Last night I was with a passenger and one of the questions he asked was where I was from. I told him I was born and raised in San Antonio and his reply was, “You didn’t get very far, did you?”
Now I was in traffic so I didn’t have a way of replying to that, and in reality I’m sure for him it was an attempt at humor that he probably forgot about a minute after he said it. But I will admit here, it ticked me off. And just because I haven’t been really been too far from San Antonio doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten very far in life.
My definition of ‘far’ is not physical, but mental and emotional. Those are two things that can’t be measured in miles, or dollar signs, or by any other material means. Yes, I want to see the world and travel but if I don’t, I’ll be just fine. But I know not everyone feels the way I do, and I’m sure a lot of people view themselves as failures for not amassing wealth or travel.
This morning I woke up to the news that Anthony Bourdain, the writer and former restaurant chef had committed suicide. My heart breaks for him and his loved ones but I wonder if his immense travel was a way of trying to run from something. Because years ago, I thought about running away and never coming back. I wasn’t suicidal but thought that I would just be better off by myself as I felt like I was a failure in terms of being around people.
I’ve come to realize that my failure wasn’t entirely my fault. Yes I was, and am still a klutz verbally sometimes, especially with expressing my feelings. But I’ve come to realize that everyone else isn’t perfect either. Yet I wonder how many people struggle so hard to maintain a veneer of perfection, or a certain persona when they don’t feel that way at all. For years, I didn’t know how I was supposed to be in this world. I felt like everything I tried to do I inevitably failed at. But I look back and see that I wasn’t failing, but moving forward from things that weren’t working for me, and leaving some things behind that could have permanently harmed me.
In the eyes of certain people in this world, I’m a raging failure right now because I haven’t been anywhere, and I haven’t done anything really successful. I disagree with that because my definition of success differs from the generally accepted definition and standard, which is an accumulation of property and wealth with a healthy dose of travel thrown in.
And in addition to accumulating wealth, traveling the world doesn’t make you a better person because I’ve met people who have traveled the world and they’re still uptight, self-righteous, judgmental pricks. When they travel, they don’t see things as they are, but as they want them to be, as they think they should be. Anthony Bourdain didn’t see the world that way so when he talked about people needing to travel, it was about learning about other cultures and food. It was about seeing the world as it really is, and not what we think it should be.
And we need to remember to see ourselves as we really are, and not what some assholes in this world think we should be. We need to define success on our own terms, and stand against the voices that tell us otherwise even if we’re scared, hurting, and alone. Because that is far enough to see the light, and live for that.