My journal and I are in a cooling off period, one of the many minor breakups we go through before a wild and constant stream of fresh love and entries. I’ve already acknowledged how valuable it is to me for the past few months, as the impossibility of the first leg of the journey has only now begun to crystallize, a month after it’s completion. I will need something to remind me that it was real and profound, populated by real and powerful people, and filled with more landscapes and abstract emotions than the Met. This distance I feel mentally, though, can be excused by the even greater surreality that, after a four and a half hour nap, Los Angeles is once again 4,000 miles away and I am back in Durham.
I’m taking my two weeks to say hello and goodbye, and the welcoming embrace of North Carolina humidity and crape myrtles and ivy has my heart singing a familiar song. While I bask in this place, though, I’m mindful that I will be putting my wheels down in Tokyo in two weeks, and I have, as of yet, no shred of itinerary.
I’m not worried about finding my way. Really, my only fear is that I know so little that I’ll miss out on fantastic opportunities simply because I can’t read the signs and don’t know to ask about them. But I trust that, as with my week’s ride down California, I’ll learn quickly and barriers that seem intimidating now will become familiar, at least, if not shorter. I’ve picked up a book on Japanese grammar and writing, so at least I’ll have something to point to.
On that note- the ride down from Monterey to Los Angeles went by smoothly, as adventures go. I did have a night of sleeping out on a beach illegally and regularly snuck into state parks to spend the night, but the ride itself was magnificent. Anyone driving or riding in central California must include Big Sur in their plans, from north to south to be as close to the edge as possible. Truly magnificent sights.
Back here in Durham, the pattern of student life carries my upperclassmen friends through their own version of senior year. As I’ve walked around my alma mater this weekend, seeing the absolutely baby-faced first years squawking and parading their new independence, overhearing party and study plans, I don’t feel as far removed from Duke as I would have expected. Much of this is due to a year of living off-campus and generally finding my roots elsewhere while I was a student. Even so, I believe that the truth of my ambivalence isn’t that I don’t care, but rather that I don’t need to.
With so many hours on the bike, it’s easy to believe that I will make significant headway towards “processing” life events of the last four, eight, or twenty-two years (NB: I’m sure, someday, as a forty or fifty-something, I’ll smirk a bit at my admittedly short, current timeline of life events). Boyfriends, girlfriends, faux pas and fuck-ups, strife and unresolved conversations and grievances- everything will be figured out after a few hours of concentrated thought. Right?
In reality, a brain can only come up with so many ideas when it’s being watched, and quickly mine was spinning in circles to the rhythm of Hermes’ wheels. I kept chewing the same gristle of memories to find if any sinew still needed “processing,” only the hear myself listing the same conclusions again and again.
And now, with another summer brimful of new memories, people, connections, and motifs, I’ve seemingly added a stack to the inbox for future “processing.”
But here’s the purpose of this entry, and a close to it’s lengthy exploration, a conclusion I’m far from the first person to express: I’m not sure if thinking has any impact on processing. I suppose I say that I’m processing experiences when I don’t know how to describe or interpret them, or what feelings I would attach to them. The only experiences I feel are processed fully, though, are the ones that no longer directly inform my life. Their impact is distant enough that I can relate them with as much finality as any human can ever claim, and so time becomes as important a factor as any amount of active mental energy spent trying to “process” something. And processed experiences, ultimately, are ones I don’t spend time thinking about, since they’re no longer on the top layers of sediment.
So, with my bags dumping their few unnecessary contents on the East Coast and my eyes sizing up Japan, I don’t expect to consider anything processed from this year or the next until I’m in a radically different lifestyle again. And, as for the last four years, the campus life and many of the priorities I had here are so removed from road life that I don’t feel the pangs of “needing to process” as I once did. I appreciate them all as they are and look forward to drafting a new set of experiences to heap on top.
Those are my thoughts for now. I suppose I’ll go write them in the journal eventually.
For the present moment, here’s some logistical things I’m considering:
- Route in Japan: To include a stretch down Kyushu, which I have a basic itinerary of. If you have sites to suggest from Tokyo through the main island, message me your ideas!
- Hosts in Japan: Similarly, if you know cool people over there, put me in touch!
- GPS system for the bike: With my iPhone being irregularly useful in the States, it’s time to step up to a real system so I’m not lost at the worst time.
- To Kindle or not to Kindle: I love my printed word so much, but the weight of Shantaram alone added a good pound to the gear.
- HOW ON EARTH DO YOU LEARN A LANGUAGE? I used to know this process, but it’s truly foreign now.