“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.” – Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
I have no recollection of the 750-mile drive from the heart of San Francisco to the outskirts of Phoenix.
I checked into a cheap motel. Everything I had been living with was packed into my rental car; I pulled a bag out of the trunk and took it upstairs. With no plan and a cloudy mind, I was confused as to what was supposed to happen next. I don’t know why the Valley of the Sun had to be the destination, but I needed clarity away from everything and everyone.
All this time, I thought the higher calling I had been searching for was within the context of society, within the walls that people have collectively built. I always knew that I wanted to be “free,” to get away, to go down a unique path, but I saw so many obstacles within this fixed worldly framework that hindered me from opening my mind to any realistic possibilities. I am recently discovering that I can’t be free in the midst of this societal structure; no matter what I choose to do with my life, I will still be chained to the things that I despise, and I will remain lost, passionless, and cynical.
I am not a normally functioning member of society, nor do I want to be. I did not choose to enter into this mess, so why must I abide by these ridiculous rules? I have been looking for this otherworldly alternative, this spiritual mission that will finally leave me optimistic, enthusiastic, and fulfilled, yet I’m stuck on planet Earth.
I’m virtually nonexistent in the world as people know it; my occasional efforts to live by the human book are futile. My powerlessness and series of circumstances have left me disheartened over and over again. The universe is crumbling in my mind. Nothing is working, nor is it even close. A quarter-century of nothingness, and things are only getting worse. I’m in danger of wasting the rest of my life if I keep looking at it through the same lens.
I spent a week on my own in the area. I drove the wild and unforgiving Apache Trail; the only things accompanying me during the four-hour road journey were dust and cacti. I hiked away from the city into the desert and up a mountain.
Stress slowly started subsiding. The constant feeling that I’m doing things wrong dwindled for a brief moment, but it resumed before I could gain any clarity. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere by myself, I wasn’t free.
When I was young, I was a dreamer. I was extremely intelligent and creative, and I knew I could do anything. I was told the same thing we’re all told: “You can do anything you set your mind to!” Things began going poorly when the reality of this statement started to sink in – as much as I wanted to believe it, it did not have a rational basis in society. I stopped following my dreams, my imagination died off, and a harsh skepticism developed.
I am finally, albeit slowly, beginning to see that the problem is not necessarily this society that I think I hate, it’s that I use societal terms to justify my existence. The walls – the feeling that something isn’t right, the claustrophobia, the anxiety – will only remain if I let them. I get discouraged when I am unable to escape even though my physical environment drastically changes, but it’s never going to be an escape as long as the environment in my mind is the same.
Do I enjoy being a transient gypsy nomad wanderer? I like some aspects of it, sure, and I certainly like being alone, yet I feel so trapped and confined even when I’m supposed to be completely free. I will always enjoy getting away, but I don’t need to make such long journeys to do so. I can get away even in my current location – it all has to do with my perspective. I don’t have to let society control me. I can be alone if I just stop thinking about what the world thinks. Rather than get away from a physical location, I need to get away from my previous mode of thinking.
Stifled creativity and vigor, dust yourself off and get ready to reappear; these restraints aren’t nearly as strong as I thought they were. It’s about time to exit this hell and work toward something I can call my own.
“Serenity is when you get above all this, when it doesn’t matter what they think, say or want, but when you do as you are, and see God and Devil as one.” – Henry Miller, Henry Miller on Writing