In just over a week, I will be on my way to the US for an extended visit. I am both dreading and looking forward to it. Looking forward because I will get to see friends that are very dear to me and spend time with my family and mom. I am also dreading it, as I will spend time with my family and mom. It’s my catch-22. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and family in my own sort of way, but for the most part, I don’t feel connected to them. I don’t think I ever have. I have never really understood them and I doubt they have ever understood me. Even when I was little, I was convinced I was taken home by the wrong people and that my real parents were out there, somewhere, having incredible adventures and looking for me. Sure, we all look somewhat alike, but other than that, part of me still wonders.
I wasn’t the normal kid. I didn’t like the things other boys seemed to like. Cowboys and Indians and cars and sports just never interested me. What did interest me, were the pictures in the National Geographic I would sometimes see and the encyclopedias my mom bought when I was five or so. Pictures of far off places and people unlike any I saw around me. England. India. China. Kenya. I didn’t just love the pictures, I wanted to be in them, to live in them. I wanted to see those things for myself. My grandmother on my father’s side traveled her whole life and I would hear stories about places like Australia and her house was filled with antiques from Japan, most of which she probably would not have been allowed to take out of the country today. I grew up with a sense that my life was bigger than where I was. I knew that somehow, my life would happen someplace else, someplace far away, in the pictures I would see in my dreams.
For a while, we lived at the edge of a forest and beyond the forest there was a swamp-like area. I would spend hours exploring, imagining I was somewhere, anywhere but where I was. One day it might have been the Amazon and I was looking for the indigenous people I had seen in National Geographic. Other times, I went looking for leopards or hunt for some lost treasure. When I was thirteen, I saw a movie that changed my life and for a time, I not only admired, but also wanted to be, Indiana Jones. I was desperate for adventure, for life. I wanted to see the world.
After my parents were divorced, my mom remarried and my experience with my stepdad was, terrifying, isolating and confusing. We could not have been more opposite and the hatred I felt could not have been more intense. My only escape was into the world in my mind. My dreams and ideas were my friends as I just didn’t and couldn’t relate to other people. I didn’t know how and I didn’t want to, really. People caused pain but the life I was going to lead, the one I had in my mind, made me happy and kept me going.
I left my mom and step-dad’s house and soon as I could and never looked back in spite of my stepdad telling me I would not last for three months on my own, that I would never be anyone, that I would never amount to anything. At the time, I believed him, I had been told those things for years, knowing that happiness, success and love were not for me, but something inside kept me going although I am not sure what it was. Youthful naïveté? Perhaps the feeling that I really had nothing at all to lose?
I spent the last twenty-six years putting distance between that person and the one I am today. I have been to many countries, lived on four continents, learned languages and experienced not only some of the things I saw in those pictures, but so many other things I never imaged possible. I have been to the Taj Mahal at sunrise, gone mountain biking in Nepal, meditated in the Himalayas, photographed animals on safari in Kenya, walked on the Great Wall of China and spent Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, just to name a few things I have been lucky enough to do. I have done more than most, not as much as some, but definitely more than most. Yet, no matter what I do or experience, there is still that part of me hungry for more. In a strange way, it seems the more I do, the more I realize there is just so much more out there yet to be done. And there are already plans in the works.
But first, I am heading to the US feeling excited and apprehensive. I have been back to the US several before, but only for short durations and I have never had the thought or feeling that I am going home. It has never felt like home me. Ever. This time, I am going back for an extended time, and I have kept visits with my mom confined to short episodes, usually a lunch, dinner, or drinks. But this time, for the first time in over twenty years, I will stay at my mom’s house. It is still over a week away and I am already nervous and can’t sleep. We’ve had our issues and basically worked them out as well as they need to be when there are a dozen time zones in between. And having all those time zones between us, means being excluded from family drama. I know I am going to be landing in the middle of it, and it is a big mess. We will be close enough to fight for the remote and I am not sure how it will all work out, but there are answers I need to questions that have followed me around the world.
In spite of what my stepdad said to me so many years ago, I have had happiness, success and a lot of love. I have also had this fear of going back, as if going back means an admission of the failure he talked about. I know that isn’t the case, but in so many ways, it feels that way. But that is exactly the reason I am doing it. It’s time. It’s time to put those thoughts behind me and leave them there. At least it’s time to try.
And I have the knowledge that I have another, new and fabulous adventure in my back pocket, just waiting for a departure date to be made known.