It is not hard to realize that the presence I create in this space is hardly a representation of my life or the life of someone on a gap year. It is merely a representation of the things I choose to polish, shine, and set out in the open.
I know it has been said before, but I want to say it again. Traveling for an extended period of time is as much of a life as a sedentary existence, and life includes boring and frustrating and tired and scared. So what are the parts I leave behind when I post my pretty pictures and (hopefully) pretty words?
I leave behind the walking home alone at 1am, that time I forgot my passport, the awkward interactions with some guys in my hostel, the waiting for the bus alone with a huge backpack and no shower in two days. I also leave behind weekly 2am conversations that blow my mind, the hugs, the drinking games that make me cry laughing, the really long discussions with people that understand me in ways I have not been understood in a long time.
I don’t leave these things behind for any intentional reason or with too much of a motive. I leave them behind because they are intrinsicly a part of me. They are growth and learning that I feel no need to wax about or take pictures of. (There’s also no point in sharing all the details of a life: bottom line no one cares.) However, this does not neccasarily mean they aren’t external entities. The people and places that have changed me without my explicit reference online no doubt inform and alter the very way in which I move throughout the world. Therefore, they are present in my observations, writings, and pictures- including the ones I post in this space.
In general, I don’t think I believe that anything gets truly left behind. Below is a marvelous quote from the play “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard:
“We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?”
To take this concept out of the intellectual and general, and into the personal, I go back to my middle-school self. At around the age of 12 I undertook the cleaning of my closet. Years of school projects, old books, and random papers confronted me. At first I was clutched with indecision. How could I possibly throw away things that have made me who I am? Things that were written with my hand or worn by my body?
Except then, in a moment of maturity, it hit me: they made me who I am. These books, papers, and artifacts would not cease to be of less importance to my current or future being once removed from the room where I slept and disintegrated in a land fill. In fact, they would be physically, emotionally, and socially present in every future endeavor or interaction I had. Even once I had forgotten the name of an author or the work it took to write that essay, their impact on my life was inseparable from the life I would continue to live. These physical items would show up in the structure of a sentence and the way in which I learned to love another human weeks, months, or years in the future.
This concept has carried me through my adolescence, giving me particular relief when, two years after my realization, I moved across the country- leaving behind the best home and the best friends I have ever have. It has allowed me to live a life of freedom. While I may compulsively journal the details of my day or take pictures every change I get, the letting go and saying goodbye to certain people, ideas or memories intentionally or unintentionally is always hard. Yet still I am free to cry, fall in love, read with fervor, and forget or leave behind each of these because I know with as much certainty as I can muster that all of these experiences have made me who I am, and will be with me and within me through every move I make. And, for me, the moves of a human being are beautiful.