I sat on a toilet seat for the first time in a month a few minutes ago. I washed up, cleaned the travel grime off, trimmed the nails, shaved the beard, cut the hair, and now I’m ready to return to civilization, sort of. I’m actually scared out of my mind and can’t sleep. Believe it or not, after all the crazy scary things that I have done over the past three months, immersing myself in the social world and heading to medical school are scarier prospects than a lot of my adventures. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and paddling a kayak 70 miles from civilization out into open water solo is about as absurdly scary as it gets. But medical school is a close second. Maybe I’m overreacting, but it just feels like I’m starting all over again, and that’s kind of overwhelming.
Right when I got home today I went for a walk. I’ve been driving for three days and I needed to stretch my legs. I’m trying to grasp what actually happened this summer. And I think it is going to take a long time to process exactly what did happen. It was a hell of an adventure. I just tallied that I drove over 13,000 miles, over 200 hours driving. Counting sleeping, this summer I enjoyed a full half a month in my car.
I know a lot of Buddhist philosophy centers around living in the moment. But I think for the exact reason that I am capable of removing myself from the moment is why I am capable of having such amazing adventures. At least when I put myself in a very sticky or painful situation, the ability to acknowledge its finite nature and exist as if a video game player manipulating my body has allowed me to stay relaxed and make some very good decisions. I don’t think there’s any other way to stay sane when I realize I am alone in the ocean sitting in a tiny boat made of glass and plastic with towering swells pounding behind me other than to remove myself entirely. But it makes for a lot of reflecting later on. When I can’t come to terms with the situations in the moment, I must save them and digest later.
A lot of this trip was like that, building up some winter stores to digest for the next couple years or so. I hope I am able to get out and have grand adventures all the same but I cannot deny that I have been warned that I am deluding myself. I am certain this next adventure will be a great one, but I am already thinking about the breaks of paddling my kayak a couple dozen miles straight off shore in Virginia Beach. I see myself cresting the horizon, watching the sun set over open water, and slipping down into my hull for a nights rest. I imagine some med students would kill for solitude and peace like that. And the fear of claustrophobia and of being alone on the ocean attracts me to it even more. What a weekend to return to class from.
Driving back into Richmond today on 64 east was just like any other time I have made that trip. Everything looked the same, green and beautiful, and in its hardly changing nature it really did feel like home. It felt like home because I could count on it, because it wasn’t exotic, the exact reason I didn’t want to stay here. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make residence out with the big mountains. But I’m excited for the next four years to have an ocean full of adventures nearby, one full of sharks, cold water, and big swells, exactly the kind of challenge I’ll need. But goddamn its good to be home right now.