May 28, 2014

Got plans? Don't bother.

I have just left Toronto and am on my way to Michigan. I was supposed to take a long train ride that included a 10-hour stop at Buffalo, but right at the last minute I got a train switch, and I'll be arriving a day earlier than expected. Because it was so last minute, I only had the time to collect my first of three train tickets for this trip, and everything's kind of crazy. I have to find out how to cross the border on my own, before transferring to the next train. I have to get my refund at Detroit, somehow. I have to hope that the other station gets the memo so that I can get my next two tickets, because I have no itinerary for my new trip. I have to find a place to stay. I've emailed the person I'm supposed to be staying with tomorrow, and I really hope she gets my message while I still have wifi.

Yesterday, after a really nice dinner with Bryson (we're now 21 and on the other side of the world!!! 14 years ago we were 7 and table-neighbours playing with his stationery in class and getting caught), I was at Finch station and I was like, "okay, now I just need to text/call Zach to let him know to pick me up from the other station in 20 minutes." And then I realised I only had his Singapore number in my phone, not his US one. How stupid could I get.

Now, I had a host of options that would've cost me a little. I could've turned on my mobile data to Whatsapp him / look through my email for his number. I could've walked to a shopping centre to get wifi. I could've taken the train to the nearest stop, and take a taxi from there. But I made the stupidest and most expensive decision - to take a taxi from where I was - and it cost me $35. The meter was rising by the second; my heart was sinking into a pit. And I was like, "C'mon, Karen! Be strong! Make the best of this! Make it worth your $35!" so I talked to the driver and asked about life in Ethiopia and his kids etc. He had this habit of practically shouting, and it made me a bit nervous sometimes, but it was hilarious.

And so I don't know where I'll be sleeping tonight, but I tell myself not to worry. Things will find their way home.

(I got lost recently, and ended up wandering close to a neighbouring town, but hey, I found my way home. Even if it took an hour of wondering where the heck I was and following random bike trails and crossing a train track over a river oh freak my heart was pumping like mad.)

I'm more chill on this trip than I should be. No researching (I'm so lazy), no Google Mapping places I want to go, no looking at the next day's plans until the night before. In Toronto I found a lot more joy in seeing how people lived - checking out Zach's school and his dad's ice-cream shop and watching a movie with Zach and Nik in the basement - than in going to all the touristy places. I enjoyed just walking the streets and taking public transport. Musing at the shower knobs and car door locks - it's in the little things. There's a big part of me that's all FOMO (fear of missing out), but I'm trying to keep it down. The first thing Fang Jiunn and I will do in Chicago is catch Maleficent, and I really really REALLY REALLY want to watch The Fault In Our Stars when it comes out there too. Mm. Go to the theatres, do normal people things, grab a sandwich, cross the road - it's not the big touristy stuff, but the everyday living, that tells you the most about a place; that is the most diverse, yet connects you with its people.


I've also learnt a couple of other things on this trip in the past week, the biggest one being it's all in your mind. Long lonely rides make my mind wander, and wander into bad places. I'm afraid of my own mind, and I hate thinking, because I spiral down a well and it's very hard to get out. But how you feel is entirely up to you. You can have a shit day and people can be annoying, or you can have spent $35 unnecessarily, or you can be dragging yourself up a long flight of stairs with 15kg on your back, but how you feel is entirely up to you. You're responsible for appreciating the things in your life, simply because you are alive. I have learnt to escape to a different environment if it helps me escape negativity. I have learnt to just brush it off: "yeah, whatever". It's not as easy as it sounds, it takes some force, but it's necessary. Do what it takes to stop being focused on your little self - talk to a stranger, get some coffee, sleep. Sleep works magic.

Adding on to that, how something turns out in the end is also entirely up to you and your words.

Simple enough. Your life is in your hands. You have all control. Unexpected things can happen along the way, but it's up to you to take that and make it a tool.

I used to dislike it when people asked me how an experience was, because having to put a word to it reduces it to that word. Nepal? Half a day of walking uphill, only to go downhill again, and repeat it the next day? My Nepal trekking trip highlighted for me the futility of all human activity. But there were also some irreplaceable memories - hot lemon drinks on mountaintops, bathing in cold water in the freezing weather, playing card games with Mark and Chin Wei. When people ask me how it was, I say "interesting". But it's up to me to put down more words so that my memories don't get reduced to that.

And that applies to this. An experience could've been terrible, but it was still an experience not worth wasting, and it's up to my words to concretise the memory - and manipulate it, if necessary. The worse an experience is, the more interesting, impactful and valuable, isn't it?

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