If every journey begins with a single step, mine begins —in a roundabout sort of way— with a step in front of a white 2001 Jeep Cherokee, going 40 miles per hour.
When you struggle with depression and you get low, everything goes numb. You lose the taste for anything, be it food or drink or sex or work. My whole life was work at that point. I was a full-time student, in my second-to-last week of my second-to-last semester at university, working two part-time jobs to pay rent, editing a student film for a director impossible to please. For people like me —your stereotypical ENFP, Type-A personalities— it is all too easy to let this attitude, the kind of self-sacrificing attitude towards work that makes your friends ask “How are you still alive?”, take control of your life. When it’s the kind of attitude that someone has had for the last five years, like I have, it’s particularly hard to let go of.
So that’s the situation that the headlights found me in: Walking the twenty minutes between campus and my apartment around half past midnight, in 28-degree weather, giving up on editing a student film for one of the most loathsome directors I have ever worked with. That semester, I had become “the appliance friend.” I had friends— the running joke is that I know everyone on campus, which is mostly true— but I had become the guy that was only called when someone needed something. And let me tell you right now: for workaholics, that is the worst place to be. We need friends, not more employers. If you know anyone who sounds like that, someone who works and works and works and you wonder what the hell they do on a Friday night, go fucking love on them. Right now. Go buy them coffee or something, let them know you’re looking out for them, because I would never wish for another human being to have the same thought that I did that night in December: “Anything, anything, would be more interesting than this.”
Luckily, the jeep missed. The driver actually turned out to be my former roommate, and he swerved long before I was in any real danger. Until now, I haven’t had the courage to tell him that I was standing there on purpose.
So I stood there, in the intersection. I sighed, I walked home, brushed my teeth, went to bed. I woke up the next morning and continued on with my life. I started going to counseling. I eventually graduated college, I got jobs that I enjoy, I started going on dates again. But I’ll always remember those headlights, because —although it may seem like a small thing to some people— it was the tipping point in my life, where I realized that I had become a hideous shadow of myself. I am young and smart and talented and had gotten to a point in my life where I had absolutely no dreams. All of these things that had made me useful when it came to things like films or websites or fixing cars or building furniture, did absolutely nothing to make me happy. That needed to change.
The “Okay, Here’s the Plan” project is part of that change. For the month of July, I will be traveling by train across the country, staying with friends, couch-surfing, filming and writing my way across America. In a lot of ways, it’s less of a project and more of a chance for me to examine what exactly makes life worth living. And, being a kind of person who processes things externally, I want to share those thoughts and findings with you, the reader. There will be writings, drawings, photos, videos, podcasts, anything that I can get my hands on fast enough to convey to you what’s going on. This is the kind of experience that I want to share, especially for people who resonate with my story (which will come out in more detail in the writing). This is not some trip in which I’ll hide inside myself and save pictures for slideshows that I show to family. This is a trip about connections: connections between cities and connections between people. It’s a trip about seeing where things go.
I’ve got my train pass, a list of phone numbers, a camera and a rough outline of things I want to do and see. There’s no set schedule and nothing holding me back.
“Okay, Here’s the Plan” starts July 1st, and I hope you’ll follow along.