Why start the journey?

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FOX_3558.psdI went to see the movie “Wild” tonight. I wasn’t too into the movie at the beginning but have to admit by the end, I had shed a few tears.

As I watched the movie, I knew that I wanted to base today’s blog post on something about journeys– especially since having recently moved up to SF and navigating a new life, I feel these days like I’ve started on a new journey of sorts.The journey is a commonly used metaphor for a lot of things: life, travails and troubles, the start of a big endeavor. I wanted to write something that wasn’t terribly hackneyed or cliched. So I’m including in this post just a bunch of the different things that I thought about while watching this movie.

Anytime you do something big, you experience that moment where you think to yourself, “What the fuck was I thinking? What have I gotten myself into?” As the main character, Cheryl, starts on her 90 day track from Mexico to Canada, she chastises herself, wondering what she’s gotten herself into. She tells herself she can quit at any time. She experiences some big challenges at the start of her journey– a stove that doesn’t work forcing her to eat cold mush the first few days of her trek, hiking shoes that are too small causing her toenails to fall off… She has many reasons at the start to call it a valiant effort and to call the whole thing off.

I can think of many moments in my life where I have had that “What the fuck have I done?” self-rebuke. I signed up to study abroad in grad school and was placed in Brazil. On one night, when a friend mentioned the favelas of Rio, I googled it and gasped. Oh my God– what was I walking into? I also landed in Rio amid a tropical storm and without a place to live. I checked into a hostel for the night and then proceeded to pound the pavement (not knowing a lick of Portuguese) in order to secure a place to live for the 3 months that I was there. Every day that led to my departure on this journey, I was very aware of the very comfortable alternative: being a student on the very sunny streets of LA. I’m going to come back to this thought nearer to the end of this blog post.

Part way through her journey, the protagonist comes across two hunters looking for water. As a woman traveling alone, she definitely was in a vulnerable situation throughout her trip. When she says goodbye and departs from the two men, she is startled to find that one of the guys has followed her back to her tent. The man looks, to be honest, kind of “rapey” and then proceeds to make suggestive comments to her. He is called away by his companion but it is certainly a very scary moment for the main character.

If I overlay this idea of a journey being a metaphor for life, in my life the rapey weirdo would be that former coworker that was trying to cyberbully me a few months ago. It really took me a long time to get over that and I feel like I should stop thinking about it. So I’m going to blog some stuff about that now and then call it. It’s done.

I think what really bothered me about that whole incident is just how insane the entire thing was. You separate from a person you think has perpetual malicious intent only to find that without any social or online connection to a person, he has found your blog and found it appropriate as an adult grown person (he’s 30+ years old) to write nasty comments. It’s really unbelievable. I recently forwarded one of his nasty notes to a former coworker we both knew and this was the discourse that occurred:

Me: Btw did I ever tell you that {Abuser} was cyberstalking me and sending me “anonymous” nasty comments?

Ex-coworker: What? No. Why would he do that?

Me: Because he’s a big bully. Here is one of the comments I got. The very bottom link shows that it’s coming from a company called HealthTap where {Abuser} works now.

Ex-coworker: How bizarre. If he’s that disdainful, why bother reading your blog at all? And why take so much time to comment? Can he find nothing better to do? That’s spectacularly weird.

My friend’s comment summarizes it all. Only a ridiculous person reads content that he doesn’t like and then proceeds to spend the time writing a crazy retort. When I really thought about this during the movie, I realized that in the journey of life, you will sometimes encounter terrible people– people with terrible intentions and without the self control to act like a civilized human being. In the movie, the main character tries to act calmly in order to survive the situation should it have escalated. I realized that this is only way that you can combat truly crazy people. The best you can do is act as normally as you can given the consequences. I will be honest that I considered a lot of options in how to deal with the Abuser. He gave me a lot of material to work with. In the end, I told him to stop via his girlfriend and I also forwarded all the material to his employer. I considered this the responsible response to the actions of a crazy person. I really hope he gets fired. He deserves to be. But even if nothing happens, I know in my heart that I didn’t let him get away with being a bully in yet another situation in his life. I said what I needed to say and I feel proud of that.

I also though thought about the Abuser’s girlfriend during the movie and about life being a journey. During the time that we worked together, she was in the process of getting a divorce from her husband– a man she had been with for over 10 years. I never asked too many questions because I knew that this was a private and difficult matter. At the end of the day, what happens between two people is private and I certainly don’t know all the details leading to the dissolution of their life together. But during some of our discussions, the girlfriend mentioned that her ex-husband had strong opinions and this led her to follow his lead rather than making the choices that perhaps she would have preferred. They began dating while in high school. I asked her: had they not gotten together, what different choices would she have made? Her responses made me think she would have made all different choices in her life: she would have chosen a different college, she would have considered studying abroad, she would have followed things that interested and challenged her rather than following the lead set out by her mate.

She commented that from her divorce, she realized that it’s important to see the true core of a mate. Beauty fades, she observed, so you want to make sure you are with someone who is good and who you can live alongside. During the separation, she was reading books, she was hoping to travel and scratch the travel itch that she hadn’t tended to during the earlier years of her life. She expressed to me, or so I interpreted, a desire to embark on an incredibly beautiful new journey– one where she satisfied her desire to be around great people, seeing great things and experiencing the freedom that she hadn’t experienced until that point in her life.

I believed her. And I was rooting for her. So imagine my disappointment when she got together with with a controlling, mean-spirited individual whose only focus in life was partying and getting black out drunk. I knew even at the time that he was controlling and mean because I began seeing signs of it and it made me uncomfortable. And now having received the comments from him, I know it to be completely true. Trying to intimidate another person using abusive language is an attempt to control their ability to share their thoughts. You know a person’s true character not when you see them at their best but rather when you see them at their worst.

One of the worst things that I remember of him was when he made fun of a coworker. This coworker had a physical disability (a lazy eye). When I brought up this person by name, the Abuser made a gesture where he brought his hands up to each eye and and pointed in opposite directions. This is a 30 year old man making fun of a person’s physical disability. I could not believe it. I honestly felt like I was dealing with a teenager when I was around the Abuser– his actions were hate-filled and his rationale totally ludicrous. He repeatedly showed how mean and controlling he was and it got to the point where I just couldn’t stand to be around the Abuser and all of his antics.  I don’t know why the girlfriend doesn’t see this but I hope she starts getting clued in to his true character before it’s too late.

I’ll say at the end of the day, their relationship is none of my business, which is why I as well as other coworkers distanced ourselves from these two. But I will say that it struck me as being incredibly tragic for my coworker to emerge from what she felt was a suffocating relationship (with a great guy) only to throw herself into another suffocating relationship with (based on evidence and behavior) a mean and controlling individual. It’s like taking the opportunity to embark on a wonderful new journey and going on the same journey previously traveled, the one with disastrous results. In the movie, there is a phrase that is constantly repeated. I might have it wrong but it is something like: put yourself in the way of beauty. I hope that she will someday have the courage to embark on a beautiful journey in her life and do all the things she told me she wanted in her life and with a partner who has a good heart.

So that’s done. Whee!

So back to what I alluded to earlier. I said that when I was about to travel to Brazil, I knew that I could have taken the safer route and just stayed home. And in the journeys we take, be it the finite ones or the big journey known as life, we encounter terrible people and other negative situations. And for me, I made the decision to actively move to SF though I could have stayed in the South Bay and found jobs down there. And it’s great up here but hard in some ways. So in the context of all these things, I wondered to myself: Then why do we do it? Why do we start these journeys? Why do we put ourselves through the struggles, the tough moments, the trials and challenges– especially when we are aware of the much more comfortable alternatives?

And when I really think about it, my response to that question is: we do it and we put ourselves through it because when we looked back on it all, we would never forgive ourselves for not having at least given it a try.

So I will end my blog here. Happy weekend, everybody!

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