Obsessed / Blessed

I am giddy just considering my life’s events of the last 48 hours. So many women who absolutely fill me up til I’m dripping love from my fingertips and earlobes, who give me apples and Cliff Bars and necklaces from my mama for the road, who validate me in a way that is so genuine and real.

After Saturday’s bout of shaking anxiety, I landed in hand after hand that pressed me with love and You Are Okay Vibes.

First all my pseudo sisters, Sho’s family and my baby niece. One of my favorite moments was when I was washing dishes from the dinner two sisters made, their first time hosting in their new rental house. They have empathy and meditative and kindness reminders posted all over, just like my aunties do, and I looked at them as I heard laughter and voices from the living room, as as Sho put Baby to bed upstairs, and the warm soapy water and repetitive nature of washing all wrapped me up and filled my pores and I Was So Home.

They love my dog and treat her quirks as quirks and we fit all of us into a tiny perfect space. French braided and read our poetry aloud. There is such a power that comes from being with Women.

Then saw Mom’s BFF since they were so young and her daughter that I’ve known and loved since she was born and I was rendered speechless with the immediate welcoming love that greeted me. I can’t pinpoint why it was so surprising and overwhelming – maybe because I am so rarely with people who have known me my entire life? Maybe because being in my home town felt warm again, for the very first time since my mother died there eight years ago? Maybe because now is a time when I feel so vulnerable, when I have literally nothing to offer anyone, as I drive across the country again just praying the car doesn’t break, and Still People Give.

From there, I drove to Detroit. The streets on the way in were so familiar and so foreign, burned out two story homes and new bars with murals – the city feels mine and Never Mine At All, the grit and dirt and streets and houses are so… they’re comforting. Never mind that the woman i was meeting, a close friend in undergrad that I haven’t seen since, was exactly as I expected and remembered: immediately radiating acceptance and warmth and joy, also showering me with grace and generosity, as we gave each other abridged versions of the last almost-decade of life.

And from her, and the night, I quickly realized that I think the time between now and Mexico City, when I need to save enough to pay off a credit card and sustain a few months without work in a foreign country and wait for my new passport… that I think it’s pretty clear I need to spend those months In Detroit, an I’m really fucking excited about it.

Advertisements

Okay

I have been in the states for two full days, and I feel whole.

On the long way home, on two or three hours of sleep, convinced I had a mild fever and a cough reminiscent of my old chronic bronchitis, I called Sally. She said, "Caroline, are you okay?" "I'm sick." "Yes, but are you okay? Your voice sounds strained…" and I burst into tears, they poured off and on through the entire next flight, journaling page after page.

The flight attendant on my second flight, who's name I don't know: I ordered a vodka ginger ale and held up my card.

I got you girl, he smiled

I burst into tears again. A minute later I heard a man's voice behind me asking if there were cough drops available, not for him, for me. It wasn't a nice kind of question.

I have a little bit of money and a lot of energy. Having no job, no home, no strings except the most beautiful dog who takes me running and curls into me at night – I expected it to be more scary than this, but no. There are so many people to take care of me.

First Katie, picking me up from the airport and putting me into bed, surrounding me with dogs, driving 15 minutes out of the way so I can have an egg mcmuffin at midnight, going to our favorite diner in the morning.

In a fit of financial terror, and because I know I want to move far and pack lightly (again), I sold my library on Facebook. In 12 hours I made a sizeable lump and felt my heart warm with the loves I get to distribute my favorite possessions to. I posted a whole ton of shit on Poshmark; I put my furniture on Facebook. This is real.

Then Em, my heart swelling being in her presence. The creative energy palpable. I came here yesterday and already have such a sadness to go. Her most perfect house, her calm kindness, her excited crafts, her plans on plans. In her home my dog and I are safe and loved. In her home I can have no job, can paint and paint, can study Spanish for two hours in the morning, can go for a three-and-a-half-mile run around the park nearby.

I am savoring, savoring. I am so blessed. I am so loved.

There is magic coming. I am inspired and energetic and for the first time in so long I'm Not Tired. Last night I felt like a child on Christmas Eve, down to sleep by 11:15 but a racing mind under after three: I journaled, I read, I brainstormed, I redownloaded duolingo.

I have goals and ideas and energy.
Something is going to happen.

(PS Logistics: started Celexa more regularly again, started a face routine to get rid of the acne I acquired in Mexico, am extremely serious about moving to Mexico City. Yes.)

My Summer Vacation

It's 4:24am and I can't sleep despite all efforts. I'm drinking gin and listening to east coast rap waiting for an appropriate time to get off this IKEA couch and find some coffee.

This trip is everything.

I am and have been struggling to determine What Happens When Caroline Is 30. We know she quits her job, she shaves her head, she gets a handful of new tattoos, she pierces her nose, she goes to Central America. She brags.

I cannot understand or believe how my life worked out so that I got invited on a backpacking trip as a fourth wheel to three best friends, my only connection being One Day In LA with one of them. Why have I been blessed so? Why did Martin determine I was a person worth inviting? It's a pretty serious What The Fuck situation, like the time I moved to rural Arkansas and the time I quit Graphic Design cold turkey.

I've been told this is liberating and it is. I feel no commitments to anyone. I feel largely lethargic and ambiguous about most of my life. I feel vaguely interested in determining what to do aside from outstay my welcome on couches I can't sleep on. I feel vaguely compelled to start Doing Art (the fuck is Doing Art? Also how long have I talked about that same compulsion? idk, 10 years. Shrug.)

I don't understand how, but I've fallen in love with all these people I've been traveling with. We've cried together so much the past few days, reminiscing and fearing Deaths of all these People We Love. Here comes August (the birthday of the dead mother) and then follows September (the deathday of the dead mother) and that means that starting about two weeks ago I go into a bit of a frenzy, remembering and not remembering and talking and not talking.

I'm in a blissful haze of my body refusing to sleep and savoring these last few hours. I loved Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica. But y'all, Cuidad de Fucking Mexico: I'm moving here.

I decided. Might take a hot minute to actually happen, but real talk: Caroline will be living in Mexico shortly. ✌🏻

My Future Job

I didn't mean to, but I made a huge mistake yesterday: I started thinking about real life while on vacation.

Right now I'm in what feels like a life hiatus, or some kind of sabbatical from reality, or an adolescent dragging of the feet, or anxiety paralysis, or a YOLO complex, or a standard American millennial work crisis.

When I return to the states in six days I have no job, no place to live, and a dog to take care of.

I thought that institute might open doors and present my future openly to me. I applied for one job as a result but have heard zero back, a text to the Executive Director unanswered, and the lack of response having me wonder if I even want to be on that team.

I've thought about spending a semester getting fancy English-teacher certified and applying to work abroad. Issues: don't have the funding for the program and don't have a huge desire to teach abroad (live abroad, yes; yeah abroad, meh).

I've thought about applying to PhD or other additional degree programs. Issues: struggling to articulate the research I want to do, feeling inadequate in general, no desire to study for or take the GRE…

I had a fleeting thought to go to cosmetology school, something I've wanted to do since I was really little. But where would I go? How would I fund it? And do I want to be part of that scene in general…?

There's also the more beautiful thoughts, like Is now a time to focus on crafting and art, after abandoning it for so long? And Do I have any skill or ability I can market and capitalize on independently? And How can I be creative now before getting trapped in another job? And What do I love? What do I WANT?

It's a millennial problem, right? To know I have skills and two degrees and family and friends and professional networks to lean on, but still feel utterly professionally lost. My life until last summer had such an even path, my finances are mediocre at least, I know I have an Extremely Privileged Life. I want to be careful to own the feelings an uncertainty and worry I have while recognizing the ridiculous about of privilege I have in my hands.

So right now… if anyone has

  1. ideas for simple work that I could do, especially temp and/or art based, ideally in a city
  2. An inexpensive place where I and my pooch can live
  3. A really great life plan or a desire to life coach me for free (😜)
  4. A personal story of a similar time/ situation you've had in life and how you got through it

…it would be greatly appreciated.

For now, enjoying a home cooked dinner in our hostel in San Jose, refusing to worry. ❤️

Egypt

I’m sitting in the open air lobby of an Egyptian hotel at 3:18am Egyptian time. Clarice walked through the huge metal gates between me and the Gizah sidewalk 20 minutes ago – I was relieved to see familiar faces, people from the hotel we stayed at for the first two nights of our trip, waiting for her outside exactly on time. Her flight is at 6:10, and both of us are filled with nerves about separately leaving the country. Her about navigating foreign airports alone; me about remaining in a country that has treated me incredibly well so far, but that has earned a fickle and hesitant kind of trust. 

I’m writing because this hotel, different than the first, doesn’t have wifi in the room I’ll stay holed up in today – it only reaches so far, and I’m on the fifth floor. What my room does have is a gorgeous, perfect small balcony overlooking the pyramids and bringing in so much noise from the city. It has two beds, a small shower, a lamp with a burned out bulb, and a television that we couldn’t get to move from a single channel. When the previous hotel realized I would be here for one night alone, the man at the counter, Amir, said, “ahhh, I will book you sunset camel ride, complimentary of the hotel. You will ride through the desert.” And I shrieked with joy, as I haven’t stopped talking about the first camel ride at the pyramids, and I’m also worried about a long day alone. 

Egypt is filled with Magic. It’s a reminder of humanity, to be in a place where history doesn’t feel deep enough of a word. If the states has history, Egypt has a story of the world so old it’s impossible to comprehend. There’s no word for what I want to call it. 

I’ve been struggling to put my traveling thoughts into words since we arrived: Egypt’s history includes gift shops filled with items stocked decades ago, before the revolution tore up streets and industry. The hotels have chips in the tables and tape marks on the walls – there’s so much evidence of what Gizah used to be. Our tour guide boasted his last large group, 52 people and a photo of them, before the revolution. He brought up Jimmy Carter and how good he was to Egypt countless times – America dictating the success of others. Now, our hotel called this same guide at midnight the night before our desired tour and he was waiting for us at 8:45am, talking for nine straight hours, so much knowledge we slept deep and well processing the Pharos and architecture of ancient times. His tour for two days this week including just him and the two of us: a private party of Egyptian history. 

The first time we ventured a Gizah street we both only showed our ankles and our heads- two Americans with hair unique even to Americans. With bodies that Every Other Man in sight asked for with words and gestures. It is possible to travel here as a woman alone, Clarice’s friend who recommended our hotel did it recently, but I wouldn’t. I wonder to what extent my fear of harassment, bred from reading blog after blog of women solo traveling in Egypt, was created and unfair rather than an awareness for personal safety. While our obvious foreign appearance brought much unwanted attention in the street, it also brought admiration from a herd of Egyptian children in Cairo, who asked for a photo and then huddled closely for a selfie that a teenage girl in stylish overalls and a hijab took, arm outstretched to get us and whatever children could squish in quickly enough, an outlier in the surely 100s of photos she took of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  

I’m someone who doesn’t lock doors, who is reckless with regularity, but Egypt feels different. We were and I remain largely at the hands of our hotel: an establishment entirely ran by men, only two stepping out of the line of appropriateness (one asks for a kiss, one says an awkward “I love you”). They feed us, book our cars and tour guide, call us in our room at 1:30am to ask if we’d like hot tea, bring us Pepsi and in my case Egyptian cigarettes, and are grateful for the equivalent of a $1USD tip. 

***

A day later I’m sitting at a bar in the JFK airport. I just spent $12 on candy and $7 at Muji (my favorite store in New York). I got off the plane and, once through all the lines, changed my clothes, washed my face, and brushed my teeth. A little girl, maybe 6, in the bathroom said to her mother clearly, “she’s brushing her teeth.” If I had finished before they left, I would have said, I’ve been on a plane for 13 hours. 

My final day in Egypt my primary activity was to sleep. All morning, all afternoon. They kept trying to bring and then take away breakfast- I kept opening the door, my head looking like a percupine, Thank you, I’m not done. 

At 4:34pm I woke up with a start: I missed my sunset camel ride. I was devastated but groggy, unsure what to do. I changed, patted my hair with water, and relocated to the lobby where I sat, waiting for nothing. 

Except: not in Egypt. 

I have no idea what happened. I assume the people at my hotel called the people at the first hotel but suddenly a familiar face was in front of me, Are you ready for camel ride?

Despite being 45 minutes late and without contacting them, they knew I was awake and around and had come to retrieve me. I love Egypt. I was overcome with gratitude. 

He walked me back to the hotel and put me in a carriage, the driver talked to me, How are you today? It is good weather yes? Have you seen the pyramids at sunset? Are you happy? When do you leave? You are happy?

I love the Egyptian hospitality use of the word Happy

So happy, I say, this is wonderful

He takes me through the twin to a side of the pyramids I hadn’t yet been (north?) and a trail of four 4-wheeling German tourists follow. When we are off the city sand roads and into the open desert he waves his hands dramatically, GO! Go have fun! GO! And they race ahead. 

We meander up, through the desert to a high hill where the sun is fuzzy and horses are stalled. On the way I see small children riding horses alone, mostly men around me, people happy with the closing day. 

At the top he asks, what do you want? To watch the sunset? To ride in desert? Take a photo?

Anything is wonderful. 

You are happy?

I am happy. 

The 4-wheelers are at the top of this hill, too, and a different Egyptian man-boy becons me on one. I am terrified he expects me to ride, but also: it’s Egypt. Instead, he makes sure I’m on, sits side-saddle beside me, and operates the gas and steers from one side. He girls us down and around sand dunes, gently grasping my shoulder when we’re sideways. 

Everything: perfect. 

The 12 hour flight home this morning was tolerable. I somehow lost my glasses in a nap, to which my sister said when I landed, I think losing one valuable per trip is pretty standard

Here is a list of other things I’m thinking about from this trip, that I don’t want off the radar and perhaps will write about tomorrow:

  • How amazing Clarice is 
  • Sexism
  • The American tourism industry (as in, Americans in other places)
  • Fear and bias
  • The individuals we met 
  • How lost I feel as a human
  • The importance of travel