My Life Aboard The Traveling Circus

As anyone who has ever read one thing written by me ever, you probably know that the most settled I have ever been is the few years where I lived in the boondocks at the edge of the woods with my mother, a yappy beagle, and an orange cat.  Not very exciting… or so it seems. 

Now that I’m back, (poorly) adjusting to post grad life, it seems all the more depressing. I have no one to hang out with, the only thing to do on a Friday night is go bowling (except there’s no one to go with…), and the only bar within a reasonable distance is Applebee’s, which doesn’t really work for me because I’m not ready to pick up soccer moms quite yet.

However, back in the day, this town was the place to be! Well, not really, but we made the best of it. Because there was nothing easy to do (…the closest mall is still 30 minutes away…) we had to make our own fun. Every single day. Mostly because we didn’t have a choice, but even still, it made us able to have fun in a cardboard box. I used to be good friends with a girl who moved to London, and her friends there in the city wouldn’t even believe her when she told them the trouble we got into on the weekends, no mind-altering substances necessary. We didn’t have a bar or a movie theater or a mall to keep us company, so we certainly never gave up being creative trying.

We would take our friends’ cars and hide them around town and make scavenger hunts for them to find them again. We would play golf in the middle of the night, setting up our own courses in abandoned playgrounds. We made our own boardgames, tie-dyed sheets in the backyard and then made them into tents and camped out under them, ran through high school hallways by nightfall, and otherwise caused innocent mischief like only kids can do.

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To do these things, I didn’t have to get on a plane or pay an astronomical museum “donation” fee. I didn’t have to try to find a dirty hostel to stay at or figure out why I had to pay for tap water at an overpriced tourist restaurant and I didn’t have to listen to a tour guide with a heavy accent tell me the history of anything. Instead, all I had to do was walk outside and call one of my dopey friends to come over.

In many ways, I think that it was these boondocks adventures that prepared me for a nomad life, one spent living out of a suitcase and scavenging for free meals and trying to solve little crises that only happen when you’re 18, dumb, and broke. Irony is, as much as we all complained about living in the edge of nowhere back in the day (and then, trying to make the best of it by having more fun than anyone who lived in civilization), it was those quirky adventures that made us yearn for it for every year onward, always keeping us upon the life aboard the traveling circus.

…Bye?

There has rarely been a summer where, at this point in time, I didn’t feel the same as I do now. Midway through, I’m a little bored and antsy, I’m sick of working and being cooped up in my house and I am ready to move on out and go back to the water and go to class and live with my best friends. I go on Facebook and talk to my friends and I know that I’m not alone in this– most feel the same and are ready to go back to the place that we now consider home, even if it is in a dorm room. Only this time, I won’t be returning.

On August 28, instead of heading back to the Jersey Shore, I’ll be getting on a plane to Italy with a bunch of people I don’t know, only a few of which I have ever spoken with, and I will be living with them for the next four months. I will be on another continent with not one person I really know, and I can count the ones on one hand that can speak English. I will not see my best friends, my mother, my father, my cat. Even a simple phone call will be a project.

From this perspective, I couldn’t be more nervous. It makes me so scared sometimes that I have trouble making the preparations, trouble talking about it, trouble leaving my house.

On another hand, it makes me kind of sad. I know that I planned this. I know that I made the arrangements. I have high hopes for what I will find, and hope that it is what I am looking for. But even still, I am jealous of those who will be returning to my home the first week of September, who will jump in the ocean in their clothes late at night, who will stumble into class the next morning, who will drink cheap beers at happy hour at Jack’s and will sit in their rented king beds and do homework with their own best friends. It saddens me that even upon my return, I will only share a short four months more of this life before college will throw me out of its nest and shove me into the real world (because, as God knows, I won’t go willingly).

However, there is one more perspective that exists here. When I get really bored (as I am most days here) I think of what I could be doing in Florence right now, at this moment. I think of how newfound friends will invite me for a walk alongside the river, how we will order beautiful meals in Italian, how we will explore the Tuscan countryside on a whim. I think of the cheap planes we will take, of the dreamlike Amalfi Coast, of Oktoberfest, Sicily, Naples, Rome, of my already planned trip to visit my family in Bergen, Norway. I like to consider the prospect of feeling alive again and feeling like I am doing something important, instead of rotting away in the same room I slept in when I was fourteen years old and had braces.

When I signed up for this, I was scared then, too. But when I get an idea in my head, it doesn’t just fade away. I have to finish what I started. I have to do it all.

All it takes is twenty seconds of courage, and good will come. 

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Soon, there will be pictures of me on these pages, instead of photos of Italy I find on the Internet.

The Joy of Nothing.

While living out of your car, you are sometimes faced with an odd predicament. Most of the time, I find that my time is taken up by the people that I have to see, running, eating, working, or driving to somewhere else. However, sometimes the hours pass where I realize, Damn, I have nowhere to be and I have an hour to kill. 

While at my own house, I would probably sit in my awesome bed, watch some nick toons, Facebook creep… you know, the usual. However, these are not activities that are easily accomplished while in the backseat of a Ford Focus. And, as any other overachiever feels, we can’t just sit here and do nothing, can we?!

Yes. Yes you can.

The other day, with an hour before a barbecue started, I said to myself, okay, what can I do now? I can go to the mall. I can call up some friends and see if they want to grab some food. I can run down the boardwalk (again). Instead, I said to myself, you know what? The beach is looking awfully nice today.

So I took my throw blanket (towels are for moms) and a book and I camped out on the beach in my leggings and t-shirt. No swimsuit over here. I let myself enjoy the warmth of the sand for a bit and just DID NOTHING. At first, I felt antsy, checking my phone every minute to try to figure out when I should leave. But the joy of summer is that you don’t have to DO anything (while you’re still a wee one, that is).

I’m still getting used to this whole free-time-thing. Sometimes, I feel my muscles throbbing, aching to do something, anything. But doing nothing takes a surprising amount of courage- it is the time that you are forced to spend with yourself, with just your thoughts. There is no one or nothing to distract you from who you are and what you have done. So if you can handle that- being in the company of yourself, of the quiet- then you deserve it. You deserve it to enjoy the nothing and then get up and do something else, again.

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