Last month, when the world was all set to end with the Mayan calendar, I was having drinks with a nice stranger I met through the Couchsurfing network. He was traveling through Portland and needed a host. Since I couldn’t host, I offered to take him out to the Kennedy School where we indulged in tots, beer and Ardbeg.
As it usually happens with conversations with travelers, and those from the Couchsurfing community as well as them on walkabout – conversation jumps beyond the simple, surface dialog of mundane affairs and dives directly into the heart of what it means to be a traveler. A traveler of the world, of the mind and an explorer of the human experience and spirit.
The common denominator in these encounters is the near ravenous desire to know, to try, to see and hear and smell and touch – everything. To talk to strangers, meet the city, experience the food, and make connections. It’s a desire that still means a lot to me, which is why I still go out to meet Couchsurfers and or offer rides, city guides or companion adventures.
As some have claimed, I like to hijack their travels with unscheduled misadventures. I don’t disagree.
Anywhoo, in the Boiler Room of the Kennedy School, I was halfway through my peaty Ardbeg as the countdown for the end of the world approached. December 21st, 2012 was about to reach midnight and roll to the 22nd and thereby destroy us all.
“So, do you think the world is going to end?” he asked, half grinning over his beer.
“Naw, but I wore clean underwear… you know, just in case.” I replied.
He laughed and the sound was drowned out in the cacophony of voices in the dark basement bar.
We’d been talking about the shift that happens when you throw yourself into the void, out of your comfort zones and into the wide world and the beauty of discovering – the world is full of amazing people, unexpected adventure and unimaginable happiness, just beyond that first few moments of terror when you first realize…you’re going to be okay.
“If the world did end tonight, would you be okay with it?”
I smiled, “Actually, yeah. If the world ended right now, I’d be totally satisfied.” I didn’t have to think about it or even wonder. “I don’t have any regrets and I’ve done everything up to this point I wanted to accomplish for where I’m at. So bring it, Mayans. I’d die a happy camper and in fresh undies.” I lifted my glass and we toasted.
“I feel the same way,” he agreed.
The night ended with a kiss that scrambled my thoughts and I took three wrong turns on the way home and got lost in Lake Oswego. How I got from the Kennedy School in North Portland to Lake Oswego in the first place is still a mystery. Apparently it’s been so long since I’ve been kissed, it must have shorted some wiring upstairs. Anywhoo, don’t get excited. It was just a kiss, and he was a traveler passing through so nothing will come of it. But, the point of the story was this…
As of December 21st, 2012 I was utterly satisfied to exit stage left, having finally achieved the things I’d worked so incredibly hard for. To accomplish the things I didn’t actually think I could when I first started out. In fact, three years ago, I thought I’d be dead already, so I never imagined I’d finish the book and get it out there. I’ve been fortunate to live a lot of life in this small span so far, surrounded by amazing people, expansive shifts and mystery – ohmigod, so much amazing, awesome mystery. I truly don’t have a single complaint.
Even though a month has gone by, I still don’t have any complaints – but what I do have now that wasn’t there last month, is a hunger. A new creative surge to add new things to this life experience. As of this winter, I’m fully recovered, energy restored. As of this winter, I’m hip-deep in new projects, brimming with the need to sculpt, write, take pictures and cook. I’m itching to get back out and travel more, redesign my studio and pour love into my relationships.
Now that I have the room to expand, I’m flooded with ideas of what to try, and where to go.
If I happen to be sitting in a dark bar on the eve of the next end of the world with a stranger, say, ten years from now, will I still be able to say I’m content to kick the bucket because all my bases are covered? Or will I have wasted the next ten years building actual regrets, what-ifs and failed desires?
I’m at a clean slate right now, an even start to building a new set of goals. So what should I include? Love? A family? World travel? More books? A new business? An Expat life? Return home? A new cause?
I don’t know. AND THAT’S AWESOME! It’s awesome because I can’t see ahead anymore. It’s a totally new horizon.
One thing is for sure, end of the world or not, none of us have time to lose on bad jobs, unhealthy lifestyles, negative relationships and unfulfilled dreams. We are too fragile to be wasted on those who don’t love us properly. We are too precious to be drained by negative feedback cycles, vampiric systems and toxic interactions. We are short-spanned but mightily built. Built to love, built to evolve, and built to be filled to brimming with wonder. We are made to know what it means to be truly happy.
And when someone asks me on the night of the next end of the world, “If the world ended tonight, would you be okay with it?”
I hope I’m sipping some nice, peaty scotch and can confidently reply, “Hells yeah, even wore my clean panties.”
And I sincerely hope you can say the same as well.