My eyes closed as the car neared the airport. I took a full breath and felt the air course through me. It was cleaner air this time. It felt fresh as I moved around the car and thrusted the expedition pack onto my back. It was 50 pounds, but felt light. I hugged my best friend good bye.
“Clear up your head,” he said. “I don’t like seeing you like this.”
“I’ll be OK, now.” I replied in a calm tone.
My friend knew I had hit the wall. He could not tell when, but I had changed. I slammed into it and refused to admit my injuries. I lost my will and desire. I fell away from unguarded optimism and began to submit to the classic Midwestern malaise. My belly fell outward. It ruined the balance of my mountain climber physique. I felt needlessly worthless, and I began drinking more. Each drink lubed the mental and physical descent.
With the pack secured, I started the walk through Lambert International. I smiled at pretty ladies in line. My curiosity rising and falling in the depths of imagined voyages and destinations. Where do all the old ladies at airports go, and why are there always so many of them? I pondered.
A month ago, I felt the shiver of the night air. The wind stung as it whipped around my naked hand. Two fingers held a clove cigarette. In this manner I routinely walked for miles on end. I spent the day at work, the night walking rural America in utter boredom and depression. I focused on the moments that brought me here. I was lost in the hopes and dreams of my youth.
The cell buzzed. “Ya feeling better, bro?” he asked before telling me about his latest adventure with another Hawaiian beauty. My brother’s stories incited jealousy but also provided a venue for escape from the constant boredom and lack of action my small town afforded.
“I’m buying you a plane ticket. You have to come out and see this while I am still here. When you’re successful, you’re sure as hell paying me back though,” he stated.
I said sure, but told him not to count on me being successful anytime soon. He rebutted by calling me a piece of shit for thinking so lowly of myself. He reminded me that I was stronger than all this self-loathing crap. He told me: Be stronger. I agreed to take the ticket. The next day, I scheduled a vacation.
As I walked through the terminal, I told myself that I would find balance by grabbing every opportunity, seizing every moment and living as if there was no chance of any return. I was tired of the malaise.
I arrived at the Honolulu airport a little after noon, grabbed my bags and sat outside in the warm breeze. I stared at the palms and wondered what they might think about me. Could they see me starting to open my soul to the world again? Could they feel me stealing the energy from their warm Pacific breeze, building my reserves to go back to the torrent from which I came? I thanked them for the fresh air, and felt a smile forming as I thought of the prospects of finding my center again.
My brother, a tattooed warrior of rippled muscle and menacingly placed scars, arrived in style. Reggae tapped a solid beat from his doorless jeep. Our differences were stark. He constantly broke all the rules, flagrantly abused the patience of others and laughed at the world that had yet to kill him. In the County Wexford, he stopped on a one way bridge and flipped off the locals because he needed a snapshot. In Dublin, he punched a cop after running drunkenly through the streets.
I had trouble telling people, no. I gave my time volunteering as a full-time, AmeriCorps member working countless hours coordinating the first year of a new service program at a college that wanted little of the change I suggested. I was jealous of his wild adventures and freer attitude.
“Throw your shit in the back, and let’s go,” he said. A moment later adding, “It’s good you’re here.”
During the six days I visited, we swam in the ocean gawking at the women near the hotels of Waikiki. We argued over climbing techniques on the rocky basalt cliffs of the North Shore, kayaked, snorkeled and watched a polo match near the beach. We welcomed chance and invited two beautiful women from Portland on our journeys. We challenged each other continuously, running out on rocky cliffs as the tide rushed in violently against the shore.
I could sum it all up in a moment after swimming dangerously far from the shore. I turned my back and looked out at the wild ocean. It was huge and wild, vast beyond imagination. Behind me was adventure and beauty. Inside though was peace and courage. I was centered again.