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He started traveling when he was 23, 5 years ago. Now he’s lived in 6 different countries, speaks 4 different languages, has a lot of great photographs and memories. And, much of the time, he is happy. But he does not have happiness. He says all he really has is his guitar. People that move around on their own, he says, they need something other than people to hold on to. He has his guitar, he says. His traveling companion.

His hair is long, kept in brown dreadlocks. He’s from Germany, but he sings in English and whatever language of whatever country he finds himself in. He is content, happy, to sit on benches across the globe, strumming and singing with the people, the crowds, that quickly surround him when he plays. He brings joy to them. Him and his guitar.

I wonder if he is happy after he packs away his one possession, after the crowds of people leave. I wonder how he is strong enough, if he is strong enough, to have been going so long on his own.  I wonder if he lied, if he’s actually terrified and lonely, or if he does take something else along with him on his travels — bits and pieces of people: the old man’s laughter, the girl smiling as she recorded him singing with her cell phone, the busy people who missed train after train as they stood in their subway station, singing. I wonder if it is enough for him, to have a part but not a whole.

glfow

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.

Gold Digging

I have a craving. Sort of like when you’re all, “I really want pancakes for dinner! Someone make me pancakes!” in a really whiny voice, and you say it over and over again until someone serves you a plate of hot pancakes or hits you in the face so you stop using that really annoying voice. Sorry. I like pancakes.

Actually this is not about pancakes at all (although isn’t it really always about pancakes??). It’s about art. (Aren’t pancakes an art? Ok, I’ll stop.) It’s about weird art. How do you classify art as weird? I don’t know, you tell me. What does weird really mean, anyway?

You know. I’m not talking about lovely printed photographs, or museum art, or the odd-looking statues you can find in every large public park. Weird art. You know, like, I want to buy seven pairs of old shoes from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold and then cover them in gold flake and hang them up around town.

I want to paint a mural in the inside of an 19th-century abandoned funeral home. I want to watch people in costumes made out of car parts pretend to be sea monsters and battle each other while dancing around a stage made of recycled pallets and old tires. I want to have an indoor picnic in a room filled with a huge tree made out of cardboard. I want to hammer a pencil onto a wall. I want to throw an all-silver Andy Warhol party and eat food out of aluminum pans covered in aluminum foil while dancing under disco balls and bubble machines. I want to sit in a cafe sipping a latte and watch a man in a pig costume read me terrible poetry. This is all weird art shit that I’ve done with my friends.

Ok, so, now that I’ve moved halfway across the Earth, now that I’ve settled in, I’m ready! For weird art. (For pancakes.) For making things. For creating. I can’t stop! It’s a thing I do. It’s a craving I have.

Now, who’s in Seoul and wants to go on an adventure to find some spray paint?

 

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Someone take a photo of that window and send it to me. Be sure to get the frame in frame, the one I swiped my hand over and picked the peeling paint from. That’s the most important part. Of course, I can still see it in my mind, the shaded glass I poked my head around in an attempt to see the sky, to see only roof instead. Was it raining? Did it snow? I don’t know, I couldn’t see.

“Chad”, I say, apropos of nothing, informing my mother of a country in Africa, standing in the middle of her kitchen under a skylight. “Is that the name of my future son-in-law?” She asks. No. Probably not. I can see the blue of the sky from there; perhaps the same color as his eyes. Probably not. I’m sure they are brown. They always are.

The pictures they put on the cover of magazines and in travel guides are so ultra-contrasted and over-colored. I’ve never understood why that’s necessary. I’ve seen some of those places with my own eyes, and the blues aren’t that color, the cobblestones not so gray. Those pictures look like nostalgia feels. Is that the point? Only $6.99, and less if you sign up for a whole year – that’s 12 issues, and 50% off the cover price.

Once I met a boy named Chad in Las Vegas. He was a waiter with a complicated story. I recently deleted his number from my phone. I don’t think he had blue eyes. They never do.

The most beautiful things can’t be photographed; can barely be seen at all. The silence of all of us sitting there, next to the lake, sitting silently together in a ring of padded patio furniture. Later, all of us, none of us with blue eyes, but all of us beautiful, a woozy slumber party of supposed-to-be-adults. The late summer sun rising the next morning, us rising, rushing, back to somewhere. All of it beautiful, and it still is.

Winter, a few seasons later, almost Spring, and the skylight in my mother’s kitchen is dripping, dripping, dropping once-snow water onto the floor. I pull a pan from a cupboard, and it’s grey and scratched, a bit rusty on the bottom. I set it on the floor, also grey and scratched, a bit wet. There are pinging sounds as the drops hit the empty metal container, a rhythm of indoor rain. I look up, and the sky is a kind of blue-grey, a darkening, changing color as the sun slowly sets.

I remember Chad talking about his step-father, and saying that he’d moved out of his mother’s house and left to find a job in Las Vegas. He ended up as a waiter at a steakhouse. I don’t think that was his dream career move, but it had happened, and it paid his bills, for the most part. If he put on his waiter-face properly and acted like he cared enough, he got pretty good tips. It was Las Vegas, after all. People went there to drink and lose a pre-determined amount of money that usually slightly increased once they’d lost it faster than they had expected and still had three days left of vacation. They knew the price of steak was slightly higher there, so a slightly higher tip was also in order. Sometimes it was even included in the cost of their all-inclusive vacation package.

The pictures of the Las Vegas strip in travel guides are surprisingly accurate. The neon lights, the casinos that are also hotels, the hotels that are also casinos. That’s the face of it, the story, the main plot line.  It’s an easier story to tell than most places: an over-colored, over-built, long strip of road. It has an easy cover photo, unlike “Winter” or “last Summer” or “Spring in my mother’s kitchen”. It is a place, a snapshot, a photograph that exists and is easily defined, not like Chad from Africa or Chad from the steakhouse.

The sound the water droplets made changed as the pan filled, from a steely ringing to an almost-noiseless splash. The rhythm changed, too, slowing, like the roof was running out of water. When it finally stopped, I emptied the pan in the sink, watching the grayish water swirl down the drain, leaving tiny white bits of plaster or drywall behind. The skylights were dark now, almost black, and I could see myself in the reflection, looking up and back down at the same time.

I moved out of my parent’s house for the first time in June. It was weird at first, being around roommates who were not my family and who weren’t designated by birth to care about me or love me. I noticed that right away.

I remember feeling confused and lonely. I thought I was lonely. But I think I was just looking at the world in the wrong way. I thought the world owed me something. I thought the world was supposed to love me. I thought the world was supposed to offer to make me toast for breakfast. I realized a few weeks later that the world doesn’t owe me anything. I just live in it.

In the second week of November I moved back into my parent’s house. I had accumulated a few more belongings since I’d left, like too-tight shiny disco shoes and even more books and a box of pasta. Four days later I moved to Prague.

Moving out of your parents’ house is strange and hard. But after that, after you stop believing that the world and the people in it owe you something, it’s easy. Moving is easy. Moving to Prague, was, surprisingly, easy. (Aside from the leaving your friends and family part.) You just get on a plane.

The world doesn’t owe me anything. It’s not going to hand me anything. So, I guess I have to take it.

People have called me brave. I am not brave. I just do things because I want to do things and I know I should do things because doing things is better than not doing things. Moving is better than not moving. Telling the boy you like him is better than not telling the boy you like him. Buying Nutella is better than not buying Nutella. Etc, etc, etc. That’s not bravery. That’s just doing. That’s just taking stuff, in a way, from the world.

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.

Not bragging or anything, but I have a handful of really close really great friends. I’m not sure how it happened, really. Some stuck around from high school, dwindling down from the large crowd of kids  that packed the hallway by the band room every weekday morning before the bell rang for class. Some I met in college — yes, I guess I actually did meet people in college — and somehow I became friends with them during the long semesters and years full of Shakespeare and Psychology and Procrastination with a capital p. Some I met after school, somehow or another, fellow roamers around town, or they were involved in the crazy post-graduation stuff I found myself doing.

And I guess it’s really just amazing. Because I’ve met a lot of people — hundreds and thousands of people — and this little bundle of people I keep close to me, well, how did that happen?

I think about friendship a lot. I think about relationships a lot, and the different kinds there are or can be, and the kinds that exist but shouldn’t.

I think friendship is underrated: the fact that one human, with all of their crankiness, and weird or offensive jokes, and psychological problems, or their introverted or extroverted personality, or their awkwardness, or their favorite music — all of that and more combined — can meet another human, with all of their stuff, and be friends. Like each other. Really, truly, like each other. Like the differences and sameness. Get along. Laugh. Cry. Talk about life or other stuff or bad television shows or cool shoes or good peanut butter froyo or what it feels like to be lonely.

Friendship is one big beautiful example that the world is bigger than you are. That you aren’t really alone up there stuck in your own head because there are other actual people out there in their heads, and you can talk to them and be people together. It’s really weird. Very strange. Very great.

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1. Last week someone accused me of being “deep into the art scene”, and I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. This week I hammered a pencil onto a wall as part of an art project. So there’s that.

2. It’s the people you’re with, not the place you’re in. I heard some lady in a store say something similar a few days after I realized this to be true. You’re onto something, lady.

3. You don’t always have to go to school to learn. A lot of times, the world can be your classroom. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as a college graduate.

4. Tip of the day: don’t talk/laugh/grin to yourself when other people can see you. At any other time, go for it.

5. My favorite thing to do is travel, but oftentimes it leaves me sad, knowing more street names and parks and lovely people, knowing them and leaving them behind.

6. When does a song stop belonging to someone else? “Your song”, “his song”, “our song”. When does ownership end, with the memory?

7. After spending 8 hours on a megabus traveling across two states, an 8 or 12 hour flight to the other side of the globe seems less daunting. (Also megabus is freaking cheap/awesome BTW!)

8. Remember disposable cameras?

9. Sure you’re busy driving your car through heavy traffic trying not to crash into that guy who just pulled in front of you, and sure you’re busy trying to pass your accounting exam that seems super important to your life right now, and sure you’re creating a cure for cancer — just remember to look up at the stars at night.

10. Overrated or Underrated? Skype. Pickles. Blue eyes. You.

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The words are piling up again. They tend to do that, even when I type and type to set some of them free. But usually the only words that end up spilling out of my fingertips are meaningless, useless; just like the words I spoke to you.

What can I say? Should I say anything?

I saw you today. It was from a distance but not so far that I couldn’t have walked a bit faster or thrown your name into the wind to catch up to you. I was with my friend, so maybe that’s why I stayed quiet. Probably not. I wondered if you would remember me, after all these years, after all those other faces with names. I found that just watching you cross the street made me thoughtful, made me appreciate the world and the people in it. I still want to be like you when I grow up, but in my own way, of course. Quiet and loud and wonderful and appreciative and vulgar and thoughtful. I don’t think growing a beard would work on my face, though. But that’s ok. I was never a beard person.

The words keep spilling out. Is this what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it? Maybe. I don’t know.

Lately I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the people I love. Sometimes I forget how much I appreciate certain people when a lot of time has passed since we last spent time together. And I can’t really say more than that, not in a way that would be meaningful and not cheesy. Maybe: I love you?

Is that it? Is that all? Is there more? Of course there is.

What are you doing right now? What did you do today? I have so many questions. There are so many answers. Slowly, slowly, we will find them. Together or apart. Acquaintances or friends. Words or no words.