Two weeks ago, I woke up to an all too familiar feeling of quiet dissatisfaction.
Subdued, I took a long shower, ate a good breakfast and planned my day. I would meet up with my friend Joe, I thought, and head to the gym after. Then I would travel back home to spend the evening with my family, as my sister and her boyfriend were staying over for the night. Comfortable, calm, relaxing, pleasant. But how long would I go on for dividing my time between work and leisure activities, without moving towards anything engaging or meaningful? The question left a bitter taste in my mouth, because I couldn’t find a reassuring answer.
I am prone to falling into a certain routine and consequently losing track of any long terms goals; I also struggle with compartmentalising the different aspects of my life. So while I had the time to write and apply for an MA in Journalism around work, I knew there was absolutely no possibility of putting my all into it. It simultaneously frightened and excited me to realise this fact, as it willed me to make a sudden change in my life – before the monotonous pattern manifested itself in my mind so deeply that any sense of my true self withered away into a blurry, neglected portrait. (Sorry, I can be a little melodramatic at times).
I quickly identified two crucial stages in this journey of mine to reach a state of greater contentment. First, I had to quit my job. Without the necessity to find something that would give me the headspace to evolve, I never would. For a while I browsed through employment websites, took note of where was hiring in Brighton, etc, etc. Yet I never went any further than window shopping. The comfort of my present situation fundamentally demotivated me, even though I was fully aware of my own underlying frustration. If that sounds like a contradiction, well that’s probably because it is. Setting the relentless confusion of my thought process aside, I simply had to create a clean slate in order to move forward.
Yet, before transitioning back into the world of work, I wanted to pursue stage two: using the little money I had to feast on valuable, thought-provoking experiences to fuel my writing. The nature of these experiences is completely idiosyncratic, however hitchhiking struck me as the obvious choice. Actually, hitchhiking devoid of all the little comforts and reassurances of my previous trips more imminently appealed to me. Even contemplating such an adventure, I could feel my authentic self returning. If my subconscious mind could speak to me in this moment, I imagine it would have casually remarked: “Hello, it’s nice to see you again. It’s been quite some time, but we’ll find our rhythm before you know it.”
At this point, I should explain why hitchhiking is my personal ‘meaning-filler’. It all starts with one question: how often do we see someone as they really are, without defining them based on how they make us feel? It happens so commonly that I will describe my friends based on my relationship with them, neglecting to appreciate their individuality. It’s just human instinct, I think, to view others through the lens of how they affect us personally. While I try to escape such a line of thinking, I doubt it’s possible to be completely objective in judging and understanding another person. Yet, hitchhiking is the closest I have come to such an experience.
When I sit in a confined space with a stranger, in the absence of all of the distractions that daily life presents (technology, work, the surrounding atmosphere, other people etc), as well as any preconceived notions of who they are based on the social environment of our meeting, my mind opens up in an indescribably beautiful way. I’ll ask the individual intimate questions and listen to their answers attentively, completely caught up in the rapture of their life and personality, feeling their separateness from me, their uniqueness. Since the driver and I (typically)both imagine we’ll never meet again, nothing holds us back from being completely open and honest with each other. As such, it isn’t only your perception of the other person that shifts in this situation. It is also their willingness to let you see them just as they are. Of course not every single person will, but I find that most do if you ask the right questions and establish yourself as a judgment free, observatory figure.
So, there is evidently so much beauty in this exchange because it simultaneously satisfies your need to be seen and to see others, sincerely. Without labels, history or fixed dynamics; without expectations or the fear of consequence. I believe it’s very close to the way in which a young child is able to view almost everyone around them. (God, I wish I was a kid again).
Admittedly there are various other motivations behind my travels , but I’m not going to share everything straight away when people I know might be reading this – now THAT would be insane.
In my next post I’ll be discussing the first day of my journey, so don’t despair, there will be some concrete details soon.