Monday, July 16, 2007

Patois' Most Excellent Adventure

Buses Awaiting Passengers
[This was written for Scribbit’s July Write-Away Contest.]

My mother, not relishing having to cope with a youngest child in a cast for three months while also having to contend with older children whining about having nothing to do, signed me up for a summer camp at the Air Force base when I was 9 years old. So many activities planned, so many outings planned, so much to keep a 9-year-old child busy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. She did it for herself and she did it for me.

I hated it. I hated new situations. I hated change. I’d already been uprooted the year earlier when we were transferred from Northern Virginia to Hawaii. And I had been uprooted two months before when we had moved on base. I would be starting a new school in September, being forced, yet again, to forge new friendships. But first, I was going to be thrown in with a bunch of fellow military brats on my own for the summer.

I was sick to my stomach every day. Every day. I did all right once I was physically there, but the getting there was hard on me emotionally and physically. The fact that I had to ride my bike there – take myself each day – only added to the agony. I also wasn’t sleeping well, knowing that I faced the same fears the next day.

That is how I handled adventure until I was well into adulthood: with major dread, with sweat pouring out of me, with insomnia, with stomach ailments, with all of the other physical manifestations of fear my mind (and body) could dream up for me.

Fast forward a dozen years. In that time, I had to do many things that caused me the same angst day camp had caused me. I tried to avoid putting myself in those situations, but you can’t get through high school and then college without having those situations foisted upon you. I was no different than anyone else in that regard. Externally, I don’t think my friends and family knew the inner turmoil I faced each time. Because it didn’t matter that I was ill over it because it had to be done. And so, each time, I would do it. It never got easier on me.

It’s surprising, really, that I’d have chosen the adventure that I undertook. I graduated from college, found myself in my old haunting grounds of Northern Virginia and said, “Oh, man, I can’t possibly live my life out here.” So I got on a bus and took a 69-hour bus trip to California. I would have to start my life knowing exactly one person there: my youngest brother.

My mother took me to the bus station in D.C. I had two suitcases. That’s all of the possessions I had, having jettisoned the paltry college apartment furnishings in the town where I’d gone to school. My mom stored for me a couple of boxes of items that seemed worth keeping – clippings of newspaper articles I’d written, old yearbooks, etc. Two suitcases were coming with me, and I probably had a bit of room left in them.

She and her new husband to-be had offered to let me live in one of his units. They’d offered to help with a car. They’d offered to hook me up with a job. Perhaps Civil Service? In fact, I did take that test, and I was offered a job, months after I’d left for California. The point is I had a support system. All I had to do to use it was to swallow that part of myself who needed to be someone else, to be somewhere else.

And that would have made me sicker to my stomach than the thought of traveling across the country, knowing essentially no one, did. So I never said to her, as she drove me to the bus station, “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll stay.” I never said, “Turn around. I can’t go through with it.”

I just got out of the car, got my suitcases, kissed her good-bye, and boarded the bus.


Scribbit said...

This topic has been great for getting to know everyone a little better, thanks for sharing this.

jenica said...

see, this is what i love about your writing. you have a way about yourself that taps emotions from every person. you may have been the only person to hop a bus to cali, but we've all been there at that bus-stop trying to decide what to do.

soccer mom in denial said...

69-hours on a bus? You would be justified in having stomache ailments.

Anonymous said...

Yea! Good for you for boarding the bus! I made the similar decision to drive myself from Florida to California (don't think I could have handled a bus), and I haven't regretted it since.

Daisy said...

Wow. That took courage. After all the stress of your youthfull adventures, you took on an even bigger one as a young adult.

Unknown said...

I know that sick to the stomach feeling all to well. I still get it at age 35 everytime I enter a new situation. New job, going somewhere new, being in a room full of strangers... anything new.

Good for you for making the change you knew you had to. That is something to always be proud of!


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