I’ve delved into the old ways again. But this is not a confession.
Like mountains hanging above the horizon, I simply am what I am — without apologies, even though it causes a lot of confusion. For months I’ve been out on the road in crazy ways, in the air, seemingly everywhere — just like old times.
A few weeks ago I crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times in as many days. Or was it a few months ago? Whenever; it was for logistical reasons, and I learned the hard way that the human body cannot cross the Atlantic Ocean that often without violent consequences. The dry air of the airplane cabin cracks your lips and sucks all moisture from your pores until there is no water, just oil. Sometime after the first twelve hours your skin starts to smell like cannola and your hair becomes weighed down, thick and disgusting to the touch. In the fun house mirrors of those tiny airplane bathrooms, you realize your facial hair grows at an alarming rate at altitude and that there is no amount of water you can throw on your face to feel awake. So you go back to your seat and ask for another scotch…
At duty free shops across Europe I bought many liters of various whiskeys, running amok and going crazy between New York, Reykjavic, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dublin, London and then a quick hop to Copenhagen. For reasons no one can explain, they kept sending me back to the Dutch water capital, the one place I’m still trying to leave behind. It was all a matter of finishing the work I owed to a complex client, a hydra of an organization with serious self-identity issues. They never knew who was in charge, and I couldn’t talk to anyone there long enough to figure out just who it was that wanted me there so badly. But they never seem to be satisfied, the word always coming down from above, calling me back.
For months this went on. JFK to Schiphol, and back. Layover in Heathrow. Stop in Iceland. Back. JFK to Schiphol, through Zurich. Through Brussels. A reprieve in Barcelona. In Bruges. A quick drive to Göteborg, and back. Newark. And then back. Jesus. I know it’s because they just don’t know what it is they want, but now that it comes to it, I start to wonder if maybe it’s because I don’t either.
No longer a matter of just direction & purpose, the satisfaction I draw from all this seems once again, bound only to my ability to define why it is that I’m here (or there) well enough to take the right steps and make the right demands. At this juncture I need to convince certain powers to sign the right forms. And I could do it, I think.
But my schedule these days makes me tired just documenting it in my calendar, which is so full it can’t possibly still be accurate. It’s time to consider other, more serious prospects than this Bourne-esque meltdown of a fantasy I’ve been scrambling to maintain. The Job, as it were, is paramount to the continued existence of this lifestyle, but it’s entirely unreliable and every time I accept another assignement it feels like taking another drag from a pipe whose embers have long since gone out.
Meanwhile, deep mysteries of curiosity and doubt stir in dark waters that rise and drop for no apparent reason. I do not trust the tides any more than I trust the sea, and when it seems that all things are floating down the river in a manner most becoming for the passenger, I start to wonder…
Questions of purpose, fate, ethics and other forces creep in; riddles in the dark. Notions of what may be next adorn my lists and notes; most words that I put down, in fact. The blocks are falling into place, I think. I’ve made no arrangement with the powers that be as of yet, but a trip down to Orlando a few months ago took me places I did not intend, and the results were, well, momentous, if nothing else.
For a trip I’d not intended to make, it was fortuitous down to the last leg, where I found a $5 bill in the backseat of the cab.
I have been to these conferences before. I’ve clapped at meaningless statements of teamwork and future success for all. I’ve cheered whatever lame cheer we decided we’d all yell to show our intent to rise and succeed in the coming year. I’ve whooped with sales reps and middle level managers over drinks that their fat expense accounts were paying for. I’ve heard these powerpoint presentations before.
Shit. I think I wrote some of them.
So I wasn’t excited about this latest money-spending fest, even less so because they’d scheduled it around thanksgiving, the busiest travel holiday of the year.
But when I finally got over what my purported duty was at the event and left my executive suite to walk down the hall and play Beirut with some old acquaintances that just happened to be at the same hotel, I was forced to do some serious thinking…
“I tire of this,” I thought. It’s fine to have a life that provides so much time, but that is not freedom. It’s my own signature I really seek, my own approval — I just don’t know which forms to fill out yet.
But you know what I hear is good for learning to fill out forms? Grad School.