It seems right to preface this entry, if anything to apologize for my, yet again, tardiness in updating.
I wrote this entry on the flight home from New Zealand. As of now, I’ve been home for a little over two weeks. For the most part, I’m fine. I’m happy to be home, amongst friends and family, and being back in Portland fills me with glee most days.
But there are days. The days I feared in the entry below. Where all I can feel is sadness and I can’t move from my couch. Days where I question what the hell I’m doing back in the States. Wondering why my feet are now stuck to the ground and unable to run.
Telling you all I’m going to take a break from my blog is laughable, really, cause the last half a year has been nothing but me taking breaks. But I’m hoping sometime in the next two weeks to get back on a schedule. I want to ponder the future of this blog – whether to keep using it as a diary of sorts, promote my writing on here, do fan girl entries, or, most likely, all of the above – and the schedule I’d like to stick to.
So expect more in the future.
But for now, here it is, at long last, my final New Zealand entry.
Right now I am sitting in seat 53A of an airplane, situated in a window seat and staring out at the beautiful blood orange sunset while listening to “Suddenly Seymour” for my seventh time in a row. I am ignoring the two giggly girls to my right and less successfully ignoring the popping in my ears from the altitude. I am wearing a tank top because whenever I put my jacket on it becomes 100 degrees to my skin. I am wondering why they have not brought us food yet, as I am starving. I am pondering what Rick Moranis is doing with his life. I am ten hours away from home.
This is it. The denial of my departure is dead and gone. I’m no longer in New Zealand. I’m not even in Australia. I’m flying over an ocean that’s black as the evening sky, resisting the urge to stand up in the airplane aisle and scream at all of the flight attendants: “I MADE A MISTAKE. I SHOULD NOT BE HERE. WE HAVE TO GO BACK.”
As of right now, every song is making me think of my departure from New Zealand… Well, okay, not every song. “Suddenly Seymour” is more just reminding me of what an excellent film Little Shop of Horrors is and how dumb I was to avoid it for so long. But I’m sure you know what I mean. Whenever a song pops up on my iPod’s shuffle, someway or another I can’t help but think of the last year of my life. I was listening to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack a few nights ago and this line felt like a punch in the gut so much that I literally had to sit down:
“If you miss the train I’m on
You will know that I am gone
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
Away from home“
Up until this morning, I’ve been in some pretty hardcore, deep denial. It just didn’t feel like I was leaving. It’s kind of like when I was coming to New Zealand last July, but the opposite, y’know? It didn’t hit me that I was leaving until the night before I left, and I was filled with this exhilarating sense of wanderlust and waning adventure. Now that it’s hit that I’m going home, as I’m sitting here on this very flight, I’m filled with irrepressible pensiveness. I feel numb, almost. I feel like I should be weeping or clawing at my skin for want of a return, but there’s just… there’s just nothing. I feel so empty right now.
Here’s another chunk of lyrics that caught me by surprise the other night and made me instantly think of my current predicament:
“Stuck in the same place I’ve always been
And I’ll keep wondering
And wondering and wondering and wondering
When will my life begin?”
Throughout my trip it’s always been the: “And with every passing hour I’m so glad I left my tower,” line that I’ve quoted from the Disney film Tangled, but now it’s changed. Now it feels like I’m going back to my tower. It feels like I’m giving up.
Is that what I’m going back to? A life where I feel trapped? A consistent routine I can’t break away from? A world where everyone is the same and I’m the only one that’s changed? These are the questions I’ve been haunted by for the past several weeks.
On many levels, I think I’m the same girl who came to New Zealand. I’m still the geeky girl, all smiles and hand gestures, who got on that plane with Kathleen and was ready for something new. I stayed up till 6:30am watching Sesame Street and Muppet material just three days ago. I’m still planning on getting Fraggle Rock, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter tattoos. While traveling in New Zealand, I fan girled hardcore over Shrek the Musical, Starkid, Sherlock, Muppets Most Wanted, Orange is the New Black, and Little Shop of Horrors. For Christ’s sake, I started writing Ghostbuster‘s fanfiction two nights ago. In this respect, I’m still the exact same. My likes, my interests, haven’t changed, and I will always be one of those people who is shaped by her fandoms.
But on the other hand I’ve grown so much. More than I can begin to express with mere words.
On my way to Christchurch, I hitchhiked with an excellent guy, whose name I regret to say I never caught. It was one of those encounters where we discussed anything and everything. We shared our doubts in religion, criticism of politics, hatred of the way women are treated in the modern world, views on drugs and alcohol amongst our generation, and geekiness over our favorite films. As we talked and talked, he asked me if I thought I had changed since I came to New Zealand. I told him yes without hesitation. I explained to him my new sense of confidence; how I’m not afraid of life anymore. He told me I was lucky. Not everyone gets the chance to renew their self esteem with the same gusto as I. He told me he thought I was amazing.
My confidence has grown considerably, without a doubt. I can talk to strangers now, both in person and on the phone, without stammering or blushing or breaking eye contact. I’m not afraid to be the conversation starter. I’ve definitely put on weight since I’ve come to New Zealand, and y’know what? I don’t give a damn. I love my body. I’m beautiful. I’m intelligent. I’m interesting. I was always so afraid to talk about myself to people because I thought I’d bore them, but I am an interesting person. I’m no longer afraid to talk about myself or my opinion; I’m not afraid I’m boring people because I know that I matter.
I tend to divide my travel up into three segments: 1. My adventures with Kathleen, 2. Settling down in Wellington, and 3. Striking out on my own. As amazing as the first two segments of my trip were, the last part is what made all the difference. It forced me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have Kathleen to hide behind, and I didn’t have a designated bedroom to hide inside. I got into cars with strangers. I stayed with strangers on their farms and in their homes. I made friends in bars and in hostels. I felt like Harry must have when he first got to Hogwarts; like he had finally found the place he belonged after all those years of hoping. I felt, for the first time, I was really living. I was no longer trapped in my cupboard under the stairs.
Not to mention that there were so many firsts on this trip. If there’s any reason I’m walking away from this trip as a semi-adult, it’s because of the firsts. I sky dived. Go-karted. Drove a quad bike and a crane. Smoked a cigarette. Hitchhiked. Jumped off a waterfall. Rode in a helicopter. Walked on a glacier. Stayed with people I literally just met. Wrote someone a love poem and gave it to them.
That’s just a small selection of the firsts I experienced in New Zealand. There were so many others, but I – ahem – will refrain from delving into personal details as of right now. There’s one particular first that effected me greatly and is the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced, and the fact I made it through the experience on my own prides me.
A lot of those firsts might not seem like life changing occurrences, but all of those things? They took guts. They took courage. They scared me. They effected me. They changed me; made me better.
Yet, while I’ve grown a lot, that’s not everything. Of course it’s not. I’m going to miss the people; the fact that people will start up conversations with you on a street corner and it’s not considered creepy or weird. The way people go out of their way to help you. I’ll miss the beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, hills, and fields that not one of the 4,000+ photographs I took will ever do justice towards. I will miss that sense of not knowing where I’m headed next. I will long for those nights in Paihia huddled outside grasping a mug of wine and surrounded by foreign friends; those Saturdays out on the town in Wellington with work chums. I will honestly miss WWOOFing for people and learning that farm work isn’t all fun and games. I will miss making daily Middle Earth references. I will miss it all.
And yet, on the other hand, this song came up on my iPod only yesterday and an immense gratification of the thought of going home filled me completely full:
“I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar.
Go back in time and meet a dinosaur.
There’s so many strange places I’d like to be,
But none of them permanently.
So if I should visit the moon,
Well I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I’ll wish I was home once again.
Though I’d like to look down on the earth from above,
I would miss all the places and people I love.
So although I might go, I’ll be coming home soon,
Cause I don’t want to live on the moon.
No I don’t wanna live on the moon.”
Because, come on, who better to make me homesick than Ernie from Sesame Street?
While I can write paragraph after paragraph mourning my departure from New Zealand, I cannot lie. I’ve been homesick as of late. Really homesick. I’ve begun thinking of the things that I miss, whether it’s the people I left behind or the places I haven’t visited in a year. I really wasn’t homesick at all until a month or two ago. The closer I got to going home, the more excited I became.
There’s just so much to look forward to. I’m helping Aileen and Amanda with their 48 hour film project next month, and writing for a web series they’ll be doing as well. I’m potentially resuming my writing jobs for a couple web-sites. There are so many books and screenplays I want to finally put more work into finishing. I want to write a book about traveling in New Zealand. I want to create and sell my own chap book. I want to start performing slam poetry again. Lara and I are gonna get our Muppet podcast back on course, and already have an awesome guest lined up for our next episode. I’m gonna be babysitting my little cousins. There’s a someone somewhat waiting for me. There’s talk of zoo dates with Stephanie. I’m already plotting trips to New York, Seattle, and LA to visit fellow Tough Pigs and Tumblr pals. There’s tattoos I want to get. There will be reunions galore to behold. Nancy Drew video games to play with Aileen. Apartment hunting with Kathleen. The potential of getting myself a dog. Not to mention the thought of decorating the house this December and going downtown at Christmas time fills me with such glee.
The future is limitless. I know this. I do, but for some reason I need to keep reminding myself.
When it comes down to it, I’m terrified of returning home. I’m sitting here, thinking of what it’s going to be like to be in my room for the first time in a year. To walk down the hallway, sit in the TV room, eat at the kitchen table. I get a twist in my gut when I mull it over. The song “How to Return Home” has been scratching at the back of my mind for weeks now.
“Take a silent breath, hold in the change.
Tell yourself you still live here.
Take your bags upstairs.
You still share a name, but you’re not the same.
Be their daughter, nothing’s harder
When nobody knows
How to return home.”
I am well aware that going home is not going to be my end, but… I guess… I’m worried that I’ll resort to the girl I was before I took off; the girl who I don’t want to re-become. I don’t want to shrink back into my shell. Afraid to talk to strangers. Afraid of myself. Hating my own skin. Looking in the mirror and only seeing the word ugly. Having anxiety attacks over stupid things that don’t matter. Sitting in front of a TV all day and not going out and doing. I want so much more. I want so much more than they’ve got planned.
I’m afraid that I’ll become who I was a year ago, and I’m also afraid of the people awaiting me back home. I’m afraid that I’ll tell people of my travels and they’re not going to understand, or worse, not want to understand. That they’ll think I snapped some pretty pictures and made a few foreign friends and go “oh, that’s nice” and be ready to change the subject. I’m worried that people aren’t going to see the changes in me; that the world will go back to expecting so very little from me.
Cause I’m done with people thinking I lack potential.
I am ready to wow everyone. I am ready to get onto my stead, pull on my armor, and ride off down that path towards the adult I’m already on my way to becoming. I am done being spoon fed. I am ready.
I don’t want to be Rapunzel clamoring to leave her tower. I don’t long to be Seymour wanting off Skidrow. I don’t dream of being Cinderella whose only ticket out is a glass slipper. I want to knock down my tower, torch my Audrey II, and smash my glass slipper.
There’s one moment I’ve been clinging to. A moment where I was on this beautiful beach in Karitane, and it was completely deserted, save myself and the dog I was walking, and the song “Remember This” came up on my iPod. I turned the volume a touch louder as the girl’s voice reminded me:
New Zealand will always be there. I can always return. What’s more, everything I accomplished and experienced while there, well, it’s always gonna be with me. I am free because of it. I know what freedom tastes like because of New Zealand, and I am wanting to eat my fill of it.
So I’m ready. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready for new adventures and new experiences. I’m ready for new firsts. I’m ready for it all.
I’m ready to live.
For all it is worth, Julia, you have yet to find the place where you belong. You have simply been at that point in your life – crossroads – where you are renting space and time at different locations. New Zealand was one of these. It’s not that you can’t go back and make it a permanent place – a home – for yourself. But I think you would find this maneuver premature in the span of your lifetime. You know how I like to quote Dr. Seuss and “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. Well this was the beginning of your adventure in life and you were “…off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” And for your next act, you know “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” And when the time is right, “Kid, you’ll move mountains.” What you are experiencing right now is that you have come back to a place that you know. You adapted to life in New Zealand and survived a completely new environment; you’ve come home and fit right back into your previous life with family and friends. And what you know inside, whether you travel afar in short or long distances, or remain where are at right now, you can fit in to new places and find your way home. And while for Bilbo Baggins it was never enough to sit idle after having been on a great adventure, you haven’t had enough time to roost since you’ve been home to quite get all of your bearings yet. You will; it will come. The world will be your oyster and you will live the pearl of life – whether on the road to another adventure or situated right here and always knowing you have options. You see, just because life is a journey, that can be as simple as any new waking day in the life of Julia Allegretto Gaskill. And to quote a famous writer, you might find that – “The need to move on, changing our place. Changing locale; geographical – physical. Or maybe, instead, changing only our times. Changing not more, than changing direction. With much love for your happiness, Julia. Dad