Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prison Break: Directionless

When I started this blog back in November 2009, it was better focused than the current incarnation. There were two types of journal entries, one sub-titled "Planning Stage," where I detailed the findings of specific research I was conducting about Europe as I planned an extended trip to that continent, and another sub-titled "Prison Break," which focused on my mental state as I sought escape from the manacles of my reality. This formula was sensible organizationally; it captured the overall picture of my world quite well.

In good dramatic fashion, it also led up to something exciting: the trip itself. When I departed for Kiev in mid-January the blog accordingly transformed into a record of my travels as I visited seven different countries.

It has been over a month since I returned to Atlanta. Without my actually being in Europe anymore, the blog has lost most of its focus. It has become a place for commentary on European issues, a news page, and a dumping ground for the occasional piece of creative whimsy. It is as directionless as my own life. This blog has jumped the shark.

So I thought I'd return to the original formula and provide a personal update.

I am living in an "extended stay" (they used to call them "motels") on the edge of Midtown Atlanta. I have been here for over a month. My room resembles what one might find in a typical budget hotel, save the rattier rug and the addition of a tiny kitchen area. I find myself asking, like the Talking Heads' baffled narrator in "Once in a Lifetime," "Well, how did I get here?"

How I got here

I returned to the United States for several reasons. These reasons were:

1) I was not in any sort of financial position to quit my job. That's because my dream of finding even nominal employment fell through.*

2) I had a girlfriend at the time based in the United States; staying in Europe would have ended that relationship. I needed to come back for her.

3) I figured with all that hanging on me, I might as well also get my taxes done and filed on time. :-D

Well, the girlfriend and I broke up after two weeks together in Atlanta. We had broken up before, but this time it's permanent. I know I speak for both of us when I say that that was a bitter pill. "I wish her all the best" has become an insincere-sounding cliché, but I really do wish her that.

What is "here," exactly?

"Here" is my original job. "Here" is alone in a motel room. "Here" is a cheerful reunion with friends, followed by a realization that, due to diverging life paths, we will never again be as close as we were before. "Here" is a peculiar combination of being someplace with less than you started with while also overflowing with new experiences and new knowledge.

What hurts the most?

Before my trip, my mom talked condescendingly about the notion of travel for "personal enrichment." I informed her of my serious intent to find real work while overseas. She said I'd fail. I did. It now feels like the label "personal enrichment" needs to be hung around the neck of the whole adventure after all.

Since returning, I have often told people that my body is here in Atlanta whereas my mind remains in Europe. Unfortunately, I am beginning to feel the heavy weight of Atlanta life taking over my mind again. Bad habits are returning as well: the regular solitary drinking, conversations with myself about narrow and pedantic subjects, and a shrinking away from meaningful social engagement.

I remain in a motel room because if I sign another lease I sign my conditions of surrender.

* There were two things I felt cut-out to do. One was journalism, and the other was DJing.

With journalism, the turnaround time for responses from publications was too slow for me to get traction. One of my pieces was published, but only after I had "lost" a week or two submitting elsewhere. The paper running my article didn't even notify me that the piece had run, nor was an offer for payment ever made. I am grateful for the publicity and for being able to add a publishing credit to my resume, but publicity doesn't equal money in my pocket. Long turnaround times meant that a second article was shopped around unsuccessfully for several weeks. It finally found a taker, but the taker, inexplicably, has yet to run the piece. Other pieces are still in the works and I hope for a brighter future for those.

As for making money from the blog, there are two ways: 1) add a forlorn "donate" button on the upper right of this page that no one will click, or 2) run ads which will generate a revenue of pennies each month.

I failed to land DJ work in part due to not having enough time to network and arrange anything in advance. Three days in a city means you're not likely to talk yourself into a Friday night gig upon arrival on a Wednesday.

My time was divided between pursuing those goals, travel and sight-seeing itself, plus attending to a relationship. I was divided and, ambitions-wise, drawn and quartered.

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