Thursday, September 2, 2004

seek this

My new dictionary (a stylin' Concise Oxford in a dark shade of blue and a glossy hardcover) says this about the word seek: (v) 1. attempt to find, search for and find something or someone. 2. attempt to obtain or do. 3. ask for. 4. (archaic) go to (a place). Origin: OE secan of Gmc origin.

I'm thinking about seeking, what I'm seeking, what I have been seeking, and where I'm going next. I suppose this is reasonable given I'm leaving on Sunday, to a new town, to begin new things, and as always feeling a little underprepared and like procrastinating. (It's not like Vogue is making things easy for me, have you seen the new issue? As big as a bloody phone book, 800+ pages, and every single one gorgeous!) When we seek out new things, or go seeking, do we have any idea what it is we're seeking? Do we know that it might end up entirely different than what was sought? If we set out with no preconceptions, or as close to none as it is possible to come, then what happens? Well, as I found out by flying into Sydney, Australia with no map of the place, and no idea what to expect, and a great friend to show me around (thanks again Sozzlington, sambuca forever) life still happens and you're still a seeker.

If someone were to ask me to make a list of things sought, over the years, I'd have to say 'adventure' would be near the top. 'Things I've never seen before', would be another obvious one. 'A new way of thinking about who I am', and 'How other people eat and drink', and also 'New characters' would be on there. Nothing's ever written in stone, with me, when I go travelling. All I want to do is bring myself into a place and time where I haven't yet been, and see what happens. Maybe take some photographs. Always, spark my brain and writing hand into creating. And by being a traveller, and coming into the hometown and personal space of someone else, we change the world, a tiny bit. At first it was hard to adjust to being home, again, to being the person whom travellers affect, with their stories and their piece of somewhere-else-ness. But I've become used to it, because you can be a seeker even if you live in your hometown and go to the same coffee shop every morning,because nothing stands still. What is key to seeking is noticing, being aware. Old clich├ęs are still around because they are true: you can't find something without the ability to look, to see.

In my searches, in my asking of questions, in my going to places, in short, in my seeking, I've passed two years. At times there has been hardship but that's been rare. For the most part I have had amazing luck with making new friends and finding employment that nourished me, taught me things, and left me better. I have a wonderful family around me (even if branches of it are in New Jersey, Quebec, Ontario, Ohio, Cape Breton) and friends whose locations criss-cross the globe and whose spirits and senses of humour keep me going even if they are far away. I have the teachings of all the people I've ever talked to, and the memories of grand times to make me chuckle on a long solo bus ride.

Seeking never stops. That's something else that should be in the definition (and might be, in the non-Concise Oxford, but most likely isn't). Some folks think a 'gap year', or two, as I took, is to reorient your priorities and help you to get yourself on some sort of career path, and please note this last sentence was difficult to write as it contains euphimistic terms I detest. Well, it isn't, at least it wasn't for me. What it made me realize is that school and college is not for everyone, indeed many happy lives have been lived without 'further education'. You know what further education is? It's living, wherever that takes you. If you can't see beauty in the valley mist at 6 am, or in the glittering city filled with its 4 million citizens all running around together, or in the way the rust and steam at the back of the little Vietnamese place comes together on your way to work on a muggy morning, or in the two cows kissing in Tasmania...well, all your college education hasn't done you any good. This is not to demean a college education, indeed, that is where I'm headed myself. All I'm saying is, to hope that your gap year is going to provide you with some sort of map for your life is to miss the point entirely. There is no map. You make it as you go along. And the more you seek, the more you figure that out, and you'll forget it sometimes, and wonder when the plan's going to come popping out of the woodwork, (like I certainly do myself sometimes), and then come back to that truth.

So this post is dedicated to the seekers. To everyone who keeps living and rejoices in what's around the bend, whether that's a whole new city, a whole new country, a whole new continent, or just the street they always see, only this morning the sun's rays are hitting it and really making the shadows of the trees strong stripes, and the people walking on the sidewalk are really beautiful this morning, that little old lady with her grandson, that man tending his sunflower window-box. I'm not selling out, or buying into anyone's ideas of what a life should be. I'm going to college in a new town, to expand my mind and stick some more knowledge into it, because quite frankly, nothing could excite me more. Latin? Hurrah! Economics? Bring it on! Discussions, conversations, debates, ideas? Ooh, baby. Seeking means living, and discovering new questions, and I plan to do that with gusto until it's time, as great-aunt Grace used to say, for me to get off the train.

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