#8 — Learning to Live While Waiting for the Bike
Prostitutes and sweat.
Cartagena, Colombia, a city full of prostitutes, tourists, and humidity.
Every taxi driver (I have to take taxis because I am without my wheels…) asks me if I like Cartagena, this seaside, port town known for its constant flow of tourists (both national and international) as well as its endless supply of Venezuelan women working the street corners.
I am mostly honest with them when I say that it is hard to love the city since I am preoccupied with the lack of the beautiful, wonderful, big, noisy, clunky, rugged piece of metal I call my dear, sweet motorcycle.
The full truth is that my time in Panama and now Colombia has been one hell of a trying period.
From the speeding ticket that led to a massive loss of cash as well as an overall traumatic experience tied up with the destroying of the policemen’s motorcycle, to the stress around shipping my bike to Colombia, to the best and then worst date of my life, to weeks worth of time without the motorcycle and without much of a choice but to wait around for her to arrive leading to a deep process of self-analysis, doubt, ridicule, and embarrassment, my the last few weeks have been fun…
Not to mention a very sweaty* few weeks as the humidity in Cartagena, Colombia is just awful.
Learning to live.
I opened up to a friend over a few voice memos sent from my phone while sitting in the back of a blessedly airconditioned taxi on my way home.
I shared my deep insecurities that have arisen so sharply over the last few weeks.
I shared how alone, foolish, lost, meaningless, and sweaty (ok, not really but you get the idea, it’s HAWT) I have felt the last few weeks.
One thing above all else stuck out to me in her kind, long, loving response;
“Jeremiah, you are learning to live!”
You are learning to live.
Learning to live was not necessarily one of the top goals in my life after leaving high school, nor after leaving college, nor after leaving my first great job in San Francisco, California.
To admit to a desire or necessity to learn to live feels like admitting to needing to learn how to read in a world where, at the age of 26, that sounds astoundingly pitiful.
But I think it is the truth?
I think my friend struck the nail right on the head.
Kitesurfing and self-loathing.
After weeks of barely managing the energy and motivation to leave my house, find food, and find a cafe in which to sit and pretend to be productive, I finally got sick of myself; tired of my whining, moping, self-loathing silliness.
I stopped refreshing my gmail, closed Adobe Premiere, shut my notebook, and Googled must-see/do things in Colombia and started reading.
After a short while, I found out there are a string of companies teaching kitesurfing on the long stretch of beach just north of where I was seated (sweating, don’t forget).
I messaged the company, set up a lesson for the next day, and began to think about what it means to make decisions for oneself rather than for others.
I was tired of feeling bad for myself. I decided to say fuck it and try something I’ve always wanted to try (kitesurfing) without whining over the cost or the impromptu nature.
Survival of the most depressed.
I make very few decisions to please myself. I will often choose the cheapest, fastest, hardest route for the sake of saving money and time.
I will often make decisions strictly for the sake of survival or completion of a goal rather than the enjoyment of the process…
I will rush to survive rather than slow down to live.
I rode 10,000km without stopping for more than a few days here and there to rest when absolutely necessary (when I was physically ill).
I did a total of 1 touristy thing (hired a guide to tour the ruins in Tikal, Guatemala) in that 10,000 km stretch of world-famous opportunities.
I told myself it was because I needed to save money, time, and face (since doing touristy things makes you a tourist, and who wants to be a tourist?).
But the truth is that I have yet to learn how to stop and smell the roses in life.
Learning to live.
Learning to live must, inherently, be a giant, mostly unknown process of self-discovery and pain (in addition to joy and realization, of course).
No one can teach me how to live my own life.
No one can explain to me how I feel or think.
No one can solve my problems for me.
I am learning how to live and the process is just as vague and hard to track as bodily growth is to the one growing. I am steeped in my own world every single instant (that is, after all, what it means to be me) and therefore I often lose track of what might be called progress.
I struggle and fail and make the most pitiful of mistakes. I wallow in self-pity and heap fuel onto my bonfire of self-doubt. I wrestle with the simplest of things and in the end… I find myself to have lived just a little bit more.
I find myself to have survived one more day of being me.
And after enough of those days, I suppose I have learned one more thing about what it means to live.
I oh-so-very-often question why I am doing what I am doing in this life (not just now on the motorcycle trip, but in every area and period of life).
I question why I don’t just go home and find something normal with which to occupy myself.
Now I will remind myself that I am here to learn to live.