No one in Lawrence knows who I am. No one here is related to me, no one here has kept in touch with me, no one here knows my name until I tell them. When I found a ride from Burning Man I looked for someone who was coming here - I told D "I'm going to Lawrence." This place was the bulls-eye and I shot myself towards it from Nevada like an arrow. Lawrence doesn't have much of a claim to fame unless you're attending the university. I should explain why I'm here. That'll take a few posts, so bear with me.
It's not an understatement to say that Lawrence, Kansas made the rest of my life possible. At 18 the best I could picture for myself was a lifetime of Person with Disabilities benefits, trying to find a way to contribute something meaningful to a world that I couldn't possibly belong to.
From the time I was 5, I had a chronic illness. I spent a lot of time in hospitals and had more diagnostics than I care to describe run on me over the course of the next 8 years. No one ever diagnosed what was wrong with me. The only symptom was pain, which tended to radiate about 6 inches around my navel. I missed progressively more school and became less functional as I got older. I stopped attending school regularly in grade 8, which I passed by a few inches, and didn't really progress in my education past grade 9. I kept trying and managed to get a few credits from arts courses and things that didn't require regular attendance, but in all of the major subjects (English, Math, Science, Social Studies) I never progressed past grade 9.
The few people I know who are or were chronically ill have a strong consensus. Chronic illness doesn't make sense to people who aren't chronically ill - it has a lot of similarities with mental illness, head and soft tissue injuries and other forms of "invisible illness." If you haven't had the experience I can tell you that it hurt, and you can imagine pain, but the long-term changes it writes into a person are morbid to describe. I won't spend too much time on it - that isn't the point of this post. If chronic pain is something you've experienced, you probably understand what I mean. If it isn't, I encourage you to reflect on this quote:
"When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant." -Thich Nhat Hanh
I was 18, it was the summertime, school had just ended. It occurred to me that when I turned 19 I wouldn't be allowed back into regular public school. I hadn't graduated, I was stalled in classes at the grade 9 level, and being sick dominated everything. In addition to being sick, I was sickly - 6 feet tall and 130lbs. The one place I was barely hanging on (school) was about to refuse my re-entry. All of my available next steps looked like failure. Something in me couldn't accept that.
I did the only thing I could think of. I got a big backpack, put my worldly possessions into it and crossed into the U.S.A. I had no plan, no fixed destination, no idea how I would get by or make my life work. This was a Hail Mary pass, a last ditch attempt to avoid a life that I didn't think I could live with. I had no idea how it would work, no idea if it would work, no idea what working would even look like, but I couldn't just lean back and let things continue to disintegrate. I lied to all my friends and family about having ambitions to make it to Brazil and have a grand adventure. My honest ambitions had to do with trying the last desperate jailbreak strategy I could think of.
There are some hefty emotional parallels between that and what I'm doing right now... and honestly that's the point. That's a huge part of the point of this whole adventure I'm taking.
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." -Nelson Mandela
I was nervous about stepping back onto the road... stepping back into the unknown. The process of travel hasn't changed. I have found several of the ways in which I, myself have altered already.