I am sitting in my studio apartment in Jersey. I have ignored the handful of kids who pounded on my front door, desperate for Halloween candy. I hadn’t bought any – this isn’t a community or a neighborhood where I want to put down roots. If I hand out candy, I’m becoming a part of the life here. And I don’t want that. (That and I couldn’t be bothered to go to the store.)
As I hide out from candy hungry youngsters, I realize with a sinking feeling that today is the last day of October. Tomorrow starts November. My self-imposed deadline to have things sorted out for 2011. But I find myself in the same position as the end of the summer, when I came back to my little apartment in the middle of a state that I have grown to, if not hate, definitely have disdain for. I came back to Jersey not for the job, but because back in April, the reason I wanted to come back was still a reason. When I came back in August, in a turn of events I couldn’t have predicted, that reason no longer existed. So, now I’m left wondering why I’m here and what I should do next.
But would things be any different if I were anywhere else? I was able to escape over the summer. I was in England, walking along the footsteps of Roman soldiers and Arthurian legends. I was in Albania, cleaning up after other travelers as I worked in a hostel, concocting wild fantasies about my future, and swimming in the Ionian Sea. I was in Macedonia, herding a peacock into a couple’s wedding photo. I was in Paris, learning how to make macarons. In all of those places, no matter what I was doing, who I was with or how much I was enjoying myself, there was still the faint echo of a feeling that this was a kind of placeholder. All of this was a vacation – I would have to return at some point to “real” life – a job, bills, routine. Did I sell my own experience short? Was I living the life that I’m yearning for now?
It isn’t practical to travel forever, is it? It seems somehow irresponsible, particularly considering my bank account and my parent’s reasonable reticence at having to put me up once I’ve spent all my cash. But is that just my conditioned response? Have I just been taught that I need to be an active part of society – building a home, a family, a life in one place – to be living a worthwhile life? Waking up in a new city or country after a long bus, train or plane ride – it’s just a more condensed version of packing up and moving to a new place. You are learning the customs, you are meeting the people. Is it better to do that in a place where you want to put down roots? Or in a place where you know you’ll be leaving?
If I move to a different place, get a new job, will that same feeling come back? That there was, or should be, something more significant, something more specific that I should be doing. Would sitting on a beach somewhere give me the clarity that I can’t find here? Or would a change of scenery be just that – a change in scene but with no real direction or ideas illuminated? Does the change in place determine a change of self?
I feel like I’m waiting for a sign, a giant neon sign that blinks and dances and says: “This is the way to go!” I’ve seen that sign, or rather I’ve likely imagined that I’ve seen it, but right now, I’m staring into the night, hoping to catch even an imaginary glimpse of it.