I find myself in the struggle between wanting to play in the puddles and knowing that I’ll have to walk home soaked. I remember a time in San Diego when I was a kid and it rained for a week straight. Everything flooded, and I remember falling in a massive puddle at school, then just swam in it because I was already soaked. Few people are that free anymore. If nothing else, we have to think of all the tech that we carry.
I can feel the boundary, like a wall between childhood and old age, something I want to cross, but I can see the cost. Ignorance is bliss, but I wonder if it’s worth it. There is something attractive about that idea, to let go of all of the possibilities, all the anxieties, and to simply be, but I am always afraid to pay the cost. Afraid to not be what I have spent my life becoming.
Since I was young I had the idea of wanting to be an adult, but what is an adult really? Someone who has abandoned their childhood? Someone who can survive in the adult world? To have a job, responsibility, marriage, kids, old age, and death? I keep remembering an old saying I heard, “if you meet the Buddha on the Path, kill him.” To me, the idea was that if you ever look for something and find exactly what you expected, there is something deeply wrong.
There is no way to know what the Buddha is until you become enlightened. In the same vein, I don’t think there is any way to know what an adult is until you become one. If you have all the things you expected to obtain on the quest, you have only become what society tells you an adult is. Society, however, only tries to make people into what it needs to survive as a whole. It’s too easy to believe that you should never stray outside of the lines that are drawn, and it is too easy for society to become a prison.
That is part of my purpose out here, to find other lives in other societies, to see what else is possible. When everyone around you agrees on what the world is, you can’t really see all the things that go unsaid. The words we use, the context, body language, and even the silence is different. What is an adult? The question implies that it is always the same, that there is no difference across cultures or genders.
In some ways, I see the question as a prison, a limitation on what we could become. It’s a negotiation, selling our joy for anxiety, and closing our eyes to the endless possibilities of life. The idea of rebellion always fascinated me, that it is in the mind more than it is what we do, but I think that is only the beginning. One of the reasons I like Buddhism is that you are supposed to fix yourself before you try and fix the world. In the West, we try to fix the world in order to fix ourselves.
When I left home to see the world, I tried to leave as much as I could behind, but I am always struck by how much I still carry. The ideas, the pain, the joy, the endless anxiety. I keep moving further away from the world I once knew, step by step. From Guadalajara, that was so much like home, to Taipei, still filled with flavors from home. For the next step I’m looking South, far away from the mix of cultures here, but I wonder if I’m playing it too safe. I wonder if I should just find the furthest place away, culturally and physically, that I can find.
I find I’m on the edge of that line, in so many ways. There is a cost to crossing it, but there is a cost to staying on this side of it as well. I have paid that cost for decades, and it never really made me happy. I know I don’t yet have the courage to throw myself across, but I drop in sometimes. I find I’m happier there, but I really don’t know the price of being there yet, and that scares me. I wonder if it will ever scare me more to stay on this side of it.