10 August 2009

The Travels of an Independent Woman

In a bout of depression (see former post) I didn't go to my internship today. I laid around all day (I did not shower, or get dressed, or go out of the apartment) I picked up a book I had bought the other day....and I read the whole thing today.

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach. Part of me really wishes that I would have read this book before my trip to Europe, not for the destinations she went to...but for the insight she provided from the experience of traveling alone. Now granted, I wasn't truly traveling alone I was with 25 other Ohio State University students going to class and goofing off and not learning a bit of french. But in looking back at it I really didn't make the connections one usually would while traveling with other people, so in an essence, I was traveling alone.

In the last pages of the book Steinbach quotes another travel writer, Freya Stark, who wrote memoirs as she traveled through the Middle East (during a time when women NEVER traveled alone) and she said something about reaching one's destination

"This is a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering. The thing which as been living in your imagination suddently becomes a part of the tangible world. It matters not how many ranges, rivers or parching dusty ways may lie between you, it is yours now and for ever."

Steinbach had gone to Europe "to find herself" or to "change things up" and therefore had no destination in mind really for her trip other than she was going to start in Paris, and move on from there. So she feels regretful that she had no tangible destination to drink in that moment as her idol, Freya, had done. But instead of thinking of the destinations she did not have, she found another moment that was hers forever. She stands in the rain outside on the pier in Venice and watches as it veils the city. And that moment is hers forever as it is just hers, she does not have to share it with anyone else.

I remember that feeling. That feeling of exhilaration that this moment belongs to you and you alone. That you are completely self-sufficient that you need nothing in the world in that moment but yourself, you think of nothing but that moment, no one but you, and you relish in the fact that you can stand there for as long as you like...because it is just you.

That feeling laying on the world's softest grass among the roses in Geneva. Realizing that I didn't need anyone but myself and that I would be happy to just lay there on that carpet of softness forever. That feeling of the Champs D'Elysees at midnight, the cool breeze against my skin the headlights whirring past me as I'm in the middle of the round about, watching the eternal flame flicker under the Arc De Triomphe, reading the inscriptions and studying the elaborate decor of the huge stone structure without bother from tourists or guides, or someone worrying that I was out in the city too late. The feeling of sitting alone and taking in a film at the theater and as you walk out silently contemplating the film you have no one to discuss it with.

And just as Alice Steinbach did in her book I wonder where the adventure loving girl I used to be has gone. The girl who wasn't afraid to get dirty and climb over bushes and brambles and through weeds that probably contain poison ivy, or ticks or all sorts of things. I wonder why people stopped inviting me on adventures...what changed in me that suddenly people no longer recognized my love for 3am walks around campus or wandering through a classroom building just because you found an open door. What has changed in me that I will sit in my room for a whole day and never take in the outside? That I cannot remember the last time I went to a park, or just sat somewhere and took everything around me in.

I guess I thought that without the worries of school, or a boyfriend, or even people to pay attention to that I would find that person again. That I would go geocaching or walk down along the river just because I never have. I thought I would go through the galleries downtown or find inspiration enough for photographs or drawing or something.

Very seldom in my life do I look back and have moments where I remember feeling beautiful or charming or desirable. But when I look back I remember creating, being part of art, feeling inspired, feeling curious, and wondering what was around the next corner of everything...wondering what I could find off the beaten path...who I would find or who I would take with me along the journey that was my life. But now as I look back on my stay in "The Hallway" (LOL) I don't remember ever feeling inspired or adventureful. I remember working to look cute for a boy, asking my roomies over and over if I look acceptable. I remember being offended that someone didn't think I was pretty, or that they would pick someone else's looks over mine because I thought I was definitely good enough, if not really pretty. But I don't remember the important emotions. I don't know that I even had them...maybe its the location, maybe its my mood. But I just don't feel it here...I feel less and less like an independent woman and more and more like a dependent one...not dependent like I was before necessary. But dependent on the unimportant...I have lost my independence to be different. In a way I feel almost...personality-less.

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