Looking Back: Who We Were Then and Now (Or: Same Same, Different)

I did not know who I was when I first left to travel. I was twenty-four.


I also do not know now. I am thirty-one.


Now, I am also leaving to travel. Back to Portland before I wind my way across the country by car and end up, surprisingly, where I stand now—Georgia.   

I look back on the sixteen months begun in 2013, drifting through fifty-two cities in-and-around Europe with my then-boyfriend, meeting people, learning skills like farming or construction . . . and I can’t say I know what it was for.

It seems a sort of glowing light, a hallowed path stringing me along to finally leave me on the other side, without answers.

Looking back, I see the things travel showed me I never was. I wasn’t a colleague. I wasn’t socialite. Nor a chef, an extrovert, an actress. I wasn’t someone to settle (not for long, anyway). 

What this nomadic life gave me was not solid ground on which to stand, not some world mirror showing somehow myself reflected.

What it gave me was a chance to pay dues. It was a time to grow close to a man I wouldn’t keep. A time to move and see and identify—I now know—what it means to have moved without seeing, without engaging.

two white guard dogs in italy

I did not recognize it then, but although I played a part in my experiences, I was cut off emotionally from others and myself. I missed so many opportunities to connect. But the world will impact you either way.

In the years following that trip, I focused on unearthing why I couldn’t feel much. In LA, I used acting and comedy to be vulnerable in front of strangers. I got into therapy, I read books.

I’m less of a robot now. That detached first quarter of my life gave me the gift of knowing what it’s like not to feel and wanting to get as far away from that state as possible. 

I suspect that this is what living feels like. A fullness of hope found in the moments we spend absorbing the past and knowing (with a smile) that it’s over—despite and because of its influence.

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Life now feeds off the blind, meandering living of then. It’s eating a tasteless cream and later, unexpectedly, savoring the memory of the true technicolor flavor that had struck mind and mouth.

I’ve been paying dues, feeding each possible future with the decisions I have and haven’t trusted myself to make. And so it will continue, I suppose, indefinitely (and end-definitely).

As I sit in an empty house, staring at sleeping cats and feeling the dreary day try to let itself in, I know I’m heading somewhere I can’t actually see, and that perhaps I’ll only taste in full when it is over.

I don’t know what now’s moments hold, but I know it can be something . . . and that’s exciting.

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