This is probably the most personal blog I’ve written so far. And even then I feel like this entry is more about dispelling myth and common misconception than anything else.
My life, my lifestyle, is not a matter of luck, as I have to sometimes tell people, but of choice. People often exclaim their wonder at my being able to travel the world and live in unexpected places…Well, it’s a choice. Luck, as I best understand it, is unconditional good fortune brought by something outside of your control. What I do would not fall into that categorization.
I stress the difference not because I haven’t had good luck- I have, and plenty of bad luck as well- but because my personal reality is of my own creation and the result of my decisions. My life and my environment are a reflection of the choices I have made. And with choice, unlike luck, comes inherent sacrifice of option, and losses that sometimes equal the gains.
A few years ago, when I took a reckless trip through Europe by myself, the hardest thing was not the trip itself, nor the reverse/regular culture shock, but the realization upon my return, that I had become less important in everyone’s lives by having removed myself 4-5 months.
That has always been the hardest part of any of this: To travel and live the world is also to relegate yourself to being a peripheral figure in the lives of those you love most, who live stably in one location, who altogether comprise what it really means to be home.
And it is a terribly hard choice just to live a life you want. I can experience the world through the lives and lenses of people I would never expect meeting, but it is at the expense of sharing the experiences of those I care for most.
Yesterday I lost my grandmother who was truly like a second mother to me. I’m one of 4 kids born in a span of 6 years, and each one of us was a minimum-2-sport-athlete from about the moment we could kick, throw, or swim. On top of that, we were all rambunctious, clamoring for more direct one-on-one attention from our understaffed, overworked, and ever-loving parents.
My grandparents were always there to pick up the slack, acting as babysitter-chauffeur-confidante-mentor-friend-guidance counselor, any role they needed to be. Saying that my grandma was fundamental and absolutely foundational to my upbringing is an understatement. Like my mom rightly said, she attended more sporting events for me and my siblings than either my mom or dad did.
She was always a rock for me and my siblings, and the source of more unintentional, earnest comedy than anyone else in my family: Dinners are our preferred method of get-together, and I doubt I’ve ever finished a meal with the same set of silverware I started with, because I was always sitting next to her.
And she, more than anyone else, seemed to embody the collection of traits and quirks that my family thinks of as being “Jope.” We’ve always been a subtle matriarchy, and she was the force of personality driving it forward.
This last year has been difficult, watching her health fade, each update relayed to me through an app I use to stay in near-constant contact with my family. There have been many mornings this past year where I’ve dreaded checking my phone, knowing exactly what the string of midnight updates was about. As much as I will always miss her, I am so glad that she has been released from the hardships and sufferings that cut into her last year of life. And even then, until the end, it never dented her indomitable spirit.
So, this lifestyle is a choice. I’m taking the opportunity to explore my personal freedoms and capabilities, and yet I’m often helpless to help those who I care about most. I grew up always learning how to share, and am now taking some time to be selfish. The trade-offs are sometimes so steep that it often makes me question everything that I do, and if I really am where I should be.
But it’s always a choice, and though I can rationalize what I do now for my own gains of experience, there will be a time in the not-too-distant future where those same rationalizations, those same choices, will come full circle and bring me home.
Love you Mima!