This town is becoming too much for me to handle. I am having mental breakthroughs pertaining to relationships, young adulthood, substance abuse, and understanding. Needless to say, it’s has been an exploratory couple of days and I have been lacking in the photograph, writing, and reflecting departments. I am also falling ill with some sort of head cold, so that distraction has been a hindrance to say the least.
I watched Kicking & Screaming the other day. It was the first time I had seen the film since I graduated college. When I watched it as an undergrad, I was left feeling confused and unable to relate to the strife and dissatisfaction the characters felt towards their post graduate lives. After revisiting the film, my opinions changed dramatically. I grew frustrated but sympathetic. Adolescence, as difficult and confusing as it was (you know the whole hair in weird places and voice cracking thing) at the very least had structure. You knew where you were headed the next year and with that came a premeditated sense of comfort. Well at least for me. Now after exceeding the arranged and controlled realm of academia, I am left to my own devices. The next step in the equation of life is to find a job. I did that. I disliked that. So now what? I come from a microwave generation. I have no patience. I want answers fast and defrosted. I certainly don’t want to end up like Grover in Kicking & Screaming. But I fear that I am. Aimlessly meandering with a mental state clinging to nostalgic memories of the past. Unsure of what steps to take next. This stale, stagnant frame of mind is equal parts crippling and liberating. I mean, liberal arts degrees are liberating, But what are we liberating ourselves from? The doldrums of the corporate workforce? Ugh I don’t know. I know I don’t want to walk around making pompous references to unknown 17th century philosophers in an effort to boost my ego and cerebral libido. There’s nothing elite about the dangerous whirlwind of boredom, smugness, and beer. You can’t be in your early twenties and nostalgic. I refuse. But I fear I am. To quote one character, Max from the film:
“ I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now. I can’t go to the bar because I’ve already looked back on it in my memory… and I didn’t have a good time.”
Ok so what do you do? Chase a girl around like Grover did. I’m doing that now. The results are ambiguous and tiring. Unhealthy relationship sprout when the parties involved involve themselves in each other in an effort to distract themselves from the things they truly need to involve themselves in. My relationships with women make as much sense as that sentence because I rush into them and invest all my energies into making sure the opposing sex likes me. I am a sucker for validity. A relationship is work and requires patience. I lack patience. Like I said, microwave generation.
Alright I’m spouting off about myself too much. I read that last passage aloud and again want to say to myself “BOO HOO!” Then I stop and acknowledge that we are all on a quest. Some are more conventional than others. Some seem more menial than others (they never are). And some take a lot more time than others. I am learning remarkable things about not only myself, but those around me. So let’s switch gears for a bit and talk about someone else. For example, I am very intrigued by Amy as a whole. She is the most centered, patient, and nonjudgmental person I have met on this trip. We had a conversation one night about the responsibility of a person’s willingness to understand. Understand others, their beliefs, their opinions, just understand. It breached deep waters and caused me to sit up straight and stare off in the distance, mouthing “woah” more times that I could count. Making a conscious effort to open yourself up to new ideas and grow tolerant of the ones you may not agree with, is the least we can do as a species. It’s the only thing we need to do in order to evolve. Man, it sounds so simple on paper until you need to apply it to your real life. Like Tom, Amy subscribes to the ideas of Joseph Campbell. I read some of his work (The Power of Myth) and am speechless. His writing is not to be taken as a religious tome, but rather an introduction to new schools of critical and analytical thinking. Compelling is an understatement.
Amy teaches at the Texas School of the Blind and Visually Impaired. She also generates many videos for the school informing the general public about the lives of visually impaired students. She knew that I was interested in gaining more knowledge about the subject so she invited me for a tour of the campus. Chalk it up to my ignorance about the lives of visually impaired children, but I was awe struck by what Amy had shown me. My preconceived notion was that brail and verbal communication were the only way in which visually impaired people could communicate. Boy was I wrong. Classrooms full of art supplies, musical instruments, and graphic calculators. Graphic calculators! Students are proficient in mathematics because of the way in which they learn it. We look at a graph on a chart and can visually measure distance. Students at TSVBI listen to the pitch of a curve on a graph to determine the placement of a point. It’s astonishing walking through science classes and observing just how much physicality goes into that subject. Students use tactile symbols to communicate and each student may have their own unique set of symbols. This school is literally and figuratively a hands on learning environment. There’s even a recreational aspect, where students can ride on tandem bicycles! Because visual impairment makes up such a small portion of the population, the general public isn’t exposed to a classroom setting that caters to said impairment. I was fortunate to receive that exposure and gain a better understanding for the different ways in which a visually impaired person completes the same tasks we do every day. For example, Amy shot a video with a student explaining how to make a photo copy. It’s something people with functioning vision don’t even think twice about, but becomes a complex process for someone who doesn’t have that luxury. Because ultimately, vision is a luxury. When you remind yourself of that, a greater perception and appreciation for what we have envelopes us and allows us to become more understanding as a whole. Here is the video:
I cycled back to Amy’s house with a much better appreciation for my vision. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to embark on this journey. The next time I watch a sunset, enter a gallery, or read a news article, I’ll stop and acknowledge how fortunate I am for my vision. But I’ll also appreciate the TSVBI for helping students to understand that there isn’t much of a difference between people with vision and people without. The only difference is the way in which they are taught. To know that there is a positive environment for these kids to learn freely, be creative, and express themselves comfortably makes me look at the world and admire the progression of the human being. People like Amy are a continuing source of inspiration.
Later that night I went out with Selene and her friend Morgan. First I had an opportunity to check out some of her art. Her body of work spans and combines many mediums. Her artistic expression is varied and complicated. I am confused by Selene. I am trying to understand her way of thinking. It is a futile prospect. I was reflecting on the finite nature of our relationship while taking a shit. It is likely we will not cross paths again after leaving Austin. I am aware of this and can do little about it. We are travelers. We roam in search of something we’re not quite sure of. We’re not sure of each other or ourselves. I should rephrase that. I’m not sure of her. I’m not sure of myself. I’ll just keep biting my lower lip, losing myself in thought, and shaking my head in disbelief. It’s an easy thing to do and I feel comfortable there.
I’ve been running around for the past seven months in this country questioning all things authoritarian, cultural, and societal. While I still have my doubts and confusions, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have been able to embark on this trip. I can freely roam this American wasteland and remain free of scrutiny from others. This country is big, beautiful, but fucked in a lot of ways. I have met people who would give everything they had to be in my position. I remind myself that every single day.
I’m a straight, white, male in America. I’ve got all the luck I need.