Years ago I came across a small bit of text, shared to Tumblr and then screen capped and re-shared to Facebook with significantly fewer pixels than the original image. It’s not very long, but the visual it evokes has stuck in my head since I read the original words.
It took some digging, but I managed to find the original.
I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.
And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, “It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.”
And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, “This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.” – I wrote this for you
My heart is heavy right now as I procrastinate packing my life up into my trusty suitcase one last time. And I close my eyes tightly, blinking back tears, and trying to shut out the light that I imagine shining brightly above my head.
And tonight when we gather at Kelly’s apartment one last time to drink our fridges empty and cry our eyes out, I’m going to hold everyone so tight.
Because oh my god you guys.
This was so good.
Final call for Remote Year 13, Earhart, final call.
Final curtain. Final month. Final countdown.
You can really label it whatever you want, but the “final” part is unfortunately non-negotiable. Like the groups that have ended before us, we are trying to figure out what this means for each of us. And as we start our taco and tequila fueled death march towards becoming “was” instead of “am” I’ve been reflecting on what this might mean.
So many milestones are marked not by the doing, but by the graduating from. I was in high school. I was in college.
“I am traveling with Remote Year.”
But in 20 days, that statement will change.
“I was traveling with Remote Year.”
The difference feels uncomfortable when I try saying it aloud. There is a profound sense of loss in “was”. But where there is loss, there is also opportunity. Because of Remote Year, I’ve gained so many ams’.
I am who I was, but better.
I am a world traveler.
I am a cliff diver.
I am a designer of several peoples tattoos.
I am a strong independent woman who don’t need no man.
You get the idea.
There will always be a shared history and connection between the people who travelled with Earhart, regardless of the duration. I count myself incredibly lucky that I now know amazing people from every corner of the globe.
But once the am changes to was, the connection is bound to change, because change is the way of the universe. Everything always changes after everything.
I know realistically, some of the connections will be similar to the friends you make at school. Proximity and shared goals makes quick friends, but once those pieces are gone the connection fades naturally. I’m sure we’ll keep up with one another on Facebook, post happy birthday, share memories and memes that induce nostalgia. If we find ourselves in the same corner of the globe, dinner will be had, drinks will be drunk, and reminiscing will occur.
But some of the connections I’ve made this year run much deeper. These are the ones that I’m sure will end up in fated adventures throughout the rest of our lives, seeking out the amazing corners of the globe that were missed the first time around. Still waters run deep, and I’m sure that even if we go weeks or months without connecting we’ll be able to pick everything up right back where we left off. These are the friendships of a lifetime, threads of fate woven together at just the right moment and time to create something beautiful.
I am melancholy about this upcoming change.
I will mourn the loss of this special thing that we’ve shared.
I will cherish the small amount of time I have left.
I will always remember what this was to guide who I am.
I’ve been on a bit of a musical kick lately, including Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. There’s a particular song that I’ve found parallels a lot of my thought processes lately.
You see, I’m currently in month 10 of a 12 month adventure with Remote Year. Which means I only have two months and some change left before this big, scary, wonderful adventure crashes to the ground. Two months left of exploring new cities and countries. Two months to figure out what I’m going to do with my life and where I’m going to do it.
Into the Woods is all about different fairytales weaving together. One of them is Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack procures some magical beans and they grow into a giant beanstalk, which Jack climbs to find the sky-land of the giants. Before this, all he’s ever known is the small cottage he lives in at the edge of the wood.
Just like Jack, I’ve never lived anywhere but the city that I grew up in (Minneapolis, MN). To me, Remote Year was a chance to see the sky.
When you’re way up high
And you look below
At the world you’ve left
And the things you know,
Little more than a glance
Is enough to show
You just how small you are.
When you’re way up high
and you’re on your own
In a world like non
That you’ve ever known,
Where the sky is lead
And the earth is stone,
You’re free,to do
Whatever pleases you,
Exploring things you’d never dare
And you know things now
That you never knew before,
Not till the sky.
Remote Year has been a year of exploration, discovery, and firsts for me. It’s been a year of excitement and adrenaline and fear.
- Booking a one way ticket
- Living somewhere other than MN (and not living anywhere at all)
- Cliff jumping
- Living on a boat/sailing
- Rappelling down a waterfall
- Painting a mural
- Hiking up a full blown mountain (MN is pretty flat, okay?)
- Literally losing my breath from the view in front of me
- Using tinder haha
- Seeing a pangolin in real life!
- Dancing until sunrise
The amount of firsts in the last year have been staggering. I’ve taken baby steps out into the great wild world and found myself more fearless than I thought I would be. The support I’ve gotten from my tramily has certainly helped, but I’ve even surprised myself.
Early today I repelled down a waterfall in Colombia. I’ve belay repelled before in a rock climbing gym, but never done a self-controlled repel, and certainly not through a waterfall.
And at the top of this cliff, looking down, I was surprised to feel… excited. Challenged. Adrenaline, for sure.
But fear was …curiously absent.
It’s a stark contrast to the knot of fear deep in my core I felt before jumping off an 8 meter (26ft) cliff. (For some perspective, this is about the same as jumping from a 3 story building or so… and I picked the lowest level jumping point). Granted, the two are a little different, but at the same time I think it spells out a lot of the changes I’ve felt in myself throughout this last year.
And you scramble down
And you look below,
And the world you know
Begins to grow:
The roof, the house and your
Mother at the door.
The roof, the house and the world
You never thought to explore.
And you think of all the things
And you wish you could in
And you’re back again,
Only different than before.
After the sky.
Just like Jack, I’m going to have to climb down from my sky.
And just like Jack, I’m different than before.
And I want to live in between the sky and the ground.
I’m not quite sure what that means yet, but I’m excited to figure it out.
I feel like I’m on the cusp of a great personal discovery and just can’t quite grasp it, as I sit contemplating my life and who I am on the bus from Cúc Phương National Park back to home in Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s a weird setting for deep introspection, especially with the bright purple brocade curtains and bumping Vietnamese techno pop music blaring out of bad speakers.
I’ve recently slowly started to come to the realization that who I think I am and the person that other people see are pretty drastically different. And I’m also realizing that I want my inner and outer narratives to be more in line with one another.
In Budapest during my second month, I decide to take a jump and get the undercut I’ve been thinking about for a while. For my birthday, I curl (what’s left of) my hair and wear dark lipstick. I remark to others that the new haircut makes me look a lot more punk than I actually am. I wonder what the rest of the world thinks of me when they see me on the street.
I wonder if I care.
I give a hug to one of my program leaders. She turns and mentions that I’m not usually a huggy person. I’m a little shocked. I come from a hug-heavy family and have always considered myself a hugger.
Then I realize that I’ve not been a hugger on this trip, and that I’ve been very reserved with physical affection.
It bothers me, and makes me reflect on why I’ve been so reserved.
After a few drinks, I confess to a fellow remote that I feel like I don’t fit in with the group sometimes and that its been hard. They respond with surprise – they’d seen me as fitting in with everyone, outgoing and social. Something to aspire to. A few weeks later I’m talking with another remote, someone I thought was fitting in in a way I was jealous of. They confess the same thing to me that I’d just confessed a few weeks ago.
I’m beginning to sense a pattern.
I’ve always had a bit of eidetic memory, being able to recall weird facts and research quickly. That, in addition to being a little addicted to researching random topics when I come across a question I don’t know the answer to, has led to a lifetime of being pretty good at trivia. My cousin growing up used to call me a human dictionary. In school I had to learn to suppress the urge to answer everyone’s questions because it very quickly led to teasing and being ostracized. In the beginning of my Remote Year trip, I again found myself trying to hide this part of myself out of habit, but eventually it emerged as I became more comfortable around my tramily.
Some of the group has taken to calling me “Siri” and asking me questions like they’d ask their iPhones. It makes me laugh every time they do it, and I enjoy the newfound ability to be a know-it-all without it leading to resentment. I get to flex my nerd brain a bit (as my fellow remote Connor calls it), and I like it. However, I still worry internally that people think I’m being a show-off and think I’m annoying when I know the answers to their questions.
Despite the confidence I tend to project, my inner narrative is a lot more unsure of myself. This is the little voice that asks questions like “What if someone figures out you aren’t what everyone thinks you are?” And “Why would you think they’d like and accept you when you put your foot in your mouth like that?” This is the voice on the inside that has come from years of lacking self confidence. I think in some way shape or form I’ve always felt like I’ve lacked self confidence, and any outward projection of confidence was just me faking it. And I’ve also come to realize during this trip that almost everyone has this little asshole voice.
The phrase “fake it till you make it” seems particularly apt lately. Because I finally feel like I’ve faked being confident for long enough to finally start fighting against my internal voice of self doubt and realize that I should feel like the badass woman on the inside that I’m living on the outside.