What It’s Like to Be Home

Today I woke up in a bed that I will sleep in again tonight. I did not have to unpack my life from a tattered backpack. I don’t need to set up a tent, or wait for it to dry, or pack up a dirty, soggy glob of material back into the bottom of my bag. I will not have to meticulously repack any of my things in the morning. I just place them, here or there, where they go. And when my clothes are dirty, I may change them. And when those are also dirty, I may wash them.

When I want to pee or shit or brush my teeth, I go to the room at the end of the hall. I don’t have to ask anyone if it’s okay that I go in there. If I want to, I can even take a shower in there. The shower has a shower curtain and there is soap. The toilet has a seat and there is toilet paper. I can even use the soap at the sink after I use the toilet. And I don’t have to double check with someone about the soap or the toothpaste or a towel. No one is banging on the door wondering when I’ll get out. No one is telling me, “Sorry, but company policy is customers only.”

In the kitchen there is a refrigerator. Sometimes I have more food than I can eat all at once, so I put it in the refrigerator and I can eat it later. There aren’t any bugs on it. It doesn’t spill onto my clothing. Because my clothing is not in the refrigerator. Clothing now lives in a different space than food. And the food doesn’t go sour in the hot sun.

It’s hot here in Georgia. Not unlike the summers we’ve spent the past couple years chasing around. There is a fan, right there on the ceiling, and I can turn that fan on by simply flicking a switch or pulling a string. It comes with a light. And they’re all attached right up there to the roof which doesn’t leak at all so when it rains I’m dry.

When I’m thirsty I can go to the sink and get water. I don’t have to boil it or pour iodine in it or wait for a pill to dissolve in it or swish a UV light around for 10 minutes inside of it. I don’t have to go somewhere and buy it in a big plastic jug. I don’t have to beg anyone to spare some from their jugs. I can just walk right over to the faucet and turn it on and out comes this wet stuff that I can drink. And then I’m not thirsty. I can do that whenever I want. I don’t even have to be in this house with the fans and the toilet seats and the refrigerator. I can go to other houses and they all have this same quality water in their faucets too.

If I want to use the internet I can. And if my computer needs to be plugged in, there is a plug. These things work all hours of the day and are pretty much always there. I don’t have to ask anyone for the password.

If I want to see someone I know, I can do that, pretty easily, within a matter of minutes. And if I don’t want to see anyone, if I just want to read or wallow around for half a day severely and inexplicably depressed, punching myself in the thighs as hard as I can, hoping that it may help me feel something, then I can do all that too, behind a door and walls that shield me from view and give me space to not be watched. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to sit where I am and read, nor to wallow around, punching my legs and wondering if they will bruise and then marveling at how much my legs can ache without showing any visible evidence. I can do all these things. Or not. Either way, it’s cool.

Suddenly there’s this vacuum to try and fill in. Its magnitude is immense. The abyssal freedom before me overwhelms. Where once there was a full day ahead of handling the basics, where to eat or excrete, how to get there, where to sleep… suddenly all of that is just handled. Peeing takes no more time and effort than the time and effort it takes me to pee. There is all this time and there are all these possibilities.

Depression hangs like a cloud here as it did all over everywhere I went. It does not go away, but sometimes the darkness lightens. Today has been a fascinating mix of the darkness and the lightness. Today is not unlike many days of the trip. Life rolls on much as it did for me and for others while I was on the road. And with all that, there is too the awareness of just how smoothly everything continues without me, without any of us. The inertia of life itself supercedes our own.

So we must make our own momentum, carve out our own spaces. I’m trying to do that in a meaningful way, but still wandering the funhouse of aliveness, bumping into walls, trundling through confusion and hopelessness, determination and optimism.

What do I do with all this time? What is meaningful? Years of living out questions yields ever more questions. In the hundreds of days spent wandering and watching and listening there was also a lot of time to think and reflect. All the idealism such time yields fits well in the cracks of society, fluttering in the winds of transience. Now suddenly things are measured again. There are schedules. People have bills and rent, landlords. And I no longer float in and out of their lives. The struggle of a long string of goodbyes is converting itself back into the cyclical struggle of familiar hellos. This town, full of lords exerting their will to which we are beholden, is not unlike the others through which I’ve passed, and it is not so unlike itself before I returned.

So for now I have a place where I’m allowed to be. I don’t have to ask permission. No one is telling me what to do. Survival is not a quest in the same sense as before. Maslow’s bottom tier: check. My pieces fracture at times, but I’m holding it together, about as well as any of us it seems.

So now what?

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What’s It Like to Be Home?!

-Oh hey! So good to see you! What’s it like to be back?

-Well, kinda weird, really. It’s more-

-How was the trip?!

-Oh man, how do I sum up two years of my life? It was a real mix of good and bad. Some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming experiences of my life. I’m really happy I did it. But I’m glad to be in one place again. I’m definitely going to enjoy just being in one place for a while. It’s like-

-What’s your favorite place you went to?!?!

-You know, I hate picking favorites. But people ask this a lot and I usually say Uruguay. It’s gorgeous there, warm year round. The people are-

-Wow! I’ve never been to Uruguay. Where is that again?

-It’s on the Atlantic coast between Argentina and Brazil.

-Brazil! Cool! World Cup!!! I bet it’s really something, going all over the world and then being back here. You know, I went on this trip to Europe last year. It was amazing! I got to see the Eiffel Tower and everything. People are really rude sometimes. I think they hate Americans, haha. But I found most people to be nice actually. And the food! Oh, the food. I bet the food in – wait, what was it again?

-Uruguay.

-Yeah, Uruguay. I bet the food there is awesome, huh? So spicy!

-Um, yeah, kinda. You know it’s funny, they don’t really like spicy stuff there. In parts of Latin America, especially México or Perú, everything is spicy. But further south they really don’t-

-Oh man, I love spicy food!!! This one time, for my friend’s bachelor party, we drove down to Tijuana from Vegas. The fish tacos were so good… so spicy! And at first I thought my stomach was acting up because of all those jalapeños. But you know what they say? Don’t drink the water. Haha. We got so sick. But I dunno, we drank a lot too. Tequila, man. And you know what else they say… What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Ha-HA! I guess that saying just goes for that whole area, you know? I mean, you know.

-…

-So where to next???!

-Nowhere. I’ll be here a while.

Home!!!

IN ENGLISH:

I got into Athens last Sunday, 10 days ago, my last ride conveniently dropping me off at the Pilgrims’ Pride plant right around the corner from Laura’s trapeze studio, my transportation made possible by the evident need to move chicken carcasses from north Georgia to West Virginia. So now I’m living in a place with a bed and people I know and a cold, magical box full of healthy foods. I’m done traveling, after more than two years, sixteen countries, and ten billion conversations with strangers. What did it feel like to get back, to hug Laura, to start rushedly gushing praises of Uruguay, condemnations of Peru, and interrogatives about how we’re going to fix the world? Incredible, actually. I feel like I just finished a PhD in travel, or human studies, or intentional discomfort, or… A chapter of life closed, another one beginning, full of massive potential. Well, a chapter or PhD not totally closed, I guess, because Jesse and I want to write a book, which I guess makes us more like ABD. Oh, and he and Jess are still in South America, volunteering on a farm in Argentina last I heard. They’ll be flying out of Lima March 6th.

I flew from Lima to Fort Lauderdale on the 6th and hitched up to here, spending a comfy night in Port St John, Florida and the coldest one of the entire trip outside of Swainsboro, Georgia. Now I’m here, with my material needs met, and a shocking number of options for how to spend the next hours, months, and decades. So far I talked a lot about the path for transforming the US and the world, first to the maddeningly obvious unfinished work of social democracy and then onto the more difficult to visualize move to a socialist or anarchist society that actually functions and achieves the dream of a society that actually works to realize its fullest potential, for individuals and collectively. And I’ve spent a whole lot of hours reading about important things, Syriza/Greece’s battle for a new direction for austerity-engulfed Europe, the anti-capitalist, anti-state, feminist revolution in Syrian Kurdistan, and more detail on the rise of the Frente Amplio to power in Uruguay.

Anyway, I’m going to be trying to write a lot here as I work my way into writing the book. I want to put into words some of the incredible experiences from the last 5 months of the trip, and work through more of the ideas that will hopefully make our book a useful contribution to the project of bettering the human condition. Wow, so much hope! Let’s end with a paragraph that’s not about me.

Just a few hours after I got back, I got to go see Laura’s trapeze show at the non-profit studio where she both studies and works. Performance after performance at the show displayed some pretty amazingly artistic and athletic creatively choreographed routines. The performers ranged from teenagers to older women, and they performed in groups or individually, each piece the length of a song or two carefully selected to reflect their piece’s take on the show’s theme of duality. They were so good! I was particularly struck by a piece about imagination done by two older women. What hit me the hardest was that they got to be stars of something awesome and beautiful, have everyone’s attention and appreciation aimed directly at them while they did something of their own creation. I realized that that’s what we’re looking for. To be blunt, that’s…the revolution. I had just come back from Peru, a country that’s depressing for a whole bunch of reasons, but among them is that most people (at least on the coast, which is the only part I visited) just seem beat down by the difficulty of life. Women are particularly oppressed and objectified, surrounded by billboards and marketing showing them impossible, almost always white, images of female “beauty” and “must-have” products that they can’t afford. They’re kept out of good jobs by old boys networks and out of conversations and decision-making by patriarchal families. It’s not all bad, obviously, but it shows that we’ve got a long fucking way to go. And so too in the United States are we far from the society of equality and opportunity for self-actualization that we long for. But not so in Canopy Studios. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s why we’re socialists, honestly. Yeah, we want to make sure everyone has food and a decent place to live and all that. But what’s the point? Material well-being. Free time. Good education. These things are steps. They are the base components that make it possible to craft your own life, to craft your own routine on trapeze, fabrics, or some odd hanging cube-thing. I’m not even a dancer of any kind, but the possibility of escaping from the drudgery of toiling labor and the repression of common sense in a capitalist society – that’s what drives me to work for building a better world, one that places the growth of people over the growth of the GDP.

So, here’s to a future in which we all get to actualize ourselves in whatever way we want, to live beyond what is strictly necessary and do things that enhance our humanity and evince our existence.

All in everything together,

Adam
from home

EN ESPAÑOL:

Llegué en Athens el domingo pasado, hace 10 días, el último aventón dejándome convientemente en la fábrica de Pilgrims Pride, justo doblando la esquina del estudio de trapecio de Laura, mi transporte posibilitado por la necesidad evidente de desplazar unas carcasas de pollo del norte de Georgia a West Virginia. Así que ahora estoy viviendo en un lugar con una cama y gente que conozco y una caja mágica y fría llena de comidas saludables. Ya no viajo, después de más de dos años, dieciséis países y mil millones de conversaciones con desconocidos. ¿Cómo me sentí al llegar, abrazar a Laura, empezar a elogiar con entusiasmo a Uruguay, condenar con tristeza a Perú y interrogar sobre cómo vamos a arreglar el mundo? Increíble, de verdad. Me siento como que acabo de terminar un PhD en viajar, o estudios humanos, o incomodidad intencional, o… Un capítulo de la vida cerrado, otro empezando, lleno de posibilidades emocionantes. Bueno, un capítulo o PhD no cerrado del todo, supongo, porque Jesse y yo queremos escribir un libro, lo que nos deja más como ABD (falta la tesis para el PhD). Oh, y él y Jess todavía están en Sudamérica, trabajando gratis en una granja en Argentina, yo creo. Tienen su vuelo de Lima el 6 de marzo.

Yo volé de Lima a Fort Lauderdale, Florida el 6 de este mes y llegué aquí a dedo, pasando una noche cómoda en Port St John, Florida y la más fría de todo el viaje cerca de Swainsboro, Georgia. Ahora estoy aquí, con todo lo que necesito y un número impactante de opciones para cómo pasar los próximas horas, meses y décadas. Hasta ahora he conversado mucho sobre el camino para transformar los EEUU y el mundo, primero al trabajo exasperantemente incumplido de la socialdemocracia y entonces a la transición mucho más difícil de visualizar a una sociedad socialista o anarquista que funcione de verdad y realice el sueño de una sociedad que trabaje para realizar su potencial máximo, individual y colectivamente. Y he pasado muuuuuchas horas leyendo sobre cosas importantes, la batalla de Syriza y Grecia para una nueva dirección para una Europa ahogando en la austeridad, la revolución anticapitalist, anarquista y feminista en el Kurdistán Sirio y más detalle sobre el ascenso al poder del Frente Amplio en Uruguay.

De todas maneras, voy a intentar escribir mucho aquí mientras empiece a escribir el libro. Quiero poner en palabras algunas de las experiencias increíbles de los últimos cinco meses y dar forma a las ideas que con mucha suerte hagan que nuestro libro sea un aporte útil al proyecto de mejorar la condición humana. ¡Uau, tanta esperanza! Terminemos con un párrafo que no sea acerca de mí.

Solo unas horas después de mi llegada en Athens, tuve la oportunidad de asistir el show de trapecio en el estudio sin fines de lucro donde Laura estudia y enseña. Actuación tras actuación del show demostraron rutinas impresionantes, atléticas y artísticas, con coreografía re creativa. Los bailarines incluyeron tanto jóvenes como mujeres mayores y actuaron en grupos o como individuos, cada pieza con la duración de una o dos canciones cuidadosamente seleccionadas para reflejar la interpretación de su pieza sobre el tema de la dualidad. ¡Fueron excelentes! Me impactó especialmente una pieza sobre la imaginación realizada por dos mujeres mayores. Ellas, como todos en el show, puedieron ser las estrellas de algo genial y bonito – tener la atención y la admiración de todos enfocadas directamente en ellas mientras hacían algo de su propia creación. Me di cuenta de que es eso lo que buscamos. Para ser directo, eso es…la revolución. Acababa de regresar de Perú, un país en que la mayoría de la gente (por lo menos en la costa, la única parte que visité) simplemente parece golpeada por la dificultad de la vida. Las mujeres, en particular, son oprimidas y objetificadas, rodeadas de publicidad que les muestra imagenes imposibles y racistas de “belleza” feminina y les vende productos “indispensables” que no pueden alcanzar. Una cultura machista y patriarcal les limita las oportunidades laborales y la participación en las conversaciones y la toma de decisiones. No todo en la sociedad está mal, obviamente, pero es evidente que tenemos un camino muy largo para andar. Y también en Estados Unidos estamos lejos de la sociedad de igualdad y oportunidad para la autorealización que anhelamos. Pero no es así en Canopy Studios. Es para eso que luchamos. Es por eso que somos socialista, honestamente. Sí, queremos asegurar que todos tengan comida y un lugar digno para vivir. Pero, ¿qué es el punto? El bienestar material. El tiempo libre. Una educación buena. Esas cosas son peldaños. Son los componentes básicos que hacen posible diseñar tu propia vida, crear tu propia rutina en trapecio, telas o ese cubo extraño que se cuelga del techo. Ni siquiera soy bailarín de ningún tipo, pero la posibilidad de escaparnos del trabajo arduo y fastidioso y la represión del sentido común en una sociedad capitalista – eso es lo que me empuja a trabajar para construir un mundo mejor, uno que priorice el crecimiento del ser humano por encima del crecimiento del PIB.

Brindemos por un futuro en que todos nos podamos realizar de cualquier manera que queramos, poder vivir más allá de lo estrictamente necesario y hacer cosas que fortalecen nuesta humanidad y dan evidencia de nuestra existencia.

Todos juntos en todo,

Adam
en casa