to see the new me. In fact, it may be heart breaking for you to see the new me. You may miss the old me, even though this new me is better, because the old me is the one you fell for in the first place.
This is the interior role, the understanding and compassion, not just of peoples internal clocks, but of their capacity to cope and deal with change. Knowing who you are, on the inside, that is the greatest gift of travel. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher. Travel will show you exactly who you truly are. That said, you also have to know who you are on the outside, without, the jigsaw puzzle you represent is others eyes. You have to be patient, and calm, and slow. You also have to recognize the differences between those who want and will change with you, and those who wont. I have plenty of friends I see briefly because they only want to know the person I was. When I see them I am that person to them. Occasionally I’ll let slip some of the modern me, I can’t really help it, and their faces are always amazing to behold, as their mind gets a little bit blown. But really, that’s all they want, a taste of the old, and its an easy gift to give them. I was already that person, I remember them, and it’s a mask, or a hat, to put on for awhile. That role doesn’t change my insides, or who I’ve actually become. There are others I see often because they love the change, they move in the current. They want always to live vicariously through my adventures. My experiences and changes help them grow and perceive more about their world, and their surroundings. Those are the people living their best home lives, doing good work, who can’t escape as much as they would like, but are dedicated to their cause. I support those people the most, for they are their true and present authentic selves. And then I have the nomad friends, like myself, the travelers who are always in the jet stream, and who I connect and communicate with from the internal role, the present insides. These people understand how timey whimey time really is. They understand what matters, and what doesn’t. They take the time to consider, and perceive, and give aid, and try to affect the best change or help they can, given their internal natures. If interactions were a machine, then the first type of people would be the blocks, the unmoving pieces that hold the gears. The second type would be the gears. The third type would be the oil, or gas, making the whole thing move. You need all three for a machine to function.
An old friend once told me, everyone in this world has a job and purpose. He didn’t mean having to do with commerce. He meant internally, born with, at their core. For example, my job is to love, and my purpose is to experience. Those are mighty things, as both come with great joy, and great sorrow. His purpose was to witness, and his job was guide through penance. Complicated fellow, that. It can take some time to figure these things out, if one ever does.
Recently, though, I’ve been contemplating a different version of this question. Its been phrased many ways: your passion, your authentic self, your fit. My dad once told me that he would be proud of me if I wanted to be a garbage woman, if being a garbage woman is what made me happy. I thought that ridiculous, until I met people who actually love and enjoy rooting through garbage, and finding things, and recycling. I know now many people that would rather root through garbage, clean up a mess, than anything else. It brings them joy. It’s turning chaos, and refuse, and forgotten things into order, and worth, and refashioning. It’s inspiring to me that there are people in this world that find one simple ‘job,’ and it fulfills them completely. Not to say this job is simple, but it is straightforward. I have fabricator friends, tinkering friends, lawyer friends, doctor friends. They love their work. It brings them joy, purpose. They fight for the work, they participate, and engage in it. They are their authentic selves when they are at it.
My purpose is to experience, and my job is to love. For a very long time I’ve felt confused and less-than, because I haven’t been able to find that ‘fit’. I’ve tried a million jobs, put my hands and thoughts to many things, and plenty of them I am good at, but I don’t feel joy. I don’t feel purpose. Writing is the closest thing I’ve gotten too, and writing is really only because it allows me a clear format to express my thoughts, and my thoughts are completely relative to my purpose and my job. Strangely, that is my ‘fit’. Experience and love are my job, my passion, my authentic self. Except our world doesn’t monetize those things, doesn’t put a value of success on those things. To the world, I look like a traveling shiftless waif, avoiding responsibilities. Except that’s not the case. I’m an Indigo child. I’m a dreamer. I spend aggressive hours of every day writing plans and formats, putting down my ideas, and collaborating with others regarding any number of subjects. Just because my successes are not structured in the ‘classical’ sense doesn’t mean they doesn’t exist.
My favorite thing to do in travel, in life, is to be a sounding board with others. I love to hear their ideas, their dreams, their struggles, and I love to ask specific questions, to deliver unique perspectives, and to help lift them up, and inspire them, and believe in them, so they feel strong enough to go out and do what needs getting done. That, above all else, is my fit. That’s how I help change the world.
The most regular thing I hear from people, really of all ages, is that they’ve figured out what they don’t want to do. They know who they don’t want to be. That said, they don’t know what they want to be, or what they want to do. They barely know who they are. I understand this. I’ve been doing this for a long long time. It’s interesting to be in this space now, where this isn’t my problem any longer. I know who I am, what I want to be, and what I want to do. Explaining how I got here is a trick, and a time, and a half. Frankly, even if I explained, it probably wouldn’t work for you. We all have to find our own ways.
That said, the funniest thing I find when people say this shit, about not knowing what they want to do, is that almost immediately thereafter we chat for about 30 minutes, and they accidentally let slip the answer to all those questions. See, the jimmy is that, about the time you realize you don’t know the answer to these questions, is about the time that you actually do, and you’re just terribly afraid and in doubt, because knowing means acting, and you are afraid to fail. That’s real, and that’s fair. So long as you ‘don’t know’ then nothing can be done to change it. No trying. No failing. Also, no succeeding. It’s hard. Should I happen to point out those answers you just told me, the really astute will respond with: I’m not ready.
Ahha! Great! I’m not ready is great! It’s, great because it inherently expresses that one day you will be. See, as soon as you start thinking about these things you subconsciously start pushing yourself in the direction of these things. As soon you start questioning, and doubting, it means that you’re starting to work towards these things. Sure, they may remain blind to you for a long time. I can tell you what you just said, about who you are, who you want to be, what you want to do. You probably wont hear it though, even if I write it down. Your psyche cant really handle it, yet. That’s okay. Processing is real. It’s hard to give to others if you’re trying to process through your own shit. Still, once you start questioning, start thinking, the inner workings of your mind and heart start moving, and start processing barriers ,and start making pathways towards finding space to house the answers to those questions. It’s quite a nice thing really.
So Above, So Below. So Within, So Without.
So much of life is about your perspective. How you choose to view a thing. Change your perspective, and the world will change around you, and you around it.