When I try to pinpoint the moment in my life at which I knew exactly who I was, I can’t. I don’t believe it’s because I’ve forgotten. I believe it’s because that moment hasn’t fully come.
While I wait for understanding, I try to remember what put me on the path to semi-understanding. Certainly not college (I partied too much for any understanding to take place). And most definitely not my first job (the company went bankrupt after three months). Not my first relationship (he cheated on me in Vegas and I was secretly glad because it gave me the perfect excuse to break up).
Although I can’t highlight a single sentence in my life in which I began to feel like I knew who I was, I can highlight a single decade.
Those ten years are dotted with late nights and tears and too many glasses of wine and belly laughs and long sighs. Less the trajectory of a ladder leaning on a roof and more the trajectory of a roller coaster.
But what I know is this: It was when I found the wild that I finally tiptoed onto the path of knowing who I was and finally began defining myself by my own words rather than the words of others.
In the ten years since I turned 21, my life has been inundated with wild adventure. At the root of nearly all my adventures sit two components — travel and running.
My me-ness was built on these pillars.
I am who I am because of my oceanside runs in Sydney and my city runs in Bangkok and my jungle runs in Manila and my mountain runs in Yellowstone and my evening runs in Georgia, my wine runs in Italy and my river runs in Oregon.
I am who I am because of my road trip across the country and because I lived in a car in Australia and because I worked on TV and because I sold corndogs at music festivals and because I like to travel alone.
I am who I am because of my attraction to the unknown and untamed.
I am who I am because yesterday the best part of my day was getting a massage at a back alley massage parlor with no private rooms in Idaho from an elderly Chinese man named Joe who uses paper towels on the head pillow, nearly broke my back and gave me a water bottle before I left.
I enjoy the weird.
But it’s when nothing weird is happening that I don’t feel like myself and I don’t know who I am.
This is not a call for chaos and drama. No, I think it’s just a request for my life to provide that caveman sense of surprise. Continue the hunt and gather routine but maybe have to deal with a saber tooth tiger every once in a while.
Again, I’m not saying I want to live a dangerous, adrenaline-fueled lifestyle. I just revel in the unusual.
I enjoy the wild.
And the wild comes in many different shapes and forms. Including the very small. Force me on stage to sing karaoke and my equilibrium is reestablished. Pull over the car so I can rifle through the free pile on the side of the road and I’ve done something unscheduled. Take me on a new hike with new views so I can be wonderstruck. Introduce me to a stranger and I may learn something. Make me learn a new language and I’ll be challenged.
There is a Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition that describes the word “wild” as “deviating from the intended or expected course”.
That’s what I mean.
I run because it takes me places I’ve never been. I travel because it takes me places I’ve never been. I go to a strange massage parlor last minute because it deviates from what my day was supposed to look like.
And when my life wraps up I want to look back and know with certainty that I did deviate from the intended or expected course.
So I suppose then, I may never fully understand exactly who I am because at each moment when I finally get close to getting it, I move the target just a little bit further away.
Every time I think to myself, Ah ha! I’m settling in, I’ve adventured myself out. I’m getting comfortable, I’m finally becoming exactly who I am meant to be. I get bored and bike down to the weird massage place hunting for free piles along the way.