26 April, 2013

A day like any other

I was in Seattle for an appointment Monday and talked to some of the buskers and canvassers. I quickly became overcome with nostalgia of the time when I first moved to Seattle 4 and a half years ago. Staying in downtown, I eventually found cheap housing in the suburbs until I came downtown when I was homeless.

Downtown, even though it's rife with tourists and shops remains fascinating to me because of the diversity and activity of people and things. The shows and events quickly lost what little appeal they had and staying in a hostel until I had no money at all, I began to see a lot more of the darkness of the city. The drugs. The violence. The craziness. I always tried to be friendly to the homeless people, but when I became homeless, I began to wonder how much of what they were doing was an act. Dressing a little dirtier than they could, they could get more money. Feeling sorry for themselves, people would feel sorry for them.

I stopped giving money away, because it was inherently selfish, only done to make my guilt a little less prominent. I still tried to give a little to the Spare Change guys from time to time, because they were clean and I knew the money wasn't being thrown away at least, but I knew the guilt still haunted me.

Feeling empathy and actually doing real things are often quite different things. You can't really buy yourself into "heaven" if it is a place and it is a place based on merit just as you can't really buy other people out of their own hell. It's a place we all share. Together.

I flashed back again to Hagerstown. I volunteered at an art gallery while studying Multimedia, sometimes looking after it, sometimes cleaning and organizing art supplies. I had a few pieces up there and at a few other places but never liked teaching kids so I didn't. I stilll don't know if that was the right thing to do, but felt woefully unprepared and distant and often regretted it. I volunteer now at a Mental Health Community Center here and a feeling of obligation follows me when I go there, too. Something i am not sure exactly what to do about because I also have a very real need to actually do real things and not just volunteer all the time. At the clubhouse, I Mostly just cook lunch and try to organize their newsletter. I am going to miss that place and I am going to miss the old gallery in Hagerstown, but at the same time, I know life goes on and challenges await.

While I was walking around Seattle, I remembered quite a few things that day. It was a beautiful day, sunny for the first time in months and so there were a lot of happy faces. In Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square I saw some folks I knew from support groups and some I knew from the streets. I hung out in a Capitol Hill park, reading a book while overhearing a kid talk about getting clean. He reminded me of myself and a little of my friends. Listening to him talk about counseling kids and staying clean gave me a little bit of hope.

I walked to the bus late that night. A funny kid who had had a few drinks too many told the beautiful lady standing next to me that she was beautiful, many times. He was charming and harmless, but still I could tell she was nervous and many Seattlites eyed him cautiously, keeping an eye on them both but like polite Seattlites, keeping their distance. But he quickly disappeared when her bus came and she left.

I eventually arrived home, and now I am thinking about my bags, which are already mostly packed. I've moved around enough times to know that my social issues will follow me whereever I go, that no magical perfect job exists anywhere. I will feel like I'm making a bad decision whereever I go and whatever I do. I am thinking of perhaps teaching permaculture, just like I have thought of being a counselour or teaching in central America. I know there will be good things I have done and will leave behind and I think, if nothing else, hopefully I can say that I made a positive impact. Planted a lot of trees out here, led a lot of restoration events, tried to be active and do work despite my idiotic psychotic depression and anxiety, cooked a lot of good meals for $2 a plate. I hope it was enough.

I don't know.

It's scary.

I'll miss Seattle.


Andrea Rouda said...

Seattle is great but it's a big world out there. I hope you get to Haiti someday, it would put things in perspective...and I think you would love it!

muzuzuzus said...

I know!!!