I’m back in San Francisco, waiting for Thursday when all the China volunteers gather in the city and prepare for departure. It was hard to leave Atlanta, but it was harder to be there without any real purpose. I ate too much, did too little, and wasted far more time than I would have liked. I didn’t study enough, I didn’t practice kung fu enough, and for the most part I just existed. It was worth it, though.
I know that I can’t do that again. If I go home for that long, I have to have something to do, somewhere to go, a job, a studio, a project, something. It’s just to easy for me to do nothing. The weight of emptiness drags me down too quickly. Everyone there has a purpose, and it’s infuriating to be without one.
I talked to my family, which might not seem like much, but it’s almost surreal for me. Not small talk, but actual conversations about life an problems that we have had. I don’t trust many people, and that includes most of my family, but this is a start. For me trust is always a choice that I make against my better judgment. I’m never surprised when trusting someone goes bad, but paranoid dysfunction is no way to find happiness.
It’s better to have this distance from that before I go. A calm before the storm, maybe. I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about all that this entails, to leave for this long, to be so far from everything I’ve know. I’m not one to worry, or anticipate. Both always fail me. The only time I seem to get what I truly fear or what I truly hope for is when I create it.
Looking forward, I know this will be different than what I’ve done before. I won’t have the money I had in Taiwan, or the ability to fly home for the weekend like I did in Mexico. I won’t have the option of falling in with the other foreigners, because I will be truly alone. I will have to answer every invite with a yes unless I truly cannot go. My job is to make friends and to be a part of the experience, and I cannot do that binge watching at home.
I never really liked being the center of attention. I can deal with it, but too much praise is as chilling as too much insult. There is always something more I could have done, and making noise about how well I did something feels dishonest. I do what I can, and I’m happy to help, but praise feels dishonest, and I have never figured out why.
I know my job will be relatively easy when looking at how much practice I already have. I know I’ll learn Mandarin faster than I ever could have in Taiwan. I know I’ll see amazing places that few people around the world have ever seen, and I will be changed by the people I meet there. I want to spend a few weeks in Mongolia, I want to hike the mountains of China, I want to see Tibet and Nepal. I want to practice kung fu with old masters, laugh and eat with new friends, and I want to be fascinated, confused, and pulled into life.
Being aware of your thoughts as they arise has a side effect of making it hard to be consumed by life. It’s almost like being aware of a dream. I don’t prepare my words before I speak, but I hear them as though they were said by someone else, like I’m watching my life happen more than I am living.
In a way, that is the goal of Buddhism, to find that separation from the temporary existence that is life, but it also dulls sensation and steals some of the joy from the moment. That is the rest of the goal, to find peaceful joy in that separation from the trappings of life.
It’s a sacrifice I’ve made for a long time, to surrender some of life’s joy to be protected from it’s pain, but I don’t know if it’s an honest exchange, or if it’s necessary. I want to be part of this world, more than I am, but I don’t really know how to do that. I guess that’s the next teacher I need to look for. Someone to teach me joy.
I am glad to be here, and I can’t wait for all of this to begin, but in a way I want to be overwhelmed. I’ve tried to stand as a rock against the ocean for too long, hopefully I’ll find a way to let go and see where the waves take me.