When I stood on the Great Wall, I was smiling.
Then, I did a curious thing. I turned to my right, ready to open my mouth and share a thought. Maybe even a laugh.
The next time I felt this compulsion was on the high-speed railway from Beijing to Shanghai.
My attention was glued to the window, and I wanted to tell someone. Did you see how fast those trees were passing us? Isn’t this mind-blowing?
Again, I had all this contemplation to myself.
I remember when I ended my “marriage”, being alone frightened me so drastically, I second-guessed everything.
Eating out alone seemed pathetic. And going to a film by myself? My brain wouldn’t even broach the idea. The worst was walking in the dark. I was lost on the protocol or even the safety measures I should take. I’d jump at the slightest movement; feel my heart racing when a figure approached.
I was a dunce when it came to being solo.
How far away that self is.
I took steps even years before hardcore travel to stand strong. Be independent and not be scared of my own shadow.
I dove into the deep end of alone.
I went to Turkey, a Muslim country where clusters of men circled me in the bus stations at night. I boldly sat at the back of a bus, even when the guidebooks said not to.
I walked in a Rio neighborhood in the early hours of the morning, ignoring any signs of shirtless hoodlums, observing that each apartment building I passed was heavily fenced, with barbwire twining, or bits of broken glass jutting from concrete. Even Rio apartment buildings were scared of shirtless hoodlums.
I went hang-gliding and I’m petrified of heights.
I tried scuba diving and I hate being submerged in water.
I climbed mountains and I’m a weak hiker.
My refusal to face realities won over caution to wild success. It was exhilarating, all that self-imposed freedom can be.
These days, I realize this little make work project called ‘solo” has gone too far.
That maybe I want to turn ‘me’ into ‘we’.
But, I don’t know how anymore. All I know well is being alone. That I can teach with my eyes closed.
I worked hard to learn from my romantic mistakes, of which are plenty. To understand myself better, yet it’s foreign to come back full circle.
I don’t know where to begin.
I wish there was such a thing as a love map, one where I could pinpoint his location, know what he looks like or hear his voice. I’d strap on my backpack, take that bus, train or airplane and be there.
Maybe I’m not the only one searching.
A friend recently said to me, “Just remember Jeannie, he’s looking for you, too.”
I hope so, because I hear love maps come from old wives tales and faerie dust.