This Surreal Life
Sometimes it hits me – bam! – right between the eyes. I flash back to a younger self. I tell that girl “You’re living in Los Angeles, sweetie, and you’re gonna join the Navy.”
She laughs and raises a skeptical eyebrow (in that way I imagine I can lift just one eyebrow despite the fact I am not one of those so talented). “Not bloody likely,” she says with a derisive snort, and turns away.
Now it’s my older self that’s laughing, because life takes us in funny directions. But beneath the amusement that feeling of disbelief lingers. And lingers. And nags at me.
Odd though it all sounds to my ears, even after all this time, the better part of a year, I still can’t quite believe I’m here, I’m doing this. Which is decidedly strange because the other half of me feels the rightness of it deep down in my bones.
Right? That’s what this feeling is, isn’t it? This “I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything other than this” feeling, that’s rightness, yeah?
No one ever said I lacked imagination, so the fact I can’t picture myself anywhere else isn’t from lack of trying. I tried real hard year before this precisely because the whole notion sounded so damned preposterous. I looked at jobs and colleges and doctoral programs. Gave some thought to just picking up and moving somewhere to try my luck. But it always came back down to this. So here I am.
And look at me. I’ve made a life for myself. Found a home for me and fur-person. Took some classes. Joined some clubs. Student body president. Making trouble everywhere I go, just like normal (if the word applies). Taken up jogging. Ugh. Jogging. But hey, ahoy matey and all that, or whatever goes in the modern day Navy (probably an acronym). Even made some good friends along the way who I wouldn’t trade for all the coffee in Kenya and whiskey in Ireland put together (and seeing as I’m on my annual detox from both, that’s saying a lot right now).
Then it hits me, like I’m looking out someone else’s eyes. Like this is the Twilight Zone or Star Trek or Quantum Leap and I just got blasted into some alternate version of “This Is Your Life.” And I think for a brief moment, “I want to go home.”
I want the wind in the grass and the storms you can hear coming twenty miles away. I want my drafty little apartment facing out onto the capitol lawn, the one with the deep iron tub. I want the Sandhills in the summer and going to movies with my folks on Sundays and ribbing my brother just for walking in the room and fighting with my mother’s cat precisely because she tells me not to.
But I’m here. In Los Angeles. Two-thousand miles away. Fixing to join the Navy. And the only bit that makes a lick of sense is that I’m doing it all for the path – to explore this thing they call Buddhism and I call Life. That makes it all right, all good, all perfect in a way, no matter how surreal it feels from day to day. I can forget this feeling for weeks at a time, staring down at the path before my feet. Then I look up and see the concrete wasteland, the mountains in the distance shrouded in smog, feel the ache in my legs from one last lap, and think “What the hell?”
But you know what? The more I think about it, the more I think this surreal feeling is a good thing. I was just so comfy in my drafty little apartment, so distracted by my beautiful thunderstorms, so safe with my family close by that I never looked up. I hid from this feeling in all the old places, places now lost to me, though I try valiantly to build new ones. This feeling like it’s all a crazy dream is the more real. All that’s left to do is wake up.