This is the first of what I hope are many podcast-type blog posts. The idea is that I will eventually record what I have been writing and add the suggested music to make some kind of half hour radio show. It's been a long time since I've posted here, but I've been writing, so there should be material to come as the summer light and heat fades away.
For some reason, I thought I needed to go live in Norway for my life to be complete. I needed to escape all the security that surrounded me in Ottawa, and travel to the far reaches of the Earth, the Arctic Circle, to get where I needed to go in life. To have skills that no one else had and that could bring me fame and fortune and everything that goes along with it.
I had done this before; I had started a new life in Iceland. For 8 months, I travelled to the land of the ice and snow with the midnight sun and where the hot springs blow. And I lived there surrounded by great people and learned so much about the world and myself. I must be able to do it all over again, this time in a darker place, further away from everything I knew because I
had to have that edge.
This time, it felt different. I wasn’t excited and ready for a new adventure. The motivation was this necessity – it has to be done. I had gone through this entire process over months on end to get to this point; I must go through with it. Breathe. As I told my sister while in my last seconds of filling out forms at the departure desk, I just need to take a minute. Things aren’t that bad.
Take a Minute – K’naan
Past the customs desk, I take what might be my last iced cap for months. I rarely drink them, yet I need this one now. I hadn’t been able to have breakfast and I didn’t really sleep. I should do that too. The plane is delayed and delayed again. I invent a place to lie down and lay my body on the vertical, occasionally drifting into the sleep I searched for the night before. I wake up in a panic every five minutes only to notice the plane hasn’t left without me. It should just take me or leave me. But I will continue waiting ‘till I fly away, I’ve wanted this for so long I need to constantly remind myself.
Arriving in Chicago, it’s too hot. Like nature is telling me I might never feel heat again so I should enjoy too much of it. I find the international departures with only a fair amount of time, but not enough to find the food I haven’t really had yet. I embark on the first of what will be many SAS flights, this time to Stockholm. Eight hours and I am beside a bit of an older gentleman who won’t hate this flight – the booze is free and he’s in no real rush. I’m sitting, sweating, nervous like I’ve never been. I just need to go there and to settle in and take it a week at a time, like Dad said. There is no reason for this panic, I’ve done it before. But it will be 24 hours of darkness. How did I deal with this in Iceland? The first few days of the week, I couldn’t sleep. I would toss and turn until the morning when I would take a long time to wake up and make my breakfast, alone. The rest of the week I would party. It was amazing, but I couldn’t spoil that by doing it again and spoil my liver and my life. And if I need to be studying, I’ll have less parties, more sleepless nights. As the darkness grows, all will be night, there will never be sleep. Great. I won’t survive long, so will try to survive at all.
I need to go home. All is black, I could finally sleep.
Homeward Bound- Simon and Garfunkel
I wake up.
Ah, going to Norway. Panic again. Wait, I decided I’m going home. Ah right, going home. I’m sure that place is great, I’m sure there would be many great experiences, but I don’t need this in my life. There is so much for me in Ottawa, so many possibilities to not be alone. But I might as well go, just to say I did seeing as my ticket says I am anyway. Stockholm to Oslo, Oslo to Tromso. I get on each plane, they announce something in Swedish, or Norwegian, or Danish, something that I don’t quite understand but that I can grasp. The planes takes off, I sleep. Bell, landing and I’m off with my heavy bags that remind me what I had set out for. I can finally eat, 17$ for pizza and a coke. Not even a full pizza, just two slices. Then Tromso. I shake as I make my way to the University desk in the arrival’s area, even before my bags arrive. “I just can’t do it”. My first full words to a human in about twenty-four hours and they feel great. Like everything I’ve ever wanted to say, not in giving up but in not accepting a task forced upon me, by me.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for a few days, just to see?” asks the lady with the round glasses who doesn’t want to sell me my ticket away from there. I need to get away, at any price, which is pretty much what I paid. Three more flights before any amount of security, I will find my friend Maria in Stockholm, I must. Tromso to Oslo, to Copenhagen to Stockholm. Bell, landing, walk, repeat. I find her address and her number and drag my entire life with me in the heavy bags that pull me around. The train, the taxi direct me to her door which she opens, looking at her eyelids with me jumping in her arms. Finally I am safe. And Zuzana is there too, my neighbor from Iceland. If I slept at all in my 31 hours of airport travel, I can now rest.
The next day, I am woken up at 11. I can go downtown or Zuzana will leave without me; there is so much to see. The guards, the palace, the outdoor museum. All I do is compare them with what we have at home without truly appreciating what I was seeing. I left for Norway and I’m in Sweden. Nothing is as it should be. Hot air balloons filled the sky as the final indication of my need to be back home, amongst these aircraft that I love so much and are my biggest security and comfort. After their flight and the sun began to set, I finally send word to home about where I am, a few hours too late. All the planning and the goodbyes turn into hello, hello. I don’t know why I said goodbye. Immediately, I bought the first plane ticket I could home. Too expensive, but it was what truly needed to be done. I promised a friend I would send her the name of my top song every week. This first one from the road seemed obvious, even though I knew she already loved it. But it was true, I was coming home.
Coming Home – City & Colour
That night, I slept. It took me a while to fall asleep, but I slept. And when Maria went to work and Zuzana the airport, I said my goodbyes and I slept. Like the war was over and I could get off my guard for a little bit. When I woke up, the sun had travelled more than half way through the sky; it was three in the afternoon. I needed to get up and go somewhere; there was only one more day in Stockholm. A walk through the winding streets to the metro and I hoped on, hoping to see the Vasa museum – an old, old wooden ship. Looking at the strange Swedes, the stops flew by and all of a sudden I was way too far. Maria would be home soon so I should be as well. A short adventure and I was back to the only safe place I knew in Europe.
That night, we kept it quiet with George Clooney’s “Up in the Air”, kebab pizza and the sunset that lasted until late into the night; tomorrow there would be no rush to wake up and get around. Next morning, we made it out of the apartment in time to see the downtown and take a tour of the Riksdag – Parliament. I could have given a better tour with no clue how things work, but my days as a guide are surely over and the simplicity of it all gives hope that great things may be accomplished in that room. Politicians are politicians no matter which flag they fly. I picked up a Sverige shirt, just because that’s the kind of thing I do. I need proof of where I’ve been in case my memory leaves and physical objects are all that remain which will quite likely be the case when I die. Though I had thought that Europe had escaped the zombie craze, I filed into a room with a bunch of teenage girls to sit through a showing of Eclipse and determine whether Jacob or Edward is better for Bella. The one with the soul might be a better choice, even if she can’t be with him forever. Tear. A Chinese food buffet and an early night, tomorrow I go home.
It takes a while to wake up, almost too long for my hostess who needs to get me to the airport train. We make it and make our goodbyes as she heads to the zoo and I to Zoo York with a flight to Newark Liberty Airport. I arouse suspicions by checking in with only a passport, they look at me funny all day – through security, at the gate, everywhere but at US customs which wave me through; Canadian, can’t be that bad. The security is worst in Ottawa, where I must unload all my bags to show them that this crazy week was true. I am not evil, I am home.
Home - Wintersleep
Now what, I come back to the familiarity of everything. Yet everything is different than it once was. I’ve moved out of my home, I don’t have a job or a school; there is just me. It is kind of a scary situation that I had not fully thought out. Then again, it is an awesome feeling to be free and to get an opportunity to start all over again. At 22, with a university degree in hand – should the world not be mine?
Soon, the business of day to day life sets in and a week goes by quickly. Each new person to meet is a new person who needs an explanation to satisfy their curiosity. Yet it wasn’t a bother. Every person deserves to know. The guy who searched my possessions had told me, as if I needed some permission or acceptance, that I had nothing to be embarrassed about. He was right. I had made a mistake, albeit a costly one.
Now, I’m home and a waste no time getting back on my feet. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do, wanted to say, people I’ve wanted to spend time with and projects to accomplish. I’ve gained a year in my life. And I can make anything happen during this year. Anything.
Yes, I did have an excellent opportunity to study in a far off land and gain credibility in that field, but all the credibility I need is with myself. For years, I’ve been uncertain about my capacities and skills. Now I realize that is not by going to the top of the world that I will be able to stand out, but with the tools I already have. I just need a little bit of sharpening to carve my place in the world. And I’m ready to start!
Ready to Start – The Arcade Fire