Is your job supposed to make you happy? Or is it your home-life? Or is it a combination of the both? Are we meant to be happy with everything? Or are we meant only to be happy with ourselves? Are you supposed to be happy with your room, or your house or the colours you picked out for your bathroom? Is it the street you’re on and the neighbours you’ve found yourself between? Is it your ability to flip an egg or tell when a roast is done? Is it the time you wake-up at every morning? Or the speed in which you can get out the door? Is it how far you ran yesterday? Or that you can run at all? Is it having friends? Is it knowing you like your friends? Is it having money to go out? Or knowing you don’t feel like going out? Is it having a closet of clothes? Or a machine to wash them? Is it pots and pans and things and stuff? Or is happiness found in a good deed? Or is it in making another person smile? Is it knowing you won’t see war tomorrow? Or the next day? Or is it in knowing your fridge is full of food? Is it being able to drive a car? Or walk down a street with a friend? Is it taking a plane to a far away land? Or is it the job that let’s you afford this escape? Is it being able to repeat yourself without persecution? Or is it having friends that keep you sane? Is it access to education? Is it knowing when to fight? Is it not having to fight? Is it not having to know anything about the world around you except what makes you smile? What makes you happy in this world? And how do you know it’s not a lie?
I made it. I made it five years. Do I get a badge now? A congratulatory cookie? Is there some kind of database my name goes into detailing that I survived this … darkness? I really wanted to ask what I get for making it five years, but let’s be honest. Life isn’t fair and no one gives a rat’s ass what you are coping with. What I get is what I give myself. Period.
But what does five years feel like, you ask? It feels like three actual journeys around this planet by planes and buses and trains. It feels like visiting fifteen countries. It’s ten summers in a row. It’s shedding 10 million tears. It’s laughing at 1,000 jokes. It’s having two ex-boyfriends who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It feels like five somewhat satisfying jobs. It’s countless side-jobs. It’s 1,000 excuses why I haven’t tried to live up to my own expectations. It feels like living in 15 or so homes. It’s keeping my belongings into what I can carry with me. It feels like 50 awesome warm-water scuba dives. And two whale sharks. It’s nearly 400 jumps. It’s about 20,000 miles in four crappy cars. It feels like 1,826 days. It’s watching each of my fingers become deformed from an AI disease. It’s learning to run again. It’s learning to be happy again. It’s learning to do everything for myself and not for anyone else. It’s saying good-bye to Don, Will, Adam B, Chris, Shane, Sean, Adam C, George, Steph, Steve, Max, Jordan, Alana and Uncle MIke.
Five years has felt like constant change. Five years has felt like a search beyond the scope of anything I knew. Five years has been a journey I am grateful for, but wish on no one.
I told myself I wasn’t going to write another one of these, but here I am … writing.
Shortly after Dave died a friend spoke to me. He told me that his doctor told him it would take five years. He had asked his doctor when the feeling of losing his wife would go away. When he would feel normal again. His doctor told him grief is complicated, but that time helps. Five years was the going rate.
So this deadline has been vexing my mind since that conversation. Five fucking years? And sure, I wondered if it was true for everyone. I questioned if I had superior healing capabilities. Surely after years of journal-keeping I was much more adept than the common cat at healing my heart and head. I tried to bargain with life. I’ll be 39 when that deadline is up, I explained. People will question why I’m so old and never got married. People will wonder what’s wrong with me. People will decide I’m probably damaged goods. Damn you, Dave, I thought. Who will love me now? I mean, who will love me come then? Who can love damaged goods. And can damaged goods still love?
It didn’t take me five years to come to terms with the loss I felt I endured. But it almost did. What I didn’t understand in the early stages of grieving was the guilt. Every time I tried to move forward I felt guilt. It didn’t make sense. Where was it coming from? Dave wanted me to move on. Everyone around me wanted me to move on. I wanted to move on, but I was scared. I got so used to being damaged goods that being a functional member of life without some sad excuse to fall back on when I couldn’t hack it petrified me. It wasn’t really an excuse. I know everyone has problems. Everyone has dead people. I wasn’t special in any way, shape or form. Each step forward I suppressed the guilt and went on auto-pilot. It was mindless. My heart wasn’t in it. I was faking it. I so wanted to be a healthy, well-adjusted adult that I just pretended to be one. But deep down I was harbouring a battle ground. My guilt and my grief and my love and my logic and my heart and my past and my dreams all fought to be recognised at the same time, something I used to be so good at – and then suddenly had no idea how to do.
I thought all these things inside the tornado in those early days. I felt guilt for wondering what was left for me out there only moments after everything I thought I had disappeared. It was guilt, but not because I was still here and Dave left me in a shit-pile of emotional unrest, longing, questioning and deep grief. It was because him leaving this earth had nothing to do with me, but I was making it all about me. I missed him instantly. I still miss him, but not quite in the same way.
Have I moved on? I don’t think it’s quite that basic. But I’ve accepted my new normal. And the stuff I don’t like, I continue to work on these things. I’ve decided I’m not damaged goods, for that to be true most people on this planet would fall into that category. And having some emotional unrest or complicated pain is no excuse to be an asshole. Having an inner battle ground is kind of normal it seems. And multi-tasking is just a normal state of life. Life goes on. If you let it. If you let yourself, you can too.
Ah love. Sweet dreary love. It’s beautiful and wonderful until it all turns sour and you’re splitting up the towels, figuring out time-share custody of the dog and deciding who gets the friend neither of you really liked. When relationships end they can be brutal, but not to fear, there’s a few hard and true facts about breakups that’ll make the process seem a little less maladroit, and help make that light at the end of the tunnel glimmer just a bit stronger while you waddle through the dark raincloud that is heartbreak.
Breakups are ritualistic, at least, the more you experience them and the more you compare notes, they appear that way in hindsight. Let’s clarify. The dumping itself is fairly sacrosanct. It doesn’t matter what leads up to the breakup or if it takes you by surprise or if one person is more to blame, or you find out weeks after the apparent dumping, the details are very clear and they impart a particular understanding of the reality of the situation. You’re no longer a couple.
During the discovery and acceptance of this imposed reality is when the routine-of-the-breakup is revealed, or rather is ritualistically unravelled. But in the time that follows, those weeks afterwards, that’s when a breakup seems to be comprised of a loosely followed but rather concise regimen.
In the initial stages most people begin to deal with their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. Why was I dumped? Why is no one good enough for me? How come I keep failing? Why do I keep going for such knobs? When will I learn? Am I being insecure?
These questions are usually answered by bad judgements and annoying amounts of validation-pandering behaviour. These can include, but are not limited to, greasy one-night stands with bush-league players, stalking friends to generate a visceral feeling of wolf pack belonging, performing overblown niceties for people who would normally be reprehensible, changing one’s appearance to create an edgier or more youthful look (ie. cutting bangs, dying grey hair black, getting a tattoo, wearing mini-skirts, …,) crying in front of perfect strangers for an opportunity to unload and gain new insight, and possibly using social media to post numerous self-promoting and self-deprecating statements garnering insight into one’s status quo.
(At times this stage will have mild interruptions of obsessive and compulsive behaviour to determine the status quo of the ex. This behaviour is highly unusual, though quite common and widely accepted as normal. Information of this sort often leads to a cyclic pattern of self deprecation. People can get stuck here for years.)
If one survives the initial stage, they tend to move toward the self-medicating stage. In this short-lived phase, the heart strengthens and the subject no longer needs other people to help them recognize their dignity; their over-inflated sense of self-worth returns ad nauseam.
The recovering addict will then try half-baked challenges resulting in frequent failures due to far too high standards which most over-achievers tend to place on themselves. The inflated sense of ego, however, will provide sufficient padding whence such failures occur. These tests are an important rite of the ritual of the breakup, symbolizing a flag of independence, a line in the sand, a shout from the highest mountain that they are capable of attacking life on their own, even failing on their own. It’s important to clarify not all aspirations will culminate in failure. The tests the addict sails through will usually redirect their life and create a starting point for new directions and obsessions.
Which leads to the last and sometimes final stage following a breakup – the love phase. Following weeks (and sometimes months) of cycles, status updates, failures, shopping sprees, triathlons and contradictions the heartbreak will have cleared, the ego will have rebounded and the subject may rediscover other people. (Unless they get another pet. Then it could be years.) The past, while still a fresh and touchy wound on the achy heart, is tucked under the carpet where it can lie out of sight and not frighten away new bees to the hive.
The love phase is characterized by a want and simultaneous need to connect to another person – regardless of the chances of one day having to buy new towels again. The need for this connection is humane and human. The want comes from the indestructible part of the psyche that never involves itself in human or humane affairs. But regardless of the origin, this phase signifies a recovery. A person can survive numerous recoveries through their lifetime, sometimes hundreds. Some people are so adept at recovering and progressing to the love stage that they may appear to always be in recovery and to never go through the previous stages. Of course, there are also people who clearly have barely survived the initial stages or even people who never get past the self-medicating phases.
What’s important to take away from this is if you find yourself in the love phase, congratulations, you are recovering! Soon you will find yourself looking for another person to love. Who that person is and what stage they’re in should be of utmost importance, though, this is normally not the case and it is seen as acceptable to love any odd duck so long as they say or act like they will love back. And while this behaviour tends to keep people in the cycle of the ritual, it’s not seen as self-destructive or antipathetic. But as time comes to pass, love, sweet dreary love, finds most of us.
Relationships, on the other hand, are not to be confused with love. They’re the first stage after the love phase. But that’s a whole other topic. Happy loving.
“I love the rain,” she conceded. A slight air of hope lingered on her voice as though her confession would alter time. “Actually, that’s only half true. I like the sound of rain. I hate when things are wet. I can’t stand being cold.” She held her elbows and faked a shiver. She was a poor actor. “But you know how there’s that roar? Like a rumble on the verge of thunder? I like that. It always brings up old memories from such simpler times.”
I raised an eyebrow, theoretically, as I could only consider how someone so inexperienced could make such a reference. “Simpler times?”
Pierced lips flip into clever smiles. Eyes narrow to reveal hidden erudition. Secret talents would’ve unfolded from her face like a piece of origami if only she had an original thought in her head. “Do you remember your childhood?” Her pretence mimicked insight, but I was curious about what memories she spoke.
So I nodded.
“I don’t,” she said. “I feel like I’ve always been a grown-up. Like I’ve always understood, you know?”
I didn’t believe she never remembered being a child. Not really. Everyone remembers the innocence of childhood. It was sad that she feigned such a thing. How could she even believe such a thing? I would’ve all but stopped her there if it weren’t for my similar feelings for rain. And, naturally, an innate necessity to watch helplessly and hopefully as a disaster unfolds. I had to press her. What would she lie about next?
“Nothing has changed since I learned who I was. I think I was six or seven. But nothing has really changed. It’s still the same voice in my head. But you see,” she plied her words upon me like layers of lace and arsenic, “whenever it rained, like torrential rain, like it does when you wonder if it’ll storm all night – whenever I’d hear that torrent come down I’d feel like it could be the end. I always remember that feeling.”
“The end of what?” It was a tricky question. I was baiting her, but I had to see how far she was willing to go.
“Just the end of life as I knew it. That maybe something in this great big world would change. That I would wake up in the morning after seas of rain and everything would be washed away.” She walked toward the window and looked into the night. “I would have to re-learn to live in a whole new land. Floods and devastation would undo civilization and then I’d have to carve out an existence in an apocalyptic world. Like in Mad Max or Red Dawn. I don’t know why I thought that way. Maybe I just always thought that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be and maybe rain would save us from it. Or maybe it was too many late night movies.”
Her reflection in the window was ghostly. Streams of water flowed from the broken eaves making her face seem like a sad and far away painting. I knew then, looking at her, that she believed each word she said.
I felt bad for her. The feelings she spoke of, all people feel, yet she carried them like they were her weight to bear, as foolish people do. “The sound of rain makes you think we need to be saved? From ourselves?” And then I added, dripping in sarcasm, “And water will cleanse us of our sins?”
“Not sins. Oh God no. I don’t believe in some kind of supreme being.” She laughed awkwardly. “You make it sound like I’m some kind of zealot.”
It was a big word for her.
“The point I’m trying to make is when I was young I disagreed with the way the world was and I used to dream that something would come and force us to change everything. I believed I would live to see such times.”
“And so,” I began, “You hear the rain outside and you envision the destruction of the world?”
“No.” She shook her head and returned to the window. “When I hear the rain outside, now, I have a feeling that it’s all wrong.” She tuned and looked at me. “I feel how people like you knowingly confuse what is truly complicated with what is truly simple because it’s easier than admitting there’s something you can’t understand. I think how knowledge can lead one just as far astray as ignorance. I don’t see the world being destroyed. I feel there’s nothing here to keep.”
Her personal attack on people like me startled me and smarted. It didn’t seem fair, to pit me against the architects of the past, the masters who designed and built the intrinsic labyrinth we navigate every day of our waking lives. I frowned. “Feelings are very different than thoughts and knowledge,” I chided. Deep down I wished the rain would stop.
“I don’t mean to be cruel,” she said upon seeing my face. “It’s only a feeling I have when it rains. I have a much different feeling when the wind blows or the sun shines or when snow is falling at Christmas. But you don’t understand everything. I don’t think you understand me.”
She came over and sat beside me, picking up my hands with her tiny cold fingers. “Memories are funny things. They’re so one-sided. Life is so much messier and complicated now then when I was a child. If I was seven I would only remember a glimpse out the window, a recollection of how heavy the rain was and how I felt about who was here. But now, because I’m older and have more knowledge, this moment will include facts and ruminations. And some day I might even reconsider tonight, for maybe I will learn something more and it will change everything I know.”
If only she did know, for in that very moment I fell out of love with her. It wasn’t the feelings or the hope that lingered on her vacant and sententious words, or the idea that she felt there was nothing in this world worth keeping. I could live with that. I have always lived with that. We have all continued to live with that. No. It was the credulous way in which someone so inconsequential and impressionable now looked down on me. It was because in that instant she changed. In that instant she became a know-it-all. And I – I became worthy of her pity.
I got up and walked toward the door, only taking a short breath before grasping the handle and opening it.
“Where are you going?” she asked, shock trailing off her tongue.
I passed through the threshold knowing I would never return. “Into the storm,” I said, imparting upon her one more experience. Then I stepped into the cold wetness, walking away from what was once bright and clear, but with just a single idea became dull, sad and just a memory.
There’s this feeling I remember in the late days of summer, like a ghostly breath creeping down my back. My hairs stand on end and I squint toward the sky, looking past the low damp clouds and beyond the flecks of glistening dust swirling behind busy harvesters. I’m reminded of this moment in autumn, when time swings around past Hallowe’en, when the cold winds begin to blow and I know I should’ve worn a warmer coat. When mittens and scarves begin to cross my mind, and stray shimmering flakes threaten to blanket the ground. Those days I pull up my collar, wrap my arms across my waist, take a breath and soldier right on past the chill in the air. And soon the days are drifting into a darkness that I’d all but dread if it weren’t for the bubble – the bubble I can’t describe. It pushes so heavily on every good sense I have in my possession, and each moral and every memory, and I try so hard to explain how it makes life feel so “inside” oneself, because the whole world dies all around us. It seems we are all that is left. The leaves have already started changing, the sun lingers longer on the horizon, skirting the curve of the earth ensuring the last few subtle encores of summer can barely, but just slightly, be enjoyed. The smell in the wind of decaying foiliage and freezing soil is so familiar that my shoulders creep toward my ears in anticipation of the heaviness of snow – not piles of snow, but the quiet heavy sound of snow. The crunch of snow, and how that loud reverberation under foot can drown out the whole world. That ghostly breath, the first sign of approaching fall on the wind, the moment my senses can no longer ignore it – when summer has passed the brink and I know a year of my life has some how gone by … again. I will live to see yet another winter. But until the snow breaks through the sky I will witness the world come to the end of its cycle. The end of this cycle. And then the planet around me will go silent and wait, blanketed in snow, surrounded by a bubble, quiet and cold and inside me. But I will still keep going. I must keep going. For I can see this world outside me. I know it’s there when I feel it’s breath on my skin.
I know already. It sounds like some kind of joke, or worse, the beginning of a horror story. Why would anyone in their right mind go back to the (shudder) rudimentary mid-evil platform of Windows when they have crossed through the pearly gates (otherwise known as my 2008 MacBook – colour: white.)
The thing is, I need a laptop for very few things. I take photos, but I hardly edit them. I spend a heap of time on the Internet, any browser will do. I watch movies. I blog. I do small amounts of video-work. But mainly, my laptop doesn’t get that much of a workout, unless it always being on and me typing away like a courtroom stenographer counts. I’m not a gamer, unless doing online jigsaw puzzles count. So I don’t really need a MacBook Pro or 8GB of RAM or an i7 machine.
I would like to say that I didn’t come to this decision easily, but that would be lying. I love my MacBook, even though I’ve replaced the logic board twice, the hard drive three times, the track pad, the case, the fan, the optical drive and the MagSafe power adaptor. Most of this was done with Depot Service, apart from a scary moment when the hard-drive just died, but that’s not the point. The point is, it could be replaced. And the point is I can’t afford a new Mac.
These days, when you buy a new Mac, you get what you get from the beginning and you can’t change it. Got a MacBook Air with 256GB of flash memory. Cool. Want to upgrade? Sorry. No can do. It’s welded in place. Got 4GB or RAM. Cool. Want to upgrade. Nope. Welded to the logic board. And what’s more, getting a new MacBook with 256GB of memory is about $300 more than the smaller memory. Get yourself a few portable hard drives. Ok, more money. On a PC you could just get a bigger hard drive on Amazon from some dude in Hong Kong.
Ok. When Depot Service replaced a wide number of parts on my ancient Macbook for about $300 USD, they upgraded my 256GB hard drive to 512GB at no additional cost. I’m not saying something’s wrong with this scenario, but … nope, that is what I’m saying. What up, Apple?
I know six years is a long and almost sadistic life for a laptop, and I should’ve put it out of its misery (or better, saved myself from it) a long time ago, but with student loan payments and … I’m not gonna bore you with my financial woes, but I just couldn’t afford to. And now, I still can’t afford to.
So a new host of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros have been announced, and with the hefty price tag, I have to wonder why I should pay it when I can get a more powerful, faster, with more storage, and probably easier to fix PC with (shudder) Windows. Of course, at this point, when something new is launched on the market, it’s often the best time to buy refurbished. Hmmm.
Yes, OS X is a superior, wonderful and magical experience, but who cares? I don’t own an iPhone. I own a Samsung. I love OS X, but I don’t know iOS, and I don’t really feel like limiting myself with an iPhone. It’s not like Windows will make me want to jump off a bridge. It’s basic, a bit archaic, but it gets the job done. And now with all the great touch-screens that allow you to bypass mouse functions and just do what you want literally at the tip of your fingers, why would I wait for Apple to catch up? Touch-screens may be a gimmick, but who cares. When I’m in a rush, I want to be able to swipe not fenagle my track pad and zip my cursor from side to side trying to land on my target. I have been waiting! I don’t need an iPad, I need a computer!
Ok. I will give that Macs have better performance, and I swear I really don’t want to give up OS X, but unless I get some great Hackintosh for a price tag below $1000, I can’t justify sticking with Apple. But before anyone loses their head, or starts yelling at me in all-caps about how stupid this all sounds, let it be said I haven’t bought a laptop yet, and I am still considering a refurbished MacBook Air. I just don’t want to spend all the money and then find I need to replace the battery, or the logic board blew or my RAM melted and I have to pay some know-it-all kid at the Genius Bar a substantial sum of money to pry open my over-priced blog-machine and replace a part I could’ve bought for $60 from the dude in Hong Kong (if it were a PC.)
Will it be hard to go back to a PC. Sigh. Yes. It’s kind of going to suck. I feel like I’m settling for the broken candy cane or like someone gave me an apple at Halloween (hahaha.) But I feel like the laptop industry is teetering on the edge right now. Apple is becoming less user-friendly and PCs, having finally jumped the nefarious hurdle Apple left for them years ago, are providing consumers with more flexibility than they ever dreamed. The question for me right now – is staying with Apple really worth it?
Last year at this time I was in England with family I hadn’t seen in some 15 years. Then I went to Sweden, France, Canada, America, back to Canada, to New Zealand and then back to Sweden. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. A year that took my breath away. Changed me. Made me see myself and the world I had been creating around me. And then I learned to breathe again – once I took responsibility for my life … again.
You see, before all that I took time off and went to Southeast Asia for five months. Five months of traveling on trains, boats, buses, vans and planes. Five months of having to think on my feet in foreign lands. Some people thought I went because I had never really traveled like that before. Truth is, I wasn’t getting any better. I was at an impassé. Stuck on auto-pilot. Just coasting. I knew, deep within, that if I didn’t shake up my life my heart and mind wouldn’t make it through the circus. It was like I could see the exit, but I couldn’t get out.
So five months of chaos and beaches, sun and surf, cheap beer and mosquitoes, scary commutes and corrupt border officials, meeting new people and learning to say thank you in different languages, dancing and scuba, sarongs and hand-washed laundry, hammocks and book exchanges, islands and mountains, McDonalds and Joss and so much more – all of this helped me find myself again. The girl I am now. The girl I became. And I have changed. But that’s not that surprising.
So on this day, this four years after that dark dark day, I can hold my head up high and claim I weathered the storm. A bit battered. In need of a few repairs. But the sun is shining and life goes on. I made it.
So now for the good news.
I met a guy.
I met a guy – I mean, I kind of asked the universe for him to be delivered to me. You know, like wishing upon a star or blowing the seeds off a dandelion. I kind of believe in that shit. So what if I had to go all the way to New Zealand to find him? One surprising thing is that he isn’t a skydiver. Jumpers often ask me, with looks of astonishment on their faces, how on earth we met? It is a curious thing. Then there was the most surprising thing – that I let him into my heart full well knowing that I may not yet be ready, he might have no clue what he’s gotten himself into and he might not be the right guy for me.
But then we had our first fight.
And this guy – who has English as a second language – reached deep within himself to communicate with me and try to sort out how the fight started and what we can do to be better to each other in the future. He was honest. He was forthright. He was patient. He was kind. Slowly he was getting me hooked on him.
And then I had to leave to Sweden.
Work visas are tricky things. The past few years I have spent a lot of time galavanting within foreign lands earning my income as best as I can, but the time always comes when I must leave. Always.
And so I left, but with one difference this time. I’m going back to New Zealand. And maybe it is for a guy. So what? Life can be short. We might not have as much time here as we think. We need to take chances if we’re to get the most out of this crazy life and wonderful planet. So now we count down the days until I go home to the guy who coincidentally holds the same name as the one I remember today. Well-played universe. I see what you did there.
So, my friends, the point is I got my heart back. And I’m gonna use it. And I’m gonna enjoy the change this past year has brought me. Life can change quickly, sometimes without your consent, but other times, and this is when some of the most amazing shit happens, is when you allow yourself to change.
Sometimes it feels so easy and natural, a smooth change from one climate or plane or nation to another, and yet other times claustrophobia and culture shock grab hold deep within rattling levels of consciousness I could never have known existed. And then I’m gasping with some imaginary asthma, wondering where my protective bubble has gone. Why do I have to do things the way I do things? Why do I suddenly feel so alone? Where is my safety net? My security? My home? It’s not always like this. But sometimes it is. And occasionally I stand there wondering where I have exactly gone with my life. Why have I switched countries again? Forced myself to make new friends again? Get used to a new way of life again? Really, I wonder, what’s in it for me?
What’s in it for me?
When the bubble disappears and I’m left vulnerable and naked with complete realization of where I am and who I am, it’s the ensuing moments when a new understanding begins to ooze in through my skin – seeping like primordial sludge – that I awaken and feel an abstruse sense of freedom. It’s this moment. It’s this feeling that I love. To know I can change. To know I can learn. To know that nothing holds me down or keeps me in place. To travel. To venture. To journey. To go where my heart desires and my dreams foresee. To meet new and interesting people and explore new and far away lands. But really, what I really love – is to learn a different way to live. That’s what’s in it for me.
But they ask. Doesn’t it get hard moving all the time? Don’t you miss home? Your friends? Your family? Doesn’t it get hard leaving all the time? Saying good-bye?
Yes. And no.
It does get hard to leave. And it does get hard to keep starting over. But I’ve stopped looking at it that way. Perhaps, I tell myself, I have developed a different way to live. Perhaps I am never leaving or arriving. Perhaps I am on a continuous journey. Yes. I’ll keep it simple. And all the people I meet along the way – I’m not saying good-bye, rather it’s “See you later.” Somewhere down the line in my journeys our paths may cross again. And if they don’t, that’s OK, because at least they crossed.
It’s not always hard though. Once the choice is made and the first step taken, I look forward. The ball has been set in motion. It’s a force. A current. Who would ever want to stop such a process?
But rarely do people ask if it’s exciting and enjoyable and life-altering and … visceral? Probably because they don’t want to hear the answer. They already know the answer.
I remember when I was 17 and all I could think was – there has to be more to life than Thunder Bay. Everyday before school I would repeat this mantra and it was the only thing that got me out of bed. And finally, at 19, I got my shot to leave.
This isn’t about why I left my hometown, though I’m sure that large step did help me realize that there was more out there that I wanted to see. And that I had the balls to go after the life I wanted. Yup. There is more to life than Thunder Bay. But don’t get me wrong. I still love my hometown, but it holds no more mystery for me.
Why I travel and move – it’s the most exciting life I can live in the way I want to live. It fulfills me in many many ways. It’s risky and challenging. But if it wasn’t challenging I would’t feel so fulfilled. It’s full of opportunity and discovery. Everything is always new and exciting – even when it’s the same old same old. Will I ever settle down somewhere? If that means buying a house or having a home base, then yes. I do want this sometime, but not just yet. And even then I’m still going to travel. I’ll just always have somewhere to go home to. And that’ll be another challenge.
My freedom is the most valuable thing I have. I would give up everything for it. I would fight for it. I would die for it. I know security is an illusion. I know life can change quickly. I know we might not have as much time as we think. I know the bubble doesn’t last forever. So I choose to live the way I do. It’s visceral. That’s the only way I can explain it.
This post has been nearly two months in the making. Two months of mulling. Two months of reflecting on what I really think about death in this sport. It’s not that I feel obligated to write this post, it’s that I can’t sleep well at night anymore knowing i haven’t written anything about it. Knowing I haven’t said anything about it. Knowing I haven’t fermented any conclusions from my vast experience of “death” these past few weeks and years. Since my friend Stephanie went in skydiving a few months ago I haven’t really been able to stop thinking of the chances of dying in this sport. I mean, we all know there’s that chance, but we skydive anyway. We all know we could get seriously injured, but we skydive anyway. But I think me and most people, before we initiate each jump, have the mindset that we’re gonna live because we’re ready to deal with anything that comes our way. We don’t think about the absolutely absurd or improbable things that could happen. We’re aware they could happen, but we don’t focus on them. We leave them in the corner of our mind as uncertainties, to be dealt with if they improbably arise. But when I think about this last point, I know most people who don’t skydive go about their daily lives with the same assessment. It’s a waste of time and life to worry about every little thing that can go wrong.
I read this amazing article by Chris “Douggs” McDougall about death in the sport and it dawned on me that I’ve gotten really good at dealing with death. Too good. I don’t mean that I don’t think about it, as I previously wrote, what I mean is I’m getting better with loss. Until Max went in just over a week ago. And Jared. Five days before him. It humbled and perplexed me because I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t too angry. I was too good at dealing with friends dying. These past three years have brought so much loss and at some point I just built it into a fact of life. It’s gonna happen. I’m jaded about it. Of course, these realizations came about a week ago – along with the anger at these last two losses – and shorty thereafter I cried and realized my friend wasn’t coming home. I know I just contradicted myself, but it’s momentary.
Max. My buddy who let me stay on his couch for the past two months. Who I dropped off at the airport just a few weeks ago. I didn’t really know Jared, but he was part of my DZ. But Max. Max was my friend. He was my confident. He was my right ear. Yes. I can handle loss easily, but what humbles me and makes me cry is that Max didn’t have to die and yet he chose to live the life he lived and he chose to do the things he did. How can I fault life when it was his own choice? Death isn’t about me and my loss. It’s about life and what we gained from the experience.
The part of me that has gotten good at dealing with death quickly wipes away the tears and smiles at the good times we had. At the funny things he did. At the great life he lived. And I’m left with a feeling that he and the many others who went before are just beyond the veil at a raging party waiting for the rest of us to join them. And they’re telling their great stories of all the times they came so close to death. And then they’re telling their last story – of how they came to be at the party.
I have lost so many friends to this sport it’s unreal. But only a few of them would I consider close friends. Regardless, though, I didn’t really think going into skydiving when I was 21 that I would experience so much death and loss. Nor did I realize that at some point along the journey that loss would transform into a realization of what life really is. The deaths of my friends has given me a grand life experience. What I learned is we might not have as much time as we think. That there are no do-overs. That every moment is precious and worth the effort. To not take yourself so seriously. That everything will work out at some point, so don’t stress about it. That people who are in your life are in your life by choice. That we all must die at some point, and some are in quite a rush to get there. But mostly, and this is the important part, I learned that we all have a part to play in this life and if you can focus more on what part we play, rather than how well we play it, you might feel a whole lot better about this experience we know as life. Play safe, my friends. I’ll get to the party eventually, but I’m not quite finished enjoying the one we got here.
I’ve been aware of this day approaching for the past two months. Obviously. Sometimes I can’t get it out of my head. But it’s not like it’s a dark cloud that blocks the sun. I suppose it’s more like a translucent balloon – cloudy enough to mar the sun, but not so dense as to conceal it. I miss Dave everyday. I don’t need a specific date to realize he’s gone. And yet I almost looked forward to June 10th’s arrival this year. Almost.
It dawned on me whilst I was scuba diving and enjoying myself on an Indonesian island that I had come so far. I’ve pushed myself through so many life changes and overcome so many fears. I’ve been fulfilling some of my life-long dreams because I know – you might not have as much time as you think.
In the time since he passed beyond this world I forged ahead blindly, trusting that if I watched the signs of the world I would end up where I needed to be. It would’ve been easy to be that tragic figure who blames everything in her life on the death of her boyfriend. But my good friend Mali’s voice kept sounding in my head. “Don’t let this define you.” And then I would remember the promise Dave made me make to him, that should he die, I had to move on right away. And then I’d picture those tragic people and I knew I didn’t want to end up like that.
If I can make it through another June 10th having done something new and exciting with my life it means I’m moving on. If I can keep my chin up. If I can smile at men. Heck, if I can even let them sweet talk me, it means I’m no longer living in the grief world. That’s a dark world. But at some point I had to cross a line where my life with Dave became a part of my past, no matter how guilty that made me feel.
I know this seems so easy. It seems so realistic. But if you’ve never been through grief, you will never truly understand how self-preserving your mind can be.
But so here I am. Happy-ish. Optimistic. I have a good life. I’m on a great adventure. And while I still tear-up when I think of that man, I’m still ecstatic about the chapter he added to my life. My past life. Damn, he was a great guy. And damn, I’m lucky to have had his love. I still love him. All but for that terrible event three years ago – which really confused my feelings for him for a little while.
So much can happen in three years. And when people tell me they like how I live my life I want to tell them how hard it was to get here – but I can’t. That’s subjective. I mean, when I was obliged to start this new life of mine three years ago I figured, how much worse could it really get? So I started living the life I wanted to live and trusted in myself to do whatever was necessary to get through – even if that meant quitting jobs, living in bunkhouses, switching countries or travelling the world. Uncertainty can be hard for many people, I thrive on it, but I know what it really is.
That bubble’s gotta pop sometime. I wonder where I’ll be when I can finally see the sun.