I am just about a month past my 27th birthday. I am currently sitting on an airport cot because a winter “storm” freaked out everyone at LaGuardia Airport and my flight was delayed 2 hours, causing my connecting flight in Chicago to leave without me.
In about an hour or so, I’ve gone through all stages of grief: denial this would happen, the welling, heated tears of rage that were controlled by surface tension, or the turned, logistical numbness of emotion towards those providing me with next steps. These are not people helping, eyes deliberately diverted from my own, these are people telling me what is going to happen. Every couple of seconds I’m distracted by my own nervous ticks ranging from picking my split ends to digging into my thumb’s cuticles. A red alert notification continues to grow, pooling in my Messages app as my mom makes sure I’m alive and breathing.
In the time it took to get up from my seat waiting to board my flight in New York to the bathroom I ran into before boarding, I lost my headphones, which is most definitely the most inopportune time to lose one’s headphones. As a ringing echos off the hollow walls from elsewhere in the airport, I would love to say that I’m about to sit down to write about the crossroads of my life, at a pivotal moment where maybe, I might be done doing these travels; that this is the culmination of my quarter life crisis and now I’m done- my hair smells like the seat I laid on on my flight to Chicago.
Everything is always funnier when you look back on them. I have been lucky enough to create a humorous saga with my travel mishaps from missed flights by accident in Berlin, to nearly getting robbed in Vietnam, to sleeping in a clinical row of severe weather recovery foldable Coleman cots and an AC blasting in the middle of February. I’ve got a list of about 20 mishaps that would curb any normal functioning human being from doing this again. My threshold for chaos is, in a word, unwavering.
The spring-into-action drive from ‘what do we do next’ inevitabilities is, for me, a masochistic puzzle where my own sanity’s at stake. I have come to believe, getting to and from the airport is the crux of where and how I learn about myself. (Not to undermine the long walks through jungles and desert that have offered a kind of energy from a history steeped in mysticism and legend, lending themselves to flowing thoughts and mental fluidity.) The constant errors in travel I encounter, I wonder, I neglect to correct due to a personal: ’she’s always losing things’ default characteristic, or if it’s an addictive ‘she’s got her shit together’ arrogance in the face of uncontrollable circumstances.
That’s a mouthful.
Last year, I quit my job for the second time to figure out my shit, and what I wanted to do next with my life. I had been making a steady second income with my photography and as my heart was slowly decaying from the over scheduled, over worked-little-reward job/lifestyle, I up and left for a month and a bit for Australia.
The first time I quit my job to travel, was the beginning of a quarter life crisis bubbling under the surface of young 23-year-old spontaneity and a choice to move in with my long distance boyfriend in a new country, which catapulted me to said crisis. I’ve been riding the wave for four years, attempting to find some ~purpose~ for my life. Each time I hit a wall, I reverted back to travel. This particular trip I’m on is only half way around the country, to visit my best friend in a small town in Montana which I’ve grown to love (enough for a couple days respite from city life).
Yet, as simple as it could be, the trip tendered a challenge to choose how an adult would handle this. Not willing to spend the $85 for a discounted Holiday Inn 20 minutes away, walking to Terminal 2 in Chicago O’Hare where I’d spend the night, I wondered if I was getting to my last straw, adding another notch on the belt of #Sagas I’ve created, in a long and continuous self deprecating joke.
I know travel isn’t a forever job as I’ve made it, constantly flinging myself to the airport often with minutes to spare before the gate closes. Maybe at 27, I’m nearing the point of wanting to settle down with a “real” job, a normal schedule, the potential for a relationship; the thought blipped into my consciousness amidst the frustration. And just as I thought it wasn’t going to be that bad after all, a snore rose from a few cots over, and I’m thrown back into the balancing act of what on earth did I get myself into, and why do I continue to do it?
My mom once told me I was most comfortable in the uncomfortable. And that is true. I love to plan and break down the situation when I’m thrown into something I really have ‘no control over’. I love stepping onto a plane and walking outside to a new world not experienced yet. The excitement of what comes next is immeasurable. After all, in these trips I’ve found places that moved me, changed me, men I’ve fallen in love with, friends I continue to travel with, and memories unlike anyone else I know might have in their lifetimes.
A part of me feels like my life has been a panic with a need to fit everything in or else I’ll crumble from the lack of living life. As much as I know I can go a day with routine, I prefer to create a day that keeps me on my toes. I do not foresee myself as the woman who sits in bed all day happy to binge a show I’ve already watched just for the comfort of the sameness - though desperately sometimes I wish I had a part of her in me.
How cliche to say I’ve done all these things to get high off living.
As I review the 20 some-odd ‘Sagas’, as trivial as they may seem looking back, and how absurd it is to have accumulated this many Murphy’s Law moments, I wonder if ‘adulthood’ should be calmer than it is now. I thought at 28 I would be married (it was a good age to have a career and also date around). Each day that creeps closet to that number, I am so far from my projected plan drafted at 13. I demand so much more from each day: to soak up so much I still need to learn about myself and how I relate to the world; to find the humor in really, really, shitty situations; to understand fully, how to deal with uncertainty on my own. And, reviewing this draft the next morning, to stay positive through a 4am wake-up call, another flight delay, and 5 gate changes.
Never would I wish for anyone to have to sleep in a bright lit room with a far off beeping, a snore coming from elsewhere, the PA reminding of parking and wifi availability every 5 minutes, and the rest, when you could be with your best friend in a real bed and the lights off (you know, normal human needs), but it definitely makes things more interesting. And for right now, I have allowed myself, earned and made a choice to have this be my 27-year-old normal.