A couple of years ago, North Star, on a sabbatical from work, bought a one way ticket to Europe, packed a bag, boarded a plane by herself, and then spent the next three or more months wandering around from place to place without a plan. I don’t remember all the places she ended up, but I know that, among others, Italy, France, Spain, India, Bali, Nepal and Thailand are on the list. I also know that on her trip, she had a fabulous time, not just observing different cultures, but interacting with them, too. Like she tends to do, she made friends everywhere she went. Actually, I think friend is probably the wrong word. It might be better to say that while on her trip, North Star became an active participant in other people’s lives.
North Star believes herself to be so capable, she’s often said to me she believes if she were dropped into virtually any situation in any place, she thinks she would be okay. I think the same. Actually, that’s not entirely true. What I actually think is North Star is strong enough, capable enough, outgoing enough, and confident enough not merely to be okay in any situation, but to thrive.
That’s North Star as I know her.
And then there’s me as I know myself.
If it were me on that trip that North Star took--and that's one astronomical if since jetting to Europe involves getting off of my couch--I would've found a bistro or cafe or whatever restaurants are called in France or Italy or wherever I'd decided to hunker down with things on the menu I could pronounce, parked myself there with a book so I didn't have to make eye contact with a single soul, and spent my days and nights in that same place. I also might have started smoking so I'd have something to do with my hands because gods know nothing makes me feel as conspicuous as having nothing to do with my hands.
While North Star busies herself with jetting across the Atlantic and trekking across Europe and Asia by herself (and did I mention her trip to Kenya? She's also gone to Kenya), I busy myself with pretty much the exact opposite. If Glenn or my sister isn’t with me, whatever I’m thinking of doing probably isn’t going to happen. I think, though I could be wrong by one or two, I’ve maybe done five things by myself in my entire life. Of course, I’m not talking normal, everyday things like going to the grocery store or the mall or having a meal in a restaurant, I’m talking things that, at least to me, are significant. The list looks like this:
1. Drive to and attend a week-long Harlem Renaissance workshop in St. Petersburg
2. Fly to St. Louis to attend and be in Marnie’s wedding and then not only be dateless, but pretty much friendless, alone, and awkward at the reception.
3. Fly to Rhode Island for Erin’s wedding, where I was dateless (but admittedly not friendless, alone, and awkward) at the reception
4. Drive to and attend The Ramones concert at The Edge in Orlando
5. Drive to Gainesville and hang out with North Star’s then boyfriend while I looked for an apartment that I never moved into
And, well, yeah. That pretty much sums it up.
So why do I bring this up now? Why the comparisons between North Star and me? What exactly is the what of this conversation?
Next week I’m going to Chicago. And I’m doing it by myself.
Well, not by myself, by myself.
By myself with Griffin and Keifer.
But, really, with a twelve- and a fourteen-year-old who have no idea what to do or where to go, I’m kind of as by myself as I would be if they weren’t there. And I totally don’t mean that in a negative way. I love being with G and K--admittedly usually when I have one of them alone rather than both of them together--and doing things with them will be fun, and I can’t wait to show them Chicago, in Keifer’s case for the first time since he’s old enough to really know what he’s seeing, it’s just a point of not knowing what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it and not having an adult around to help me.
And before anyone points out that I am, in fact, an adult, I’ll acknowledge that, yes, I am, but I’ll also ask—
have you met me?
Or if not met me, have you read me?
Because if you’ve done either of those things, you know I’m an adult only in years.
And now I’m off to the big city, solo.
I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of sitting around, saying, What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do?
I'm off to the big city, solo, for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of trying to coordinate rides on the L--which I'm already nervous about figuring out how to buy three week-long passes for--with rides on the bus but failing miserably and never ending up where I want to go.
I'm off to the big city, solo, for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of endless research trying to figure out the best way to consolidate trips but not being able to figure out the best way to consolidate trips and then maybe, possibly, probably, as a result, doing nothing at all.
I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be six days of wandering around, lost, six days of feeling uncomfortable, six days of not knowing how to dress, six days of not knowing what to do, six days of not knowing where to eat, six days of disaster disaster disaster.
I'm off to the big city solo for what I'm afraid is going to be exactly what I'm afraid of.
I'll let you know how it goes.