There is something about seeing the Manhattan skyline from a plane (or a car for that matter) that has always made me smile with a sense of possibility and more recently that is mixed with a strong sense of home. I am thrilled to be back. Now to attack all the new projects that are awaiting me: two proposals, a report, ongoing client work and two new website projects. I feel very blessed to have as much work as I do with the great clients I have. At the same time, I have finally arrived at a point in my professional life where I no longer get overly stressed about it. If someone would have told me this was possible several years ago, I would have nodded that it was probably doable in theory, but never in practice. I really believed that lots of work meant lots of stress, and there was nothing really to be done about it but take a vacation from time to time to recharge. Now as a freelancer, I feel a lot more in control of my work and schedule, and I would not trade it for anything. I mix work with vacation and travel and feel more even keeled about it across the board. This large trip I just got back from is a good example. It was mostly vacation, but also a little work, especially in Hamburg and Marrakech. And I also managed to keep up to date with a few other clients that needed minor information or changes.
I was invited to one of the loveliest weddings I have ever been to this weekend. My friends Pete and Kevin, who have been together for over ten years had a ceremony to celebrate their wedding. (They actually got married last year while it was still legal, which turned out to be a wise move on their part since the right was soon taken away by the voters in their infinite lack of wisdom.) I have known Pete for close to 15 years, since the days when we were working together at Apple. We have been through a lot together and were roommates for a time when I came back to San Francisco from Paris in 1999. I was there the night Pete and Kevin met, in a SOMA club in San Francisco in July 1999. Over the years, I have watched their relationship go through many twists and turns, and have marveled at the warmth and love they have grown into with each other. We have shared many experiences, from the ridiculous to the scary to the loving to the peaceful to the mundane. Although I moved away from San Francisco many years ago, I come back often and spend time with them. They are the kind of people I will always want in my life, filled with generosity and warmth and humor. I was really thinking a lot this weekend about weddings and public commitment ceremonies, and what they mean and why they are important. As we form communities around our friends and families, we interweave all of our lives and life stories with one another. Each piece and part adds to the whole, and these connections are a big part of what gives meaning to our existence. When we celebrate a wedding or a public commitment, we are reinforcing these bonds, and recognizing their importance in our lives. I was honored to be present to witness Pete and Kevin declare their love and support for one another, and the ceremony and their words to each other in front of all of us made me all teary eyed. As I looked around the assembly, I remembered fondly so many people and so many stories that have made me, made all of us, what and who we are today. To be able to share these disparate threads, and to bring them together in a cloth that wraps around all of us and gives us warmth was a special gift. I may be a wanderer, but there are some places and contexts that will always have a hold over me, and that give me great strength. These people and this part of my life is such a context. I will always feel connected to it and to them, and no matter how far away from here, always feel at home somehow when I am in their company.
I write this on the airplane. We have about 1 hour until we land. What kind of world will I be going back to? An economy in a very bad recession, perhaps on the verge of a depression. A city that long ago stood as a kind of beacon (of all that is possible) to me, and that I have always been fond of, but one that is not exactly the easiest to choose to live in. And the climate. I have been pretty well divorced from the idea of seasons in the past couple of years, spending the majority of my time in hot and tropical climates. Seasons don’t just represent change, they also represent continuity and roots enough in a place to be in tune with them.
What will this new chapter in my life bring? Time alone will tell the story. And what am I looking for after all this? Have I put away grandiose dreams in my life for the bliss of the here and now? Maybe a bit. I know what brings me measures of peace. I know that being in touch with the present as much as possible is the way to happiness. I have goals and even dreams if you will, but I am not disappointed at all by the twists and turns on the path to them or another place. The doing is important, and maintaining perspective in our lives.
So, setting out some ambitions, regardless of what happens on the way to or away from them, is nevertheless an important exercise. But one that must be open to change and chance. If we can’t take advantage of what is in front of us, even if it doesn’t enter into the “plan”, then we have missed the incredible beauty of life’s randomness.
As I have found such great enjoyment in the blogging of the past 27 months, I will continue to keep it. I love the voice it gives me and platform for working out in my head my reactions to places, people and ideas. I will finish my book about the first part of my travels and attempt to find a publisher. I will attempt to earn a living off my writing in one form or another. These are my short, medium and long term goals.
But I am willing and able to do all manner of other things that call on my past skills in order to make a living and survive. And these things are not at all at odds with each other if I am careful and lucky enough to structure my work life in a certain way. For example, even though I have a lot of experience leading teams in the tech departments of medium sized companies, I will attempt to eschew this kind of environment in favor of freelance work, which has several advantages related to keeping me centered and present. Independent contracts keep me at arms length from companies’ internal politics, since I will not be a part of these power struggles and jockeying within an agency. With luck, I will be able to come in for short term analysis or discreet project work, perform the task at hand, and leave, keeping my emotional investment (and therefore stress) to a minimum. While in many ways I loved my last position as Director of Technology before I began traveling, it was an emotional sink hole in so many ways it should not have been. I will try not to repeat these mistakes. The other great advantage of freelancing will be the ability to schedule my time to suit my other pursuits (writing, travel) more freely than if I was chained to one company.
So let the next chapter begin. I am very excited to see what comes, and what I make of it. But equally excited to continue to share the experience with the people I meet along the way. For it is the human connection to friends (new and old), family, lovers and partners, and even strangers that makes the journey so worthwhile and rewarding. The human connection is at the center of all that makes life worth living. Without that communication, we have no way of understanding our connection to everything that is, and we are left cut off from our being. With it, we glimpse a small part of the mystery of existence, and can feel ourselves part of it.
…being back in the US (and LA in particular), but then…isn’t it always? I have noticed that I don’t feel particularly “at home” anywhere. Or rather I feel equally “at home” anywhere.
Arnaud and I said our goodbyes yesterday at Cancun, and each boarded our respective planes for home. After a few delays I got back last night. Being that this is the beginning of Semana Santa, it seems like the whole world is partying. My good friend George is here visiting from LA with his boyfriend Mark, and although they invited me to a big dance party last night, all I really wanted to do after the last two weeks was stay put for a night. Today is a different matter. I am apparently going to a pool party. Hm, that doesn’t sound all that holy now does it?
I am back in Indianapolis now. My parents picked me up at the airport and then we came back to the house they live in. I immediately launched into fixit mode (there were computer problems of course), and then we went for dinner at my brother’s house. As my family is wont to do, I got a lot of “what will you do now?” sorts of questions. This being my first day back, it is way too early to unpack all that I am, was or will be in the space of a few minutes. Stay tuned as I come to terms with family expectations as well as my own.
One of the surprising things to me was finding that I had deposited more stuff here than I previously thought. I was pretty sure that all I left was a box of letters and journals, and some (required by law) tax forms. I came back to find that there was also a small suitcase of clothes. Apparently I originally thought I would take them with me, then narrowed down the collection when confronted with the size of my bag. Lucky me, they are pretty nice. And after the beating that most of my stuff has taken over the last year, it will be nice to swap out for less tattered duds.