The Physics of Jet-Setting
when jet-setting is just a fancy way of saying "running away" (#1000wordsofsummer day 1)
it's the first day of #1000wordsofsummer by Jami Attenberg, and i'm feeling stumped about what to write.
writing is something that's so personal to me. i've always struggled with sharing it: when you put your heart on the page, it's easy to get it broken.
but over the years, i've learned that my words take on a resonant quality when shared – connections are sparked, friendships are built, doors are opened.
Sim, my best friend, reminded me recently that she would not have come into my orbit if i hadn't posted on my now-defunct blog that i wanted to "impact 30 million lives by the time i turned 30". i'm 28 going on 29 now, and while i look back on my ambition with a parent's wistful fondness, as if to say "oh, to be young and dumb again", i AM grateful for the chances i took.
despite my social anxiety, despite never fitting in, despite all the things that could've held me back – i put a piece of myself out into the world. and through that repeated act, i found myself a family.
but then the pandemic hit, and with the impeding lockdown and closures meant the opportunities i'd once had in abundance to travel, make merry, and grow my network were abruptly lost. i didn't feel it too strongly until recently, when the adrenaline of survival wore off and the world opened up again, like a flower blooming in the spring.
seeing posts of friends and acquaintances traveling, crossing borders, attending conferences again – it brings back a strange and specific pang in my chest. not to be in their shoes, necessarily; with my newfound slower pace of life, i do not miss the days of navigating airport terminals and chasing after wayward trains. what i DO miss, however, is the camaraderie.
over the years of being on the 'international conference change-maker' circuit, i'd amassed a sizable community of friends that i'd nurtured while on the road. moving in the same circles meant we would inevitably find ourselves in the same hotels, summits, workshops – and it was from there that our relationship would grow.
that is what i am homesick for: the freedom, the adventure, the deep yet ephemeral connections you make on the road (ah, how typical Sagittarius moon of me).
i don't think i've ever had the opportunity to truly, truly reflect on what i was looking for all those years on the road. fame? fortune? opportunities? recognition? community? camaraderie? friendship? understanding? maybe all of it?
my early twenties were a whirlwind of new faces, places, experiences – just reading through my old journals makes me feel exhausted. it's no wonder that my body promptly broke down during the pandemic, which finally put a halt to my jet-setting lifestyle: acne, burn out, stomach pains, the whole inflammatory nine yards.
it took the two full years of the pandemic (while battling stress of a different kind – financial survival) to heal myself; to finally find myself on the other side, periods more regulated, skin calm, head clear, to think about what i truly want out of my life.
and now that i'm there, i can't help but look to the past for answers. i think about the brave, confident, independent, jet-setting rockstar i used to be, and wonder: what drove her? and what drives me now?
Gwen of 2018 was unstoppable. she was growing into herself as a person, as a woman, as a leader – and it showed. her energy was through the roof; she filled her days with bootcamp, cafes, (trying to) work (which proved impossible because, as i now know, i had a form of ADHD), and of course, travel. travel was what she lived for – she didn't realize it then, and wouldn't admit it if you asked, but the idea of going from place to place, meeting new people, trying new things; it filled her with an excitement that she hadn't felt since her world fell apart in 2004 with her parents’ divorce. everything changed the moment she won a national competition to – get this – Oslo, Norway for the Nobel Peace Prize Convention. she was just 19 years old; fresh eyed, bushy tailed, so naive about the world and how it worked. she couldn't believe a large corporation was willing to fly her and her new friend to a brand-new continent ... just for pitching a random 'start up' idea! it was then that a seed was planted: if you worked hard, and acted "entrepreneurial", you will be rewarded. the trip was amazing, and she got her first taste of the 'addiction' that would come to define her life.
her next few years was a hamster wheel of achievement – applying to fellowships, conferences, hackathons, workshops... anything she could get her hands on. it was like a drug: the rush of application, the high of getting through (and the additional dopamine hit of posting about it on social media), the buzz of meeting new faces in new places and learning new things. but soon, it became routine, and she became jaded. the same international departure terminal. the same packing-unpacking-packing routine. the fact that she could never settle down in one place; she was always restless, like an itch under her skin she could never scratch. getting away, it helped, just for a little bit. but then it would return a few days later, in full force, and she'd have to hit the road again.
'what were you running away from?' i whisper now, in bewilderment.
'myself,' she whispered back.
i'm so grateful to the pandemic for the impact it'd had on my life. it took the option of running away from me. not just me, but ALL of us were going through a spiritual reckoning of some sorts: trapped in the same four walls, with only ourselves for company, a new question began to emerge. 'why do you need to run away from yourself?' it whispered. 'what's so wrong about just sitting still?'
in this silence, i learned a new skill: how to rest. how to find beauty in the mundane and the everyday. the little crumbs that showed up on my glitzy, glamorous trips – shutting myself in the bathroom for 'alone time' during a conference; meandering through the woods instead of participating in a workshop – they glittered in the darkness. turns out, i already enjoyed all these simpler, quieter, acts of solitude.
now, i had full permission to indulge. to see where they took me.
they brought me home – to myself.
i find myself at a crossroads, now. i am not longer the rockstar jet-setter i used to be, but i'm also not a wood fairy introvert who delights in only Nature for company. i'm trying to strike a balance; to find a happy medium between both. what does that mean, and how would that look like? how can i stay connected to my purpose, my legacy, my love for connection and community and service – but also continue to take care of myself, to be in stillness, solitude and sovereignty?
maybe through these next two weeks, i will write my way to the answers. 🤍
(1,185 words, at time of writing)
wow, Jami was right — there is an indescribable feeling of pride, accomplishment and relief at having finished 1,000 words in a day. it’s long enough for substantial reflection and thinking; but short enough to keep it going. i’m going to commit to sleeping and waking up early for these next two weeks to complete this challenge.
it’s too important, and too sacred, of an act to leave to chance.
i believe in momentum. in community. in doing hard things together. what a privilege. what a rush. so, so grateful. see you tomorrow ❤️
As a fellow writer who writes her way to sanity I am excited to follow your journey ❤ I often find myself depressed at crossroads because it means I'm lost and don't know what I want - I'm drawing inspiration and strength from witnessing Your journey! 😌❤