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I sat on the beach on the faded old towel I’d brought from home. Home home. Stolen from my mother’s laundry room while packing for the big move. The adventure. Also known as South Korea.

The tiny salty waves crashed on the shore as I stared out into the blue and chewed on some dried mango chunks. An Austrailian dude and his big yellow dog drew a large crowd of interested Koreans to the exact spot on the beach that was located in front of me and my little towel. We all watched together, smiling and laughing, as the man threw a pinecone into the waves and the dog happily retrieved it over and over, barking at his owner when the pine cone was not thrown again quickly enough. After ten minutes of this, the man and his dog walked on, and the crowd dispersed, and again I sat alone watching the ocean, holding an empty dried mango bag.

I would see them both again, the man and his dog, Sadie. I would hear him call her name each time she ran too far down the beach. I would see her yellow fur wet from the ocean waves. He would recognize me the next day, the white girl from the faded beach towel, as we stood at the intersection together, waiting to cross, to leave the beach and go back from wherever we both came from. He would look back at me over his shoulder, just for a moment, saying nothing, and I would avoid meeting his eye.

And then I would cross the street, leave the beach, and go home. But not home home.

And since I crossed that street, I’ve been thinking about it. Home. And what home means. And where my home is. And the things people need to feel happy in a place. The things that make you want to stay. The lack of things that makes you want to leave.

People. Love. Comfort. These things?

People. People to see, people to talk to, people to be friends with.

Love. People to love. Things to love. Places to love. To be happy and in love with yourself and your current place in the world.

Comfort. To be safe and happy or at least ok with your home. To like where you are. To feel like you’re actually going home when you go there.

What else? What makes you want to stay? Is it harder to know unless you leave?

It felt like going home to leave that beach. But also, it didn’t. It felt like leaving. And it felt like I would still be gone once I arrived. Yet, I stay.

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He said his name was Darcy. He said he was 47, although I probably misheard him, and he’s probably 27. He said he grew up just across the river from me, a few hundreds miles away, in another country. And there we were, meeting on the other side of the planet, somewhere in the jungle of Thailand.

I saw a wild monkey that day, as we drove away from the jungle in the tour bus. There he sat, on the edge of the dirt road, chewing on some kind of fruit. I blinked and he was gone, we had passed him, but he stayed in my mind for several more minutes. A monkey. A wild, tiny monkey. What an adventure my life is turning out to be.

These are not my words. I read them, translated them, because they were in some language I can’t speak. Spanish? No, Portuguese. The words said that everyone has dreams. But that some people have dreams when they’re not sleeping, too. Some people live their dreams.

Today is my birthday. I woke up, on the other side of the planet from where I was born, alone in my tiny Korean apartment. My family Skyped me and sang me happy birthday, holding up the chocolate birthday cake they baked and frosted to celebrate with me. I “blew” out my candle and made a wish. I thought about what else I want to do with my life. How do I want to spend age 23? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What sorts of people do I want to meet?

When I ended the call with my family, I didn’t feel particularly adventurous. Part of me wanted to immediately pack my belongings, leave Korea, go home, and have a piece of cake with my family. And I could, of course. I could go. But what kind of story is that? Where are the wild monkeys in that tale? What dreams would I be living, then?

A larger part of me wants to stay, wants to go on more adventures, do more things, dream more dreams. It’s always been this way, for all of my 23 years.

These are my words, translated from whatever is up there in my head. Sometimes it’s hard to read, sometimes the grammar isn’t so good. I don’t really know where I’m going, anymore than I know where that monkey is right now. But it’s okay, because so far it seems like I’m going along just fine.

 

 

 

 

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1. If my Korean next-door-apartment-neighbor and I ever meet, and we somehow manage to understand each other, he’ll be like, “Hey, great singing!” and I’ll be all, “Hey, great puking last Tuesday night! Also, can I use your microwave?”

2. Remember Vine?

3. Where are all these engaged people coming from? (She’s engaged? When did she even get a significant other?) It is surely Spring.

4. No matter where I go, Bob Dylan follows me around and sings to me (figuratively speaking). It’s lovely to be sitting at my window at night, gazing out at the multitude of neon lights of Seoul, and think about how I listened to this same beautiful song in so many other beautiful places.

5. “It’s fine to be alone.” “Is it?”

6. No, I am not interested in buying expensive lotion-covered plastic wrap, thank you. Where are these things coming from?! Why?! Why?! 

7. I’m a pretty chill person. I don’t get upset easily. I don’t hold grudges. However, if you tell me you’re sending me a letter, and then 1 to 2 weeks pass, and I receive no letter, just know that I now hate you. Don’t mess with my heart like that! 

8. Be kind.

9. It’s 2014. We have all kinds of efficient, safe, comfortable ways to travel. So, why have you not left your mother country? Your homeland? Your place of birth? Sure it’s great. I get it. Guess what else is great? Basically everywhere else.

10. Recently I googled broheim to make sure I was spelling it correctly. I was.

1. Some places just feel like your place, be it cities or streets or rooms or continents or the back seat of someone else’s car.

2. Crazy neighbors are always more entertaining than any movie. Why go out when you can stay in? Why sleep when you can listen to screaming at 3AM? Exactly.

3. Ever spend so much time in one room you’re not sure if anything other than said room exists or ever existed? Me too.

4. If the cute boy getting on your megabus doesn’t sit on the top floor, it wasn’t meant to be anyway. He probably chose a first floor seat away from the window. Who does that?!

5. You can’t force moments or love or laughter. These things just happen. Go take a nap.

6. Sometimes leaving feels like dying. Sometimes leaving is the only thing that will keep you alive.

7. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get somewhere if it’s worth it.

8. People are different but also the same. Remember that the next time you meet someone new.

9. Remember when you had to create a “four year plan” in school? Well, my current four year plan is to be like James Franco and do everything there is to do. He’s crazy. It’s great.

10. “Only human” means everything and nothing.

1. Take what you can get. Something is definitely better than nothing.

2. It all depends on proximity and timing.

3. People are never going to act the way you assume they will. If you stop expecting people to live up to your expectations, you’ll be a lot happier, and live a better life.

4. Nothing lasts forever. Including friendships/relationships. People leave, or move on, and it’s ok. Even if you KNOW that the person you’re spending time with won’t be in your life for too long, you should still be happy and be with them and treat them like a great human being who you’re happy to be with, for however long you’ll be in each other’s lives.

5. Do something today you’ve never done before.

6. Seriously, I am super funny. I just wish you could understand how funny I am. I am so funny.

7. “Smile! Don’t look so depressed, it’ll be OK!” – guy outside the drug store, to my retreating self. Uh, two things. First of all, no one smiles all the time, so why should I be smiling as I walk out of a rite aid? Second, rite aid does not carry muffins, so why the hell would I be smiling/not looking depressed as I walk out of my local rite aid at nine in the morning, muffin-less?!

8. I’m (re-)learning French on this super cool app I just got on my phone (Duolingo). Je suis une femme blancheSo useful! I’m off to France!

9. Do people really listen to the radio these days? I don’t believe it. Who are you?

10. The closest anyone can come these days to visiting another planet is to go to any Home Depot late at night. Just try it. This sort of thing you just have to experience first-hand.

Of course the one person I want to be around is always nowhere to be found. Of course we can’t be together. Of course there’s never any time to say anything. It’s never been like this before. These new   experiences are fun and interesting and overwhelming. And I can’t even say that; there’s no time. There’s never enough time. It’s never been like this before. There’s always been silences, breathing room, space to think. No longer. Days move by, solid chunks of time filled with work, with doing things, with emails, with phone calls, with brisk walks across bricked streets. Days blur together: is it still Wednesday? Isn’t this what a Saturday feels like? How many days has been since we were in that room together? How many days since we last spoke? Too many. Too many days altogether. Too much living. Too much life.

And yet at other times there’s entirely too much emptiness. You sit across the table from me but that space between us might as well be stretched across an entire continent. It doesn’t matter how much time there is if there’s nothing to say, if no one is willing to say it. It’s never been like this before. It’s always been easy or it’s always been nothing. This is a combination of something and nothing and difficulty. I’m struggling against something I can’t quite see and there’s too much time to wage this war. It never ends. Nothing changes. It’s always you and me and silence. And no one wins.

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Did you ask her, too? Did you go up to random people on the street and ask them to save you? Did she say no? Did they shake their heads or hand you small bills, hoping either way that you’d leave them be?

I can’t picture what the view must be like from inside your head. Usually I’m good at doing that. It all just looks blurry and gray from over here. Maybe that’s what you’re seeing.

I don’t know what to think anymore. Maybe we all just need a break. All of us. If we all agree to wait a day, to skip one 24-hour section, and just sleep, or do something nice, would that fix it? Call it a cease-fire of life.

What do you think? That’s all I really want to ask you. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it? No, I don’t really think that. I don’t even agree with you. I just shake my head and wish you’d leave me be.

We’re all just floating on by, down the river. There’s a waterfall at the end, just like in all the dramatic movies you’ve ever seen with a river in them. We’re all going to fall, one day. Maybe more than once. Maybe at the end it will feel like falling.

I wish somebody would save me. I’m really not all that brave or sure of anything. I act like it, though. I’m afraid to be afraid. I won’t be. I’d rather be able to do it on my own. That’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since you left me; even before I met you. It’s a process, it’s a journey down this river.

I want to save you, I do. But I don’t even know what that means. And I don’t know you. And I don’t know if you want to be saved. Doesn’t everyone? That waterfall is coming but we’d all rather be with other people when the boat goes down. No one really wants to be alone.

So, remember that one time I wrote about how I never do things alone and that doing things on your own can seem strange, difficult – maybe even impossible? Stuff like going to the movies alone, or out to eat at a restaurant all by yourself?

Being the sort of person who always has other people with me when I go do things, the thought of being alone with myself in public, like, doing things, was a scary thought.

Then, I did it. Twice. No, three times. Well, actually – four times.

This summer, I went to four concerts by myself. Well, that’s an outright lie – once I took a friend along to help me sell “merchandise” (wow, that looks sketchy! I swear, it was T-shirts and CDs – nothing illegal!). Then – the next night – I went to the same concert in a different city (this time actually alone) and sold “merch”, again. But, here’s the reason I don’t really count this experience as being “alone” – because I had done it before, and was, technically, meeting someone there  – the guy I was going to sell stuff for. I had an agenda. I wasn’t really going alone.

It all happened about a month later, in late July. Twice.

So, remember that one time I wrote about Father John Misty? Yeah, me too! Well, that musical discovery led me to the additional discovery that Father John himself was going to perform a show in Michigan. My hometown! (state. My homestate?) I had to go!

Only – none of my friends liked Father John Misty! None of my friends really knew about Father John Misty. Same went for my family. No one cared! No one wanted to go to Pontiac, Mi with me! Nooooo!

So, I decided not to care about whether someone else could go. I could go! So, I would! And, so, I did.

Going to a concert alone was basically everything I expected it to be. As I considered myself a concert pro after attending two-in-one-weekend a month earlier, I knew some moments could get awkward. Oh, and they did! Think: standing in the middle of a room surrounded by groups of friends, staring blank-faced towards the stage, waiting almost two hours for the show to start. I stood. I stared. I swayed (not to any music, just from foot-weariness). I was most definitely alone. I did, however, find a companion in the crowd who was there with her parents (so, kind of alone), and we struck up a conversation. See, this is how it’s done! Being alone! You meet people! It’s great!

Father John Misty was just fantastic. A true musician and performer. He danced! He played the tambourine! He danced while playing the tambourine.

The Man Misty

He was beautiful, and tall, and his voice was beautiful, and the band was beautiful, and the music, too, was beautiful. I stood, and stared, and swayed (this time to the music!). The crowd was really into it. I was alone, but it didn’t matter.

After his set, the headlining band came out to play. Youth Lagoon. I had never heard of them. Neither had my new there-with-her-parents friend.

They took a long time to get set up. I thought about leaving. FJM was done, and I was alone standing with groups of friends again – should I just go home?

No, I decided. I would stay. It had already been awkward. I had already stood there alone for 4 hours. Bring it, clock. I was waiting for Youth Lagoon, gosh dang it. Whoever they were.

Thirty minutes later, a short, skinny, bushy-haired boy came out from backstage and sat down at the newly-placed piano. He looked sort of like young Bob Dylan. He sang sort of like young Bob Dylan. He was freaking good. It was freaking weird music. It was freaking fantastic. I was freaking alone and it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because that music made us all into a single-brained creature. It was like jamming in a garage with a guy with a guitar. He sang, and rocked out on his piano for long periods of time. He just played.

We swayed. There was head bobbing. Everything became that boy on his piano. There wasn’t a crowd. There weren’t people. There was loud, strange, flowing music. I wasn’t alone; I was no longer there.

The next night, I did it again – went to a concert alone. A different concert, this time. I went to Detroit, Mi (to the coolest concert venue ever, Saint Andrew’s) to see this kid named George “Watsky“. He’s from Youtube. He’s a poet/rapper/awesome person.

Watsky!

His show was so different from the Father John Misty show. First off, the crowd was totally different. At FJM and Youth Lagoon’s show, there were young, hippy sort of kids. Clean cut, pop-drinkers. At George’s show – more young kids. Younger, I think. A lot more males. A lot more baseball caps on backward. A lot more head-bopping and fist-waving. It was cool, though. If a little crowded (we were in the basement!). Also, there was a minute there when I thought I was going to die. (No biggie.) Can you say, everybody in this already-sardine-can of a room rush to the front of the stage as fast as possible? Me, I clung onto a ceiling-support beam and allowed the mass of people to surge by.

It’s really hard to feel alone when there is a human stampede happening all around you.

While these alone-adventures were scary, they were also really rewarding. I felt proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone, and for proving to myself that I really didn’t need other people to go out into the world and do and see cool things.

More and more, I’m realizing that doing things you are afraid of moves you closer and closer to the person you dream of becoming.

So, who do you want to be? Are you good at being alone?