Born Lost…

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

-John Steinbeck
Travels with Charley: In Search of America

I’ve posted before about Travels with Charley: In Search of America, but now I’ve actually read it, and it really struck a chord with me. I realize that it’s not an entirely accurate portrayal, which is the biggest criticism I’ve seen, but it’s real in a different way. Steinbeck’s descriptions of America are stunning, and the way he just experiences things for the sake of experience makes complete sense to me. This quote in particular stuck in my mind. I could really see this being something along the lines of “Not all who wander are lost” among the crowd that likes to use it. But instead of being modified and taken completely out of context like the Tolkien quote, it’s direct and straightforward. And the best part, in my eyes at least, is it doesn’t make being lost a bad thing.

A lot of people think being lost is horrible, it’s awful, there are entire religions built around the idea of being found, because the idea of being lost is so terrible.  I understand that some people don’t like not knowing what is coming, we all want security. But I’m a realist, we don’t know what is coming, we can’t. So why not enjoy it?

I am at heart a wanderer, always have been, and I imagine I always will be. And there is no better place in the world for a wanderer that the American West, and the Southwest in particular. Countless authors, poets, songwriters, hippies, would-be intellectuals, and weirdos have written about wandering in the American Southwest, and for good reason. There is something incredible about being so far away from anyone else and just existing. To just be in the desert with no destination has an incredible effect on the mind. It’s beautiful, there is so much to see and hear that you miss if you’re constrained by having a destination or knowing exactly where you are. (Not that you shouldn’t be prepared, because it’s like, ridiculously easy to die in the desert.)

Wandering in the desert Les and I saw an amazing sunset, colors that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

In addition to getting lost physically, which is quite fun to me, I also have no desire to be “found” in any other way.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never been put in a box, I didn’t start out with clear expectations of what my life would be like, and no one else has ever put forward expectations for my life (at least not any that I’ve taken seriously). This is a conversation I’ve had with Les multiple times, particularly as he was distancing himself from religion when we were dating. There are plenty of people out there who only do what is expected of them, whether they like it or not. They get married and have babies because that’s what you’re supposed to do, even if they don’t really love the person they’re marrying (or even know them well enough to know if they love them), or if they don’t have parental drive. They get a college degree because that is what you’re supposed to do, I’ve even heard the phrase “Any degree is better than no degree,” which is horrifying to me. They buy a house because that is what they are supposed to do, even if they can’t afford it or don’t want to live in the same place for very long. There are people who take jobs they have no interest in, or that make them completely miserable, just because it’s in their field and they are supposed to work in that field. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with going to college, getting married, procreating, or buying a house if it’s truly what a person wants to do. But I see so many people who just do it because it’s the next step, the next page in the script of their life that’s already been written. And I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how or why a person would choose to live that way. I’ve talked to the people, I’ve read the forums, but I still don’t understand. And I don’t think I ever will, because to me, the idea of being found is as awful as the idea of being lost is to them.

I’d prefer to live my life never knowing what’s around the next corner (because I don’t think there  is any way to really know that). I like never knowing where I’m going to be in 5 years, not just career wise, but what corner of the country I’ll be living in. I like getting in the car and not knowing where we’re going to stop. I like having a job I enjoy, and changing to a completely different one when I move. I have no desire to be found.

If you can’t decide on a whim to turn down a side road you’ve never been on before and discover what’s out there to see, I don’t see a reason to get in the car at all. (And I mean that both literally and figuratively.)

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