What is organic?
What are the major imperfections of Fair Trade?
What is the current GMO status of the European Union?
How is the Monsanto Corporation slowly seizing control of industrial food production?
In what ways are economic considerations valued higher than human rights?
What happened to the honeybee colonies?
In what major ways are consumers deceived by food labeling?
What foods are in season in each of the twelve months of the year?
How do you insulate a house without inhaling too much fiber glass?
How long does it take to essentially gift wrap the inside of a home?
How long does it take to build a brick wall in the rain?
Rub oil into a hardwood floor?
Trash the attic?
Recover from pneumonia?
Regain lost muscle mass without turning into a tank again?
How to juggle daily writing themes, translating Satre’s La Nausee from French? Read Kundera’s Art of the Novel, and a collection of philosophical essays on top of the 10-12 hours of work you were doing per day?
Easy. No problem. Since you emerged from the attic, emaciated, pale, and short of breath, you have been working almost every day to make up for lost time. But you have been working eagerly. Living on the road has its advantages, but life slows down when you lack modern conveniences, and being jobless left you with loads of free time to kill in the same old ways: reading Anna Karinena out loud while a pot of rice rattled over an open flame; journaling; looking through photos; talking obsessively about food; discussing your next move; re-living memories. Good times.
You derive an immense amount of satisfaction from being able to stay in one place and work again! (Suck it, BENEFICIO!) Knowing that you can get out of bed and put yourself to a task, see something progress, feel proud of a product, or get stimulated by material you are researching. You, at last, got to take the reigns of a project that has interested you for over six years: food, food policy, food production, food labeling. Ten hours would slip by, and you’d realize you hadn’t eaten. You produced document after document, discussed them in detail, and initiated a large-scale change in the way your community shops and eats. You worked on that, and you also gratefully received a paid working opportunity that rewarded you handsomely, and which provided you some incredible financial “breathing room” in the months to come, when you begin your American travels with Neil.
You wrote in your journal: “2009 was the best year of your life!” (Alas, 2004–the year before you wrecked your back, has been displaced!) “Resolution for 2010? Hard to think of one, because you are so damn satisfied. But… keep on keepin’ on. Have a kickass trip in America, and continue to enjoy the precious pockets of time you get to share with others.”
You might have written some goals: read more, write daily, educate yourself, work hard, work well, work patiently. But, darn it, these goals have been achieved so easily already. Reading is not a chore. You still learn something new every day. You are more patient now, calmer, more zen in your approach to work and to conflicts. Life is easy. Life is good.
Some people say that high school will be the best years of your life… you say those people didn’t go to college.
Some people say that college will be the best years of your life… you say those people aren’t good at being grown-ups.
Initially, it all may have seemed downhill after college. You hit a few–okay, half a dozen–really hard bumps along the way. Premature trauma, if you will. But the worst is over, the healing which began when you jumped ship from the USA and came to Europe, has nearly completed itself. You are ready to go back to your home, wherever that is. You learned that being an adult can give you either all the responsibility in the world, or all the freedom. Some people can’t cope with too much responsibility, and some cannot cope with complete freedom. You reckon that the individuals who have too much responsibility sometimes look down upon the individuals who have none, and treat them as though they aren’t taking life seriously, or don’t know what “real life” really is. On the flip side, some people, wholly absolved of responsibility, shirk from life all together.
Where do you fall?
You prefer the life of complete freedom (at least for now). But there are no absolutes. With complete freedom come the echos of responsibility to yourself: you must know how to lead a free life without burning every bridge behind you, and give yourself a route that isn’t only unidirectional. You have made mistakes with some people in your life already.
Aristotle wrote that man, by nature, is a social animal. Indeed he is. Alexis told you about a study she read in the New York Times about solitary confinement being the cruelest form of punishment to a human being, particularly when changes in brain chemistry are measured; you can also testify to this after meeting so many lonesome truckers who, even if they can scarcely communicate with you, beg you to stay in the truck–to just BE in the truck–for the sheer comfort of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) presence.
No matter how independent you are, how selfish you are, how egocentric… you cannot escape the fact that you need people. Of course, you have never been without people. Sadly, you have the habit of replacing folks along the way. But, as a woman from your past once taught you the hard way: adults are not as eager to incorporate new people in their lives; “I have enough friends. I don’t want any more.” Ouch!
But you have burned others worse–you’re sure of it.