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A year ago today I was on the other side of the world, standing in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth: Prague.

It was my first time out of the U.S, and I had flown across the ocean on my own to start an adventure. That’s what I called it. That’s what I was looking for. An adventure. Looking back, thinking about everything I did a year ago, I am amazed. I was so brave. Maybe braver than I am now.

I have spent 7 of the last 12 months traveling and living abroad. A little over a year ago, I hadn’t been anywhere, and now: I’ve eaten street meat on Prague’s cobblestones, wandered around Warsaw, spent a week meeting my relatives in cities and tiny villages all over Ukraine, climbed waterfalls and ridden bare-elephant-back in Bangkok, hunkered down in Seoul, explored Bavaria with my German cousins and my mom, gotten trapped in Toronto in a snowstorm, and eaten raspberry gelato on the riverbanks of Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg, Austria.

Now, I’m tired. I’m home, and my bed is awfully comfortable, let me tell you. My bones are weary. I feel ancient, like I have lived too many lives. I don’t want to go anymore. I want to stay.

But me, I’m for adventures. That’s what I want — at least, I think it still is, for now. Why am I hesitant to keep moving? Isn’t that what we always have to do? Life doesn’t stop. There are so many places to see, so much to do, so many people to meet.

I’m thinking about how people say you shouldn’t work doing what you love, because you might grow to hate it — or something like that. I don’t know if I agree — maybe it’s more like, you shouldn’t let what you love become work. And I’m thinking and worrying that that’s what traveling has become for me. Tiresome. It’s not a vacation anymore, not when it’s a year later and you’re still going. It becomes a different beast, yet still a beautiful one. The challenges change, become more difficult, more stressful, compounding over and over.

There is something beautiful and easy about living in your homeland. The people speak your language (on many levels), you’re used to the food, the culture, the transportation systems, the medical systems, the money, banking. You know where to go, what to do, who to do it with. You have friends, people who you’ve grown up with, whether or not you met them in your childhood. You have history there. It belongs to you. It’s simple. It’s easy; there are no visa requirements, no proof of residency, no need to carry your passport with you wherever you go. No translation apps on standby. No stares because you are different.

It’s too easy. Ask anyone who’s returned from abroad after being away for a significant amount of time. It’s so easy! Everything’s in your own language. You can understand everything people say to you, everything people say to other people, stuff you don’t even want to understand — but you do anyway! You can’t help but listen! There’s so much sound! Sound, noise, a language that finally means something to your brain!

Too easy.

Too familiar.

Isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Or have I lost it, that wonderment at things I don’t understand? I’m no longer in love; un-infatuated with newness. It’s been hard. It’s been unpleasant. It’s been a long time. The honeymoon is over! Where are the divorce papers?! Quick, somebody! Someplace? Save me.

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1. Don’t stand still. Or do? You need a break from life sometimes, a nap, a vacation, a year off. Is that so terrible? Do we have to slave away, rush around with no path, with no finish line ahead? Sometimes it seems like society (and/or our mothers) demands this non-stop action from us, meaningful or not. Society doesn’t care. But I do! Stop. Breathe. Plan it out. I love you! Just don’t take too long.

2. 18-ish-year-old guy and his grandmother at the grocery store:

G-ma: “What do you want?”

Guy: “Let’s get pineapple. It tastes good. I drink the juice. It’s good for you.”

Um, ew. Don’t tell granny about that!

3. Don’t lose yourself in worthlessness.

4. Pluck it up.

5. Fuck marbles/shot glasses/tiny fancy spoons/posters/baseball, pokemon, whatever cards! Collect lovely people instead. (As in, meet them and get to know them and love them. Not in a creepy murder-y way. Felt I should add that.)

6. “I can’t go to that store again today because I wore these same pants yesterday!” – my life.

7. They are not real anymore.

8. We are growing up! I mean, everyone always said it was happening, but it’s really happening! My friends are getting married, and trying to have babies — actual babies — and building houses — like, on their own, like they’re real adults. Remember when that all terrified/disgusted us?? What happened?

9. So much can change in a year. You change so much in a year. But, is it for the better?! Or for the worse?! Ahhh!

10. Make something new.

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He’s got his life planned out. He’s got a plan. At least a little one. Me I just like looking at vague blurry pictures on Tumblr. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not mad about that, it’s just a fact. A terrifying one. He speaks well and is still going to school and I’ve been out for a year and a half now and I don’t talk nearly as smart as he does. I need to work on my vocabulary, I tell myself. I need better words.

I tell my young friend that it seems to always be like this. We talk about graduating from high school. She’s younger than my little brother by a year and a half but I like him and I still like her. I tell her all my wisdom, all that I’ve stored up and learned. Life’s like this, I say. You don’t know what you’re doing. You never do. That’s how it is. Wise stuff like that.

I look at this picture of birds flying all scattered about. It’s like that, I think. That’s exactly what it’s like.

I read terrible poems by young Bukowski and shake my head at them. I look at pictures of my grandma’s grandma and shake my head at them. No one knew what they were doing. Maybe they figured it out eventually, maybe they didn’t. Maybe there’s nothing to figure out. We’re a pack of birds or a flock of them, and here we are, all together and winging and scrambling anywhere and everywhere. Making plans and worrying and crying and reading bad poetry and trying to learn something before we take off for the real world or winter vacation or before our parents die and leave us alone here, inheritors of this.

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1. How dare you flirt with my fake boyfriend!

2. It’s super reassuring/terrifying when cool successful people also admit that they have no idea what they’re doing with their lives. Wait, what?! Nooo! Help!

3. When was the last time you used sidewalk chalk? Not recently enough!

4. Maybe you’ve known someone for a really long time and you think you know all about them. But I’m sure there’s a lot you still don’t know. And people change. Keep getting to know them.

5. Compliment someone today.

6. Winter is coming! Halloween is coming! Tomorrow is coming!

7. Why are pen pals not that much of a thing anymore?! Getting mail/letters is awesome. Come on, people. Get with it.

8. You’re not going to get Ebola. I mean, probably. OMG WHY did I read that one book that one time about exploding Ebola-monkeys?! But really, what’s worse: staying in your house all the time and avoiding all contact with people/the outside world or getting Ebola? Exactly. Also, on a totally separate note, who wants to play Pandemic?? It’s a classic!

9. Listen to what it is you’re saying, especially if you expect others to. Pay attention to yourself.

10. Why are we paying so much attention/money to people with so little talent?! Because they’re on the radio?! That doesn’t mean they deserve your time! Because they’re on T.V?? Because whatever it is they create is everywhere and so easy to see?? That does not mean it’s good, or useful, or interesting, or worthwhile. It’s all self-perpetuating and gross. Turn it off. Find something better. It’s not that hard.

“I don’t care if you’re happy,” he says, wringing his hands in the air. “You shouldn’t be.”

He’s standing in the middle of the busy sidewalk preaching to his date and anyone else who’s listening. I’ve known he exists for less than three minutes and already I’m mesmerized by this weird boy with weird hair who’s wearing a purple polka dot shirt and leather pants.

Fucking art kids, I think, and he continues.

“You’re sitting there on your couch, fat and happy, watching television. You’re with another human who you tolerate enough to spend the rest of your life with. You both have well-paying middle-class jobs that pay your rent bill and your cable. You’re a great, contributing member of society. A well-oiled cog in the machine. You have your purpose. You have your paycheck. You have most of your life mapped out.”

He stops talking and later I find myself in a large room filled completely with fog. There are bright lights in the corners of the room, and everything is white and thick and the room doesn’t feel like a room, and I don’t feel like a person — only a floating, dizzy set of eyes in a world of white and black and flashes of color. And there is no purpose in that room, no ultimate goal; no deep thoughts, and no shallow ones. There is the smell of the fake fog, and the sensation of floating, and two dozen people watching the lights strobe on and off and on. It is simple and beautiful and more compelling than anything I’ve ever seen on T.V. It is strange and wonderful and someone dreamt it up and made it real.

The art kid appears beside me in the white fog in my mind, later. He’s several years older and still stacking things on top of each other, hanging weird things from ceilings, banging things onto and into walls, building robots and talking machines that fly when you whistle “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” in their direction. He struggles to find jobs for himself and doesn’t own a couch or a cat but he’s happy in his own way. People look at him and wonder how he’s done it, wish they could too, whatever it is. They snap pictures with their new iphones and wander back out of the fog to make babies and nest eggs.

“I want you to be happy,” he says, waving the fog out of his face. “You should be.”

It’s different now, a year later, at least for him. He’s taken up watercolor painting and poetry, mixed them together like two paint colors and formed some type of art that’s popular with all people. He’s selling his work online and making enough money to buy extra pairs of weird shoes. He’s thinking about going back to school but he doesn’t know what for yet, doesn’t feel the time has come yet, not yet, not yet. He’s still wearing that same old polka dot shirt, hasn’t found another like it or better. He doesn’t consider himself to be like those people he talked about. He thinks he’s different, he tries to be, although he’s still fighting the pull of “normality” everyday like gravity. It’s hard. But the more he builds and paints and rhymes, the more times he shaves his own hair, the more people who call him “interesting”, the further away from that life he gets. The more foggy it all is. He can’t see those other people anymore, they don’t really exist to him. He lives in another place, another world. No more sidewalk preaching, only painting in cement with colored chalk to make people smile. He wants them to be happy, he says. You should be.

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