It’s been four months and eight days since I closed out my old life as productive citizen of gainful means and embarked on the daring existence of jump seat vagabond. In that time I’ve logged over 50,000 miles through twenty-two states, most of which I’ve never visited before, and learned more about the trucking industry than I’ve ever really cared to know. How did it all come to be, you ask? Well one Monday morning, a couple hours before I was set to clock in at my “day job”, I decided I’d forgo formality and hitch my star to the decade old Freightliner my love of four months just started driving, giving in to the wanderlust that has been dogging my heels for the past twenty years. Yes, it was just that simple. After suffering two years of mediocrity at a job it’s been proven I’d never advance in, I figured the summer sabbatical would work to prime me for my next forty years and help decide what I really want to be when I grow up. It was impulsive, shocking, frightening, bold, and in every sense, me.
Prior to this jaunt, I’d spent thirty-nine years “locked” in the Midwest. Twenty-three of them as a mother, fourteen of them as a wife, and at least ten of them as a confused black female neopagan apathetic citizen of the Americas fighting desperately to establish an identity. Since taking this leap – rendering myself both homeless and essentially penniless – I have been opened to cultural nuances I’d only ever witnessed through broadcast media, had some prejudices dispelled, and some biases confirmed. I’ve marveled at geographical beauty that defies digital replication, and noticed the terrestrial similarities that exist in every major city and small town. But the most important phenomenon I’ve stumbled upon so far hasn’t been the flora, fauna, and/or individual persona one encounters when they travel. It’s having been forced to contend with all aspects of the woman I’ve become to this point; the sacred, the profane; the unconventional scholar, the wayward idiot; the hyper-independent woman who’d rather starve than accept even a crumb of charity, and the spoiled child who can’t understand why the handouts stopped. The beautiful struggle of human dichotomy.
The dashboard light of an eighteen wheel semi can be inexplicably unrelenting on nights when your mind won’t stop asking, “Exactly how did we end up here again?” and all you can do is offer a Kanye shrug before draining the last slug of wine you hope silences “the voices”. It doesn’t, of course. The vice just intensifies the question or is replaced with a repetitive song lyric/movie line/poetic quote designed to ask the same thing. How did I end up here? This is not the first time I’ve made this introspective inquiry, of course. But in the months leading up to today, the beginning of my new year and exactly thirty-two days from my 40th birthday, I’ve noticed less and less of a victim’s stigma attached to the question than there used to be. I’ve noticed less and less willingness to blame anything other than my reaction to presented stimuli as the answer. How did I end up here? Not just in this truck with my child and this man I barely know, but here at this point of life where I thought living in a truck was a good idea in the first place. Choices, my dear Watson. Nothing more, nothing less.
My time on this truck has been equal parts blissful and miserable. On more than one occasion I’ve tearfully packed my bags at a truckstop in the middle of nowhere and vowed I was done. On others I swore during fits of laughter I couldn’t find my brand of happiness anywhere else in the world. And on all occasions I’ve been reminded that each condition I’ve found myself in has been the consequence of a reaction, a decision, a choice.
I’m really not sure how much longer my life as a modern day gypsy will last. Four months is an awful long time to be without some sort of roots when you have a minor child tagging along, and I am growing a bit road weary myself. But I do know I won’t soon be forgetting the reminder my choices are the catalyst for any change… So if I want a solid foundation, it’s time to start making a sure my choices are sound ones. There won’t be anyone to blame but myself if they’re not.