A Walk Across America: Rest & Introspection (Off-Trail)

The only thing worse than the idea, that everything is going to change, is the alternative, that nothing ever will; for everything to stay just as it is. If the person you are now, is all you’ll ever be, would you be satisfied?

Hiatus

What is there to say about being back home? You can run all you want, but you can’t escape it. And apparently, if you just walk, you get hung up with a sprain and dragged back. So here we are, once again at the start. The dust from the road washed off easily enough. But that nagging feeling in the back of my mind was left unresolved. Without my pack, and with no miles to walk, the pain seemed to reset. The first few days back it barely registered, and I thought it might actually be a quick recovery. But the pain steadily increased over time, right back to the point where it had hobbled me to Philly. There wasn’t really much to do, I’d quit my job to walk, and now I couldn’t walk. I had nothing but free time, and a doctor’s orders to kick my feet up and relax. I also had plenty of time to think, which, for me, is never a good thing. I thought about going back out on the road, as soon as my foot healed. I thought about how to continue. I thought about changing the plan; maybe I couldn’t cut it walking across the country, maybe instead I could spend some months traveling around via buses and trains (my parents much preferred that idea). I also thought about giving up entirely. If one week was all I would get out of it, maybe it’d be best to just let the idea quietly fade until it was nothing more than an amusing story, about that time I tried to walk across the country, and I only lasted a hundred miles; nobody thought I could do it, and guess what, they were all right. Every single one.

Nah. I didn’t like that idea. If nothing else, it’d just give too many people too much satisfaction. And I wasn’t keen on a bunch more I told you so’s. But those idle days stretched on longer and longer. The pain lasted through the first week, then the next, and longer still, hardly diminishing. The further I pushed back my plans, the easier it would be to just call the whole thing off. Editing the photos helped keep the fuel burning, but a week’s worth of pictures could only take so long to go through. Maybe I’d gotten lucky, that my emergency had struck while I was still close enough for a pick up. If I go back out and get even farther, what would I do if I get stranded again, and can’t call for a rescue? Besides, it’s not like I chose to quit, I got injured; no one could hold it against me for not finishing.

Well, no one but me.

New York Sunset Skyline / / From the Brooklyn Bridge

New York Sunset Skyline / / From the Brooklyn Bridge

***

It was the only thing I could do, to keep that spark from dying out, was to keep reminding myself why I left in the first place. So I guess it’s time to write those reasons down. Because, clearly I’ve been avoided that topic. What can I say, it’s personal. How often do you reveal your innermost thoughts? Maybe you should too. Maybe it’s an admission worth making, or a thought worth saying. Worst case scenario: you fake your own death, skip town, and start a new life. Or maybe that’s not the worst thing . . . . But here I am stalling again.

(Short answer: I left because I didn’t like any part of my life the way it was. You can stop reading there, and will have gotten the point of the whole article. But apparently that’s too short for a “proper blog entry;” so if you really want to, read on, for the long answer.)

I left, because I caught a glimpse of the future; and I don’t mean some post-apocalyptic nightmare, there were no zombies in this one, nothing so exciting. I saw my own future, plain as looking in a mirror, and not far off either, but maybe just a few years down the line. A life, where no risks were ever taken, with no stories worth telling, and I was perfectly content to waste my time behind one screen or another. It was pretty glamorous, I’ll be honest. But it wasn’t actually the future I was looking at, just a cold hard look at where I was currently standing, and following the natural progression of a slow and silent self-destruction. It wasn’t a bottle or a pill that would do me in, but the simpler poison of an apathetic mind. I had no drive, no motivation, and it’d been that way for a while. I was stuck waiting for “life” to start, as if it were something that just happens. As if it ever could happen, without putting in some effort.

Window & Chain / / Taken during a cold day at work, in 2016

Window & Chain / / Taken during a cold day at work, in 2016

To start off the list of my favorite things, here’s about my nine-to-five. That barely-more-than-minimum-wage-miserable-ass job. Alright, it wasn’t that bad, I just like saying that sentence really fast. I worked at a small locksmith shop in Brooklyn, and I’d been there for over 4 years, by the time I quit. And I did like parts of the job; sitting at the bench with a stack of cylinders to master-key, and breezing through them five minutes at a time; it was oddly relaxing, the tedium of working hands, until I’d be interrupted and had to do something else. Then there were times I was able to actually help people out of a jam, and they just have that look on their face, of utter disbelief and gratitude, and I’d have that look on my face like, ‘wow I can’t believe that worked.’ Those moments were few and far between, More often I was basically locked inside the shop, bored out of my mind. Sometimes the phone would ring, sometimes a customer would come in, sometimes that customer was an idiot. All very typical stuff. And aside from the usual pleasantries, there weren’t any conversations with the guys I worked with. No one I could joke with either. And without humor to distract you from how miserable you are, you’re forced to actually realize how miserable you are, it’s a terrible thing. For a long time, because of that, I thought I didn’t like people; turns out I like most people fine, it’s just the interactions I was having, were making me bitter. An extra wrinkle in the plot, my boss was an old family friend, so those professional boundaries had a tendency of slipping. Now I don’t mind being asked to do the occasional favor, but I do mind when I never even get asked, and wind up there anyway. One time in particular, I wound up carrying two 150 pound radiators out of one of their apartments, which kept me an hour late. The only reason I didn’t leave, was because the other guy would have gone for it regardless, and he’d have died on those stairs. But like I said, for all my complaints, it wasn’t a terrible job, and they’re good people. I just didn’t belong there. Plus the pay was terrible. If you think you’ll ever afford to move on your own at $10 an hour, you clearly don’t live in New York. Also, I had to work Saturdays. Which is just . . . gross.

Behind the Counter / / At the locksmith shop, 2016 / / The morning light through that window, was one of my favorite things about that place. Until the shop moved to a new location.

Behind the Counter / / At the locksmith shop, 2016 / / The morning light through that window, was one of my favorite things about that place. Until the shop moved to a new location.

My sister, my dad, my brother, my mom, & me in the super-cool blue / / From 1992 or ‘93 I guess / / My brother has been making that face ever since I was born . . .

My sister, my dad, my brother, my mom, & me in the super-cool blue / / From 1992 or ‘93 I guess / / My brother has been making that face ever since I was born . . .

Behind the scenes, there wasn’t any particular drama at home that I was running away from, it was just crowded. My parents, my brother and sister, a dog and an increasing amount of cats; I wanted my own space. Needed it, more like. I didn’t have a door. Or a wall, for that matter. My room was just the open space between everyone else’s rooms. And that, more than anything else, is the perfect justification for a cross-country hike, by the way. I finally got my own room after all, it’s just made of nylon, and the door closes with a zipper. Besides, if you met my family, you’d know I never stood a chance for sanity. My mom is a highly neurotic people-pleaser, with the blood-pressure to prove it. Dad’s, a compulsive hoarder, who could complain about anything, and always had a spare ticket to bring you on a guilt trip. My brother is a screen addict, who’s taken up permanent residence in his own comfort zone. My sister, might be the most well-adjusted, but she gets all self-righteous sometimes, and she’ll dig in with her first impressions. Now, I know that I’m just distilling complex human beings down to simple unflattering remarks, and no one likes that. So it’s only fair I do myself: unmotivated (I could spend a day doing nothing, if I got nothing to do), utter slacker, ineffectual loner, paralyzed by indecision (hell, I can’t pick a candy bar, without second guessing myself three times), and I laugh at my own jokes (although, to be fair, I am hilarious, and I don’t care what anyone else says. Unless they agree).

Bro, Sis, Mom, Dad, and the star of our intrepid adventure: me. / / 30th anniversary party for my parents in 2016 / / One of the last pictures of the 5 of us, before I left

Bro, Sis, Mom, Dad, and the star of our intrepid adventure: me. / / 30th anniversary party for my parents in 2016 / / One of the last pictures of the 5 of us, before I left

I’d always been separated, I think; isolated from other people. That’s more because of the way I was raised, in a deeply religious household, and I think for a while I was resentful of it. I have a hard time dropping my guard, and sharing my thoughts. I don’t have any strong attachments to New York. Our family has always kept to our own devices, even under the same roof. I’ve never had a particularly long list of friends either, and even the best of them, I rarely see, and I’m terrible at keeping in touch. I can hold a conversation well enough, but I’ll never be the life of a party, and I wouldn’t ever want to be. So when the question came up a few times, “aren’t you worried about getting lonely, out there, on the road, by yourself?” I would always laugh at that; because out of everything I would face on the road, loneliness, was the one thing I was completely at ease with. It actually worries me, when someone says they’re “afraid to be alone with their thoughts;” clearly there’s some lie you’re telling yourself, and you’re afraid to confront it. Maybe I’m broken, but I’m a solitary soul, and I know it well. Ironically, I wandered into the wilderness alone, to connect with people. It seems backwards intuitive, but funnily enough, it actually worked.

And The World Moves On / / Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

And The World Moves On / / Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

It’s hard to change who you are, when everyone around you sees you a certain way.  My entire life was a regressive environment. I needed a new setting, and new people to meet, to make some new impressions. And I didn’t realize at the time, but apparently I also needed a new name, something to live up to. The key to it all, was that realization, that nothing was going to change; not my circumstances, not my personal situation, unless I went out and changed them. If I couldn’t muster the courage to that, when I did, I would never have been able to at any other point. We push off important decisions, pretending that they’ll be easier in the future. That’s the trap of weakness. The very best thing I could do, was walk away.

***

Shadow of NYC / / Composite; photo taken from the Brooklyn Promenade

Shadow of NYC / / Composite; photo taken from the Brooklyn Promenade

March was nearly over, now. A whole month laid up, with nothing but YouTube and video games. My foot still wasn’t fully recovered, but it was much better than it had been. A tinge of pain was all that remained. Would it get worse if I try? Would it betray me again, and send me right back here? I had no way of knowing. But it was March 30th, and I was done waiting. I bought a bus ticket for April 3rd, just four days away. My recovery was now on a deadline. I was heading back to Philly, and I was going to continue my walk. It was real again.

To be continued . . . .

If it’s doomed to fail, might as well make it spectacular.