Saturday, 25 December 2010

Ghost of Christmas

It's that time of the year again. Christmas used to be a very special time for me. It was one of the busiest time when I was with the Catholic church, what with going from house to house singing Christmas carols, getting the altar boys ready for the midnight mass and getting the church decorated for one of the most festive of its fest days. And like most kids growing bombarded with western idea of Christmas, I dreamt of a white Christmas too, of families gathered around the fireplace and Christmas trees surrounded by family and loved ones.

Eventhough I had left the church and Christmas has no other meaning than commercial, I still felt that at this time I would love to be among loved ones. These 7 christmases past hadn't exactly fulfilled that wish and at times I felt that I had sacrificed a lot in the pursue of my travel. Somehow one way or another, I still ended up with some friends somehow; 2 years ago it was a group of backpackers thrown together by fate in the same hostel in world's southern most city. Last year it was with a couple of friends that I had just made as I had just arrived in Colombia. I was never alone, I guess subconsciously I was afraid to be alone at this time of year, even guilty as if I'm not holding up my side of a societal bargain.

This Christmas however I am alone. And I'm ok with it. Strange... maybe I'm finally at peace with solitude. Maybe I don't care about others' expectations. Maybe I've stopped feeling sorry for myself. Walking down the streets I can sense the christmas-ness in the air, and I see happy faces carrying their shopping bags walking hand in hand, etc. I don't feel the need to partake in their ritual, I don't feel that I'm being left out, nor do I feel the joy and excitment of this festivity. I just feel... normal. Strangely I guess that's how vampires feel when they walk among humans, alike yet apart.

Do I want to be somewhere else? No, I'm where I'm supposed to be. It's a Christmas where I can strip down to basic... I walked into a church today just in time to hear the priest said the consecretion prayer and I automatically said "amen". Habit dies hard; and one of my habit at this time of the year is writing emails to all my friends, a rare time where I allow myself to travel down memory lane and be nostalgic. A Christmas present for me... from me.

Merry Christmas everyone

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Neither here nor there

When I told people that I've been on the road for 7 years, most were surprised and shocked. "How could you spend such a long time away from your family? Don't you miss home?" and the occasional "Why?" were not uncommon. But the answer isn't a straight forward one in my case. I knew the reason why I left in the beginning, self-discovery, adventures, etc. But the reason has changed over the year; otherwise I would have achieved what I had set out to do and then would have gone home.

But one step led to another, one phase to the next. And I am still travelling. I still define myself as a traveller, a nomad and a pilgrim on the road. And the road has become my life.

The problem with this wandering lifestyle is just that, WANDERING. A non stop moving from one place to another, from one state to another, from one identity to another. Sooner or later I will be tired, exhausted and burnt out. And that's where I am at when I got to Colombia last year. After travelling, hitch-hiking, camping, trekking and couchsurfing ( through most of South America for a year I was ready to stop. But stopping in a deeper sense of the word, like settling.

I was ready, or so I thought. I began looking for proper job that would give me some kind of stability and also at the look out for that someone to fill the void I had left empty in all these years. I would say I was almost desperate, and felt wound up like an old toy ready to explode. I gave my all in both endeavours; labouring profusely to find fulfilment in them. And after almost a year of trying, I came a full circle empty handed. No love and no money. I was defeated.

But once I accepted it and let it go I felt liberated. Liberated from the idea of wanting to settle down. The idea of wanting to be like everyone else and belong to somewhere or something. I was in love with the idea of being in love. I wanted what everyone else is having. Then the more I come to know myself and see myself and my "needs", I realised that it just isn't me, for now. I have not gotten to that phase yet, and am not sure if I have it in me to get there. The more I learn about myself and the more I look at what the society has to offer, I feel very claustrophobic just thinking about living a socially conditioned life.

Sometimes the sense of not belonging is over powering. We live in a world where we make sense of things by defining what it is not. So I am making sense of who I am by knowing who I am not? We will never truly know who we are because we are evolving all the times, those that are unhappy are those that don't want to evolve because they don't want to give up, surrender. I guess I'll never know who am I, maybe I am just a pilgrim of life.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Present: a present

"La vida es un regalo - Life is a gift and we can do with it as we wish." Said a random lady on the street.

So if this life we have is a gift then we can do with it as we wish, right? Wrong. We were brought up to believe that there is a set of codes and rules as to how this "gift" should be used. We live in a society where everyone is following this set of code of living and so we take it as the "right" way to live, to enjoy this gift. When we give present to someone, we don't tell them how they should use it. We relinquish the right and the reciever has the complete freedom as how he or she would like to use the gift. No one lives righter than the other. The rich doesn't have a more correct life than the poor. Nor does a vagabond lead a better life than a politician.

Growing up in an uptight Asian society, I was always bombarded by the idea that life is a routine, like a train track, everything is arranged, all I have to do is get on the track; Get a good education, get a career, buy a house and spend the rest of my life paying off the mortgage and wait for retirement. That's the RIGHT way to live! I had always find that very suffocating. I tried, honestly I did, but there's no way I could live like that. That's why I suffer from depression when I was growing up. If that's what my life is to be, then what's the point of living if I already known the end.

Now, looking back at that life, it all seems light years away. I have been living a kind of ephemeral existence where the present is all that counts ever since I left home. My family and most people think that I am wasting my time; everytime I call home, the very first question ask of me is a variant "when are you coming home/settling down?" Of course they think that I am not living correctly, wasting my university degree, my youth, my potential and my future. But this is my gift, I think I have the right to live it the way I see righ and that gives me the most happiness.

Life is fleeting, we are not born with a guarantee to live to a certain age. No one can say when this journey will end. Life is only meaningful when you live it in the present. So why not enjoy the present, after all this is all we've got.

If I could live my life over again
I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles
but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely, hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over again,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments.
One after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I've been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoast and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies...
- Nadine Stari -