CHAPTER ONE

FIGHT OR FLIGHT

About

When my fight or flight mechanism kicked in, I chose the latter. I was going to get out there and see the world for myself. I left the job I had once liked and then hated


Seat twenty-five-B. I find myself sitting on a plane that will embark me on a one year journey around the globe. My stomach seems to be torn between hunger and a cruel sea of anxiety. At this point, the book my mother has gifted me for a thoughtful goodbye is my only refuge. Every now and then, my eyes venture out of the lines to catch a glance at an air hostess whose kind smile allows me back into the reality of my seat. Finally, the moment has come. The moment when one and a half year of preparations have granted me a lifelong dream to come true.

Buckled up into seat twenty-five-B, I cannot help but contemplate the combination of elements that have led me here. After a course of studies I would define as somewhat uninspiring, I had followed my pragmatic way into the inevitable office job. Marketing administration. This was the usual course of studies and jobs for someone who hadn’t found himself yet. Someone a little lost doing something that made a lot of sense. Too much sense?

Looking a little short of two years back, I remember feeling like I was going in a direction that wasn’t meant for me. Despite knowing –and accepting- how common it was among my twenty-six years old peers, my patience was running short. One year of sitting in a front of the screen eight hours a day was starting to have its toll on me. When February rolled around the corner, I reached a crucial point where “two roads diverged into a wood”, to quote Robert Frost. My road less traveled would be to move to my hometown and save enough money to travel what I then envisioned as six months. The other option was to stay. Stay and keep moving down that dead end road. The choice was simple though it appeared excruciating at the time. If I moved back home I would have to sacrifize the energy of a city I loved and seriously cut down on my social life. But who was I kidding, really? By that point I was in professional stagnation, I couldn’t decipher dating for the sake of me, and overall I had struggled with my fair share of anxiety.

When my fight or flight mechanism kicked in, I chose the latter. I was going to get out there and see the world for myself. I left the job I had once liked and then hated. I moved back home and took on an old student job that would allow me to save whatever budget was required for the trip. Life would have to forgive me yet again, for I had but a vague plan. I had stepped aside, off the road for a moment. From there I could observe everybody drifting slowly ahead with what resembled a life plan. It gave me the feeling that the catching-up would be mine to do but that was fair game.

The first few months were a bit of a rough ride. Overall I felt like I was moving forward in what any person my age had endured or was enduring. At the time though, I felt exhausted by a constant race to find my place in the world. I felt frustrated at how near the answer felt, yet how I could never grasp it. I found myself caught up in what was nothing more than a pointless chase, but felt so very crucial. An illusion, really. I had to figure out what it was, what I was meant to do with my life. I had to figure it all out then and there. My head seemed to be taking me in all directions in a gentle panic, desperately trying to find something. My heart seemed to be swaying endlessly between desires and disinclinations, not quite putting a finger on anything specific I liked or disliked. And the worst part? I had somehow convinced myself I was being perfectly rational.

That was also the time my journey truly began –at least spiritually- and it gifted me something crucial. I was slowly realizing how I had always done the things I thought I should do, never the things I wanted to do. Slowly, my few months of saving turned into a year and a half. My travel plans expanded from a few months to a whole year.

The plane takes off, holding me closer in the palm of its seat twenty-five-B. As it lifts me into the air, it pulls me further from the inevitable what-am-I-doing moment that precedes any such adventure. I wave an imaginary goodbye to the Old Continent for the first time, though it is nothing but a disguise. The temporary loss of loved ones is my true sorrow, but I cannot allow myself to admit it. The hostess’ comforting smile will be out of my reach until the seatbelt sign is switched off, but I have to trust in my decisions. More than ever, I hold the words of Rumi tightly in my heart: “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”

In twenty-five-C, an elderly Sri Lankan woman calls me again. She needs help with the screen she cannot get her head around. I wonder if she sees what I see. That fate has placed a promise in her. A promise for many encounters that will enrich me along the way. “I am going to see the world for myself” – I think in silence. Was there really ever a fight and a flight?

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