Mutant Message From Phnom Penh

When I was in high school, there was a small group of upperclassmen—one of whom I’d worshipped—that all wrote, under their senior pictures, “Instigators for life” (or was it ‘4 lyfe’?). Obviously, in hindsight, I’m very sad to look back at my taste in “men” at the time, as well as the lack of intellectual diversity (or intellect, period—teenagers are so stupid) in my hometown. I am only reminded of them now because I just came to the realization that my friends, my innermost circle of bad b*tches, are complete instigators. Sometimes, we’ll push ourselves just to see how far we go, for how much of a tidal wave we can provoke.

I made a note back in July on my phone (the source for which I have no idea and do apologize) that reads:

“Pioneer impulse to chase ever-grander dreams and […] contemporary craving for contentment and a respite from the chase.”

If I could describe myself and/or my friends (as we exist in our twenties), that would be it. “You and I are the same kind of people. We can just pick up and move at the drop of a hat, yet we want stability, and we have a very fixed idea of what we want our lives to be,” my friend Becca tells me. So, in short, we’re just neurologically engineered NOT to survive. At least, not in the working world.

I have another friend, whom I’ve known since we were toddlers (our sisters went to kindergarten together), teaching English right now on the rural outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. And why not? What pressing urgency is there for a 22-year-old to enter a workforce that no one can teach her to navigate, to spend the next 40 years moving onwards and upwards at an inexhaustible (and therefore impossible) speed, all for some abstract idea of success waiting for her at the top? Where is the top? Rather, I think she would prefer to enjoy her journey (and her life) for the next 40 years. Catching up with her over a patchy connection between Skype and Google Hangout invokes that pioneer impulse in me. I think of her journey, her painful loneliness (and lack of hip hop music), her transformation as she slowly lets her surroundings seep into her skin, and I want that for myself. I want ownership of my experience. I want lateral (or even multidimensional) mobility and substantive experiences that color my youthful canvas. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted my adventure to be my job, one that would take me places and proffer me once-in-a-lifetime experiences by virtue of my work. Now, I more realize that I want my purpose—whatever it may be—to have an element of exploration and adventure.

Many of my friends are leading rich and exciting lives through a series of creative and painful trials-and-error. It’s a very positive kind of peer pressure, even though the practice of comparing yourself to others is destructive. It either motivates or obligates (depending on how you look at the glass) me to leapfrog away from home and onto another lily pad that may or may not just be fashioned by my own romantic idealism. As easily as you can be shrouded by insecurity and self-doubt, you can also be blinded to reality by your epic quest in search of more prosperous shores. So, wanting neither extreme, I’m looking to reconcile the above quote and find contentment in my journey, however uncertain it is, for however long it lasts. I’m trying to make myself rest on the fact that no one has it better or worse. We’re all blind mice reaching out for something to grab onto, and the series of objects we stumble upon in the dark is different from friend to friend. I should just be happy with the fact that I surround myself with positive influences who actually venture to reach for something better.

The idea for this blog, I wrote down some months ago, was “finding oases and building them when and where we can.” Maybe that lacks direction or purpose, but it’s what I aim to do by example. Were it not for the invisible chains of expectation and fear of failure, my friend and I would probably be baristas on a cool stretch of somewhere, working to live rather than the other way around. But alas, I’m obligated by my credit score to become a contributing member of society, but in the back of my mind, the seed is [re]sown. I’m waiting for my break to cut and run.

DAMN YOU, Anna, for bragging about your $0.50 meals, cheap booze, and amazing adventures in Cambodia!! (You can view her blog here: My Phnom Pen)

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