I’ve always wanted to collect people’s stories. I’ve droned on at length in a couple of previous posts about feeling untethered and without roots my whole life. I’ve also expressed my fascination with how other people live since I’ve had little guidance in that area. I want to know about you, why you do the things you do and make the decisions you make. I want to know other people’s stories, not because I want them to tell me how to live, but because I want to gather data so I can make informed decisions for myself.
I think other people base their life decisions, at least in part, on the way they were taught and how they were brought up, and based consciously and sometimes subconsciously on the decisions their ancestors made. Were your ancestors royalty? Maybe you think you have a deep need to govern. Do you come from a heritage of monks and scholars? Maybe you decide to go into a research field. Do you hail from a long line of thieves and whores? Maybe you decide to do better for yourself, or maybe just perpetuate and justify bad behavior as ingrained.
That’s oversimplified, of course. There are myriad factors that go into decision making. But what if you don’t have that ancestral base? What if your parents always made decisions for you? What if they were bad decision-makers for themselves and you have nothing to go on? What if you have no ancestors to know anything about?
I think people’s ancestral stories and personal back-stories define who they are and how they live. I’ve traveled a bit, and I’m always curious about the people who live where they do. Look at any house, anywhere, and ask yourself why people live there. Is it an ancestral home? Is it a temporary living space? Who is in that house, and why do they feel compelled to stay there?
I remember these thoughts coming to me most specifically during travel. I’d see an airline employee at a ticket desk in Frankfurt and wonder what she did after work, what her apartment might be like, whether she was happy, whether she enjoyed her work, whether she had a boyfriend. I’d see an old woman at a butcher shop in Nice and wonder whether she’s lived in that vicinity her whole life, and what kept her there. I’d see kids playing in a street in Madrid and wonder what they would grow up to be.
I’m a restless soul, maybe because of my shorn roots. I spent 24 years with someone, living in a house, going to school, having a job, and every single second it felt contrived and ill-fitting. My whole life went against my nature. I don’t want to stay in one place for long. I am always searching for the next thing, want to explore places and experience people. I always feel sorry for the people in those houses, in those places. How narrow their lives are! How tiny and repetitive their experiences!
At the same time, I’m intensely jealous of those people. I feel rejected from that kind of life, excluded from the human race because I don’t belong anywhere. I’m always casting about, looking for something I can’t define that would anchor me and give me definition and purpose. I want my world to shrink. I want to be fulfilled by my career, to be fully engaged with the person closest to me (to even have a person close to me!), and to love where I live and be able to enjoy the changing of the seasons and the local flavor and the overlapping, lazily churning circles of people around me.
I’ve never lived anywhere long enough that I won’t be the new person, no matter if I live there for the next 50 years. I don’t have ties anywhere, I’m like a loose balloon with half a head of helium, bouncing lazily off things, sometimes resting in a tree for an hour or two before being blown aimlessly to the next destination. Maybe I could fit in here…. or here…. or there.
And yet, no matter where I go, there I am. I wonder if this unease and agitation will ever stop, and what kind of self-improvement work I could do to make it fade away. I’m not totally unhappy with myself. I’m more unhappy with my situation. My work lately just brings feelings of endless tedium. I used to get angry when I wasn’t heard, when historic preservation and consultation matters were sidelined in favor of progress. Now I’m just over it. I’m bored with my co-workers’ ignorance and apathy.
If I’m going to be untethered, let me be so fully. I want to quit the job, run away for a year or so, use up all my savings and just camp wherever, do whatever, be somewhere whenever. I think humans aren’t meant to be so trapped in a workaday, COVID-ridden, politically divided, cruel and hostile world. We’re meant to get up in the morning and breathe and stretch. We’re meant to stare at the moon and stars in the sky for a while, or play idly with water in a stream. We’re meant to run pell-mell up a hill just for fun, or forage for food and make things, or talk with each other about ideas. We’re meant to touch one another, to hug our loved ones and cuddle with our superloves.
Alas, I have responsibilities. I don’t even know how to end another meaningless rant that will never go anywhere. I don’t know what to do about the inertia. I don’t know what to do about the unease, or the rootless floating feeling, or the mind-numbing tedium of my job. If I stretched out even one tiny, fragile tendril and it connected with something and took hold, I would be so grateful right now.