I watch a lot of movies. I read a lot of books.
There’s one genre that drives me nuts. “My life fell apart and now I have to go on a journey of rediscovery to find myself and realign my values.” You know. Those books. Mostly I despise them because I don’t know anyone, nor have I ever, that was in a position to take one of these journeys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to travel Europe and just journal and have interesting experiences and get to know myself. But I have responsibilities. Everyone I know has responsibilities. My savings account wouldn’t last long flouncing recklessly around Europe and many of the people I know don’t even have savings accounts. Plus, there’s the language barrier. I’m pretty sure all the books and movies I’ve seen with adorable language gaffes that turn out for the best would – if it were me – be tales upon tales of the “jackass American” who “didn’t bother to learn the language” – but hey, at least I wouldn’t be the person who talks really loud because somehow they subconsciously believe if you scream english loud enough, ANYONE can understand it.
But the message in these movies always seems to be, “If you could just have espresso in Italy, you’d be happy.” Because important transformations just don’t seem to happen where you live. Even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had to get a head wound and travel in her own brain contusion in order to get to the end of the yellow brick road. (Of course I think it’s not all a dream, what do you take me for? I also clap for Tinkerbell – so there!)
What it comes down to is this: I’m pretty sure that having espresso in Italy will not make me any more happy than espresso in my village. Fighting a language barrier to buy cheese will not make me a better, more well-adjusted, less cranky human being. Involving myself in a situation that has to be five years old in order to become a funny, shame-free story I can tell my friends … is a bad idea. The very act of being somewhere other than where you are is not going to automatically trigger you into some amazing “look within” mindset. If you are the person who looks everywhere but in a mirror for the reason you are the way you are right now – and you’re over the age of … let’s say 23-ish – you’re most likely looking in the wrong place. Because at some point you are not the creation of your parents, you are the creation of yourself, plain and simple.
This point became crystal clear to me when I was recently talking to someone I know who is going through a tough time. Total internal struggle. Very Eat, Pray, Love and whatnot. What he doesn’t realize is that the reason he’s free to go through this mentally tough time is because he has enough food and water, a job, someplace with a roof and four walls to sleep, and time. The very reasons he should be thrilled are not even hitting the radar. A soft bed? Taken for granted. A perceived slight? In the forefront of the mind with a spotlight burning it into the mind’s eye.
To ignore such amazing, necessary resources – what a luxury it is to be able to do mental gymnastics and think about philosophy and be all existential and whatnot!
Maybe there wouldn’t be such a radically vast depression spectrum in America if we could all truly understand what people in other countries lived like. Even in overly-romanticized Europe.
I’ll just go take three month’s worth of some poor underprivilidged worker’s wages and get a lauge coffee at Starbucks. That’s pretty much as elitist as I need to be, like, ever. I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table with my winter coat and shoes with no holes in them watching the train that people can take to safely travel long distances and the drive-thru where people have cars and can drive where they need to go. Sitting in a chair sipping on espresso. Then I’ll go home and steep in the luxury of being a homeowner (with a mortgage with a normal, human, sustainable fixed interest rate) with a roof that does not leak, insulation and heat that keep me warm, running water, indoor plumbing, a refrigerator considered obscenely large for most of Europe and a locked door that probably doesn’t need to be…transforming.
Really, if I wake up on a bathroom floor at 3am drenched in cold sweat and dried tears after passing out on the bathroom floor after being horribly sick after drinking a bottle of burbon after a funeral – that is, by all accounts, a “rich people” problem. Not a poor people problem. I have no right to complain beyond the sickening indulgence of knowing I’m lucky enough to be able to wallow in that kind of self pity for even a minute, much less a full night.
So I raise my glass of red wine – oh hey, yet another luxury! – to you and say “cheers” – I toast to your luxuries, both big and small. I toast to your transformations, both big and small. I toast to your organic, your sulfate-free, your holistic, and the fact that we’ve all had enough food that some of it actually went bad at some point. I think we should all toast to spoiled food more often.
Disclaimer: That epic pity party happened last year. I tell you this because I don’t want to see any “I’m sorry for your loss” stuff. I’m referencing old news.