There are these humans scattered across the earth who know me better, perhaps, than even those I grew up with. Who are able to recognize when I am three seconds away from tears, and who whisper tiny bits of wisdom to me, shattering my façade of serenity. Who stand in as my surrogate mother, or sister, or brother when I am on the road for the third week and I think I cannot possibly eat another hotel buffet or stand another goodbye, and who rub my arm or my back and tell me everything is going to be fine.
I’ve become lucky these past few years, in that I run into one or more of this handful of humans on a semi-regular basis. And that I seemingly do so whenever I’m about to break, renewing my hold on sanity and releasing my anxiety, allowing me to get through another week of airplanes and strange cities.
I am on tenterhooks. It is not my job, nor my love life, but something else entirely that is eating me inside, and I can’t bring myself to discuss it here. The thought of it rears at the worst possible moments, and I fight to swallow the lump in my throat, remind myself that there is nothing that can be done, c’est la vie.
And I’m disillusioned. It is a madness that I can never seem to escape. Once, just once in awhile, I sit with my finger on the trigger, ready to buy a ticket to somewhere, anywhere, anywhere but here. The mundanity of living in one place gets to me when I’m home, but when I’m on the road, I long for domesticity. The grass is always greener, I suppose.
You cannot know someone in a day. But add in an intense week here, a spattering of highly-packed days there, and a half-decade of blog posts to look back on, and you’d be surprised how much you can glean about a person, perhaps more so than someone you pass by in the hallways each day. Their favorite color. Their bad habits. What buttons to push. What things never to say.
I’m lucky, I have a few such people. Ships passing by in the night, as it were, with whom few words need be exchanged.
In the past 50 days, I’ve been to Berlin and Potsdam, New York and DC, Lousville, New Hampshire, Brussels, Tunis, back to Brussels and will soon return home, but not before stopping in Maryland for a keynote. There were sprinklings of San Francisco in there somewhere, but if my cat were a real child, I suspect she’d have stopped recognizing me some time ago.
Twelve days after I return, I head to Brazil, then Turkey. Il ne fait pas fin.
I fight through it by working, and sometimes, when that isn’t enough, with bad habits. Lately, I find myself smoking again: “Only when I travel,” I tell anyone who gives me a sideways glance, tongue hardly in cheek for they know as well as I do that travel has become me.
I think we are each simply destined for madness, or greatness, to paraphrase the fictional Hooper Claude Bukowski. In this life, we are all Aquarius, and often I think one–madness or greatness, that is–simply leads to the other.
“Life is precision,” reads a sign in my hotel lobby. But I know this not to be true. In this life, we choose our paths. We veer to the right, curve to the left, step off track, screw up. We say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or worse–don’t do anything at all–and later we reflect in our perches of privilege, as if our own troubles matter more than a hundred other lives.
The only thing that keeps me sane is recognizing that there is no room–never any room–for regrets.
Je ne regrette rien.
*Rarely do I ever write like this anymore. When I do, I hesitate to post it publicly, but today I recalled a theme: It is whenever I meet a group of Global Voices people that I am inspired to pour my heart forth. Life is too short not to. Je ne regrette rien.