Monday, November 06, 2006

Life as usual

I've been feeling very bad lately that I haven't written anything in quite a while. Especially after leaving my last post, about how we're going to be updating this blog with more information which we glossed over before. My current excuse strongly hinges on my parents slow dial-up service. For some unknown reason, DSL is unavailable in the part of Flint township my parents live in. Anyway, it's not that I don't want to fulfill this promise of posting often. I really do,however, my life has been very strange for the past couple of weeks ever since returning to the Midwest.

When I say strange, I don't mean to infer any incredibly interesting strange events have been occurring. It is more that I am returning to all of my old haunts and finding my old comfortable life gone and I am placed in a world which is both incredibly familiar yet strange because the role I used to play in it has disappeared and I must redefine what my mundane every day life is in these new arenas.

The plan I had set up upon return to the Midwest was to spend a week in Chicago and then continue on to my parents house in Flint, Michigan where I knew I would be guaranteed a free place to stay and pretty confident about a job at the Borders book store my brother and sister both work for.

Arriving in Chicago, I wasn't sure on a place to stay. Ira and I had given up our apartment when we left so I spent the week floating around from place to place trying to be as graciously thankful as I could of the hospitality being offered. It was so incredibly wonderful to see everyone again, yet slightly sad and distressing to be experiencing elements of my old life as a visitor. I traveled 4700 miles around the country for 160 days, each night being unsure of the location and conditions of my evening resting place only to have the same experience in the place I considered home, shook my nerves quite a bit.

I spent the week endlessly moving from one corner of the city to the other in order to see as many people as possible. I succeeded in drinking far too much and tiring myself out completely. By the time I finally arrived in Flint, I was completely pooped. Although tired, I was very much looking forward to having my own room again and feeling completely comfortable in a space I could consider my own again. The day after arriving, I organized all my things in my room (my sisters old room in the basement) and did what I could to make myself feel in control of my own surroundings.

I've been in flint for a week now, and I already scored the job at borders thanks to my sister putting in a good word for me with her boss. You might think I would be settled in just fine. I am living with my parents and brother whom I love very much as well as have the financial security they provide me. I also have a job with which I can supplement my bank account for the sake of the trip which so far is all going according to plan. Yet, I still feel awkward, and out of my element.

I have never really lived in Flint. My parents moved here when I was a freshman in College. I have been visiting here periodically over the past couple of years enough to be acquainted with all of my sister's friends, but I only have a social life outside of my family here vicariously through my family.

I was looking forward to exploring flint more then I had in the past. I brought comuting fix gear bicycle back from Chicago to allow myself some independence as well as some consistency from my old life. Flint is not a bicycle friendly city as all my parents and friends here like to remind me. Things are very spread out and streets have no shoulder to speak of. The average speed limit on roads through town here is about 45 mph with all the streets around my parents house in the township being 50. Although a lot of the GM shops have closed Flint is still a car city. My sister always says "even homeless people here have cars." While I like a challenge, I am very uncomfortable about riding here, especially after dark. Many of the streets don't have street lights. When you combine this with the high speed limits and no shoulders, makes me nervous of commuting anywhere.

I am completely comfortable here at my parents house and I'm really enjoying the chance of being able to hang out with my younger brother as an adult. The opportunity of calling up my sister to go out for drinks or hang out and watch a movie at her house is great too. I just need to be patient about not having my environment exaclty the way I used to in Chicago. I know Flint is very different, and has a lot of great things going on, although it may seem I've been focusing only the negative. Flint is the way it is, and I can't expect to bend it the way I want it to be.

As a control freak, I always want things to be how I want or expect them. I was concerned about this tendency of mine on our road trip, but it didn't get in the way too much. When you are constantly moving around, you don't really have time to get too stressed out if you don't like a certain place. If you don't like it, you just leave and go to the next place. Ira and I had set up a rule that we never stayed with anyone longer then five days. After five days, depression usually set in. The longer we stayed with people, the more it felt as though we were trying to live their lives. I like living my own life and so we would leave and continue on with our reality of the time, which was constant movement.

Now, I AM living other people's lives. I'm living my families lives. It seems strange to say, but my family lives a much different life then I do. I've been out of the house for 8 years. I've always noticed the difference of our lives upon coming back for visits, but now living here, it is very noticeable. Neither lifestyle is better then the other, its just different for me. Its not that there are any large changes except maybe I am going to be driving more the cycling. But more subtle things.

I think the average person underestimates how important the mundane aspects of our life are. Sure maybe people can feel bored with their life at times, but these same boring elements also give us structure and a comfort in the knowledge of what we can expect things to be. With that knowledge comes a certain confidence. We don't have to waste time worrying about how the little details of things are going to pan out because based on our past day to day experience probably already know. This is why the first couple days of a new job are so stressful and tiring. Once you become accustomed to the new job's flow, you look back and laugh at how you once were so worried about fitting in.

I am just experiencing this worry and stress of the unknown right now. The strangeness comes in because the unknown details are completely surrounded by people and environments I have intimate knowledge of. Perhaps I take my family and friends for granted. I shouldn't be surprised they are constantly changing. I have been gone doing my own things, changing in my own way. Of course they are changing as well based on their experiences in an environment which I only have a superficial knowledge of.

So I've been busy lately. Not really busy doing anything of note. I have been busy worrying and stressing about setting up a new mundane life for myself. And although the word mundane carries with it negative connotations, I use it here as a completely unemotional term to describe the feeling of being comfortable with one's ordinary daily life. After being on the road for so long, I am looking forward to getting back (even if it is only for three months) to a more regular and slightly more predictable life.


Anonymous said...

So wait a second, you're in Flint and Ira is in Chicago? Or are you both in Flint?

Ira said...

Yes, and no. We've each found jobs in our respective cities for a couple months. I miss Andrea but unfortunately it's easier to find a job in Chicago than Flint.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ira and Andrea, We've been following your trip off and on since you left our garage in Shelton. Haven't left a message till this point. Hope you get it. Thanks for the 2 postcards. You're the first cyclists who have honored us with more than 1 postcard. The rains have begun in earnest around here. We had 8 inches last weekend and are expecting another 4 or 5 this weekend. Good weather for ducks. Lewis and Donna say HI! Keep in touch and by all means visit us again if you're ever in the Seattle area. And give us an address when either or both of you get settled so that we can stop in and you can return the favor to some roadweary travelers. Alan Jackson