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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Olesen


Photo by Caroline Olesen.

(First published in the 2017 edition of The Peacock's Feet)

”Sacre Coeur” by Tina Dickow – lyrics in italics

Poison racing through my veins

as I hit Athena, the name I’ve dubbed my pot bowl, for the second time. It is one those days where school/friends/love/life seem to fall on top of my head and it’s all I can do to try not to cry. It’ll be better tomorrow, I promise myself and restlessly I wander around my room. My feet don’t know exactly where to go, but don’t want to stop either. The small hemp cloud settles in my mind, calming me and filling me with a comfortable numbness that tickles my eyelids like a thousand ant feet.

A sordid pull to the insane

and I feel my skin begin to crawl. My soul can’t find rest. I look up at my wall of photos above my bed. Photos that I’ve taken from London, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Ko Yao Noi, Asheville, New York, Jamaica, and the list goes on. I sink into them, opening up the world of memories contained within each of the photos – they are enchanting me like a siren calling my name closer to the edge, and like Mary Poppins I stand on the edge of them peering into the worlds, longing to jump and disappear in a color cloud. The sirens inspire all the “what if’s” I hide away, to come out and fly like neurons through my brain. “What if I died tomorrow? Would I have been happy? What if I don’t finish my bachelor degree? Does it matter? What if I just go? Everything always works itself out, right?”

A constant gravity to change

my life. Those pictures of landscapes so far from Milledgeville, Georgia paint themselves as paradise. My lungs long for the salty winds to fill them with fresh air. The feeling of sand tickling the spaces between my toes. I know in the back of my mind that it wasn’t always sunny days and bright smiles on the road, but it seemed better, didn’t it? Life’s frustrations were about a bus being late or missing planes, not tests or papers. My memory recalls little stress. Not like here, college, with never ending to-do lists that never get completely crossed out.

And I don't know where to go

from here… My bed filled with books that open up doors to new realities. Their tiny black signs composed to meaningful lessons as they travel through my eyes to my conscious. Their words inspire my words and it feels so good to understand the world a little more every day. Walking into classrooms knowing that I’ll be challenged and changed by the time I walk out, is a thrilling feeling. There’s a hunger in my body yearning for knowledge and intellectual stimulation, so it doesn’t matter that it was kind of always expected of me to go to college.

Paris breaths beneath my feet

in one of the photos taken from the Eiffel tower. The movement of the city frozen by the mechanics of my camera. Unmoving characters with lives far beyond my mint green wall. My father and I spent four days walking around Paris one Easter. From the scandalous Moulin Rouge to the incredible views from Montmartre, from the historic Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare du Lyon train station to the futuristic light shows of the Eiffel Tower – we saw it all. One of those days, we were walking in the university area by Boulevard Saint-Germain and we wandered down an alleyway. It was lunch time so we decided to try this slightly gloomy looking place. Its windows were dirty from years of city life, but the old wooden door invited us in with a small bell. The room was covered in old movie posters. Every inch of every wall. From the Sophia Loran, to Humphrey Bogart, to James Dean – it was like stepping into another era. I don’t remember what I ate, only a constant examination of the cinematic history.

Thirsty skin against concrete

when I walked barefooted from Arrawarra Beach to the hut I occupied with strangers-turned-friends. Balancing a surfboard on top of my head, laughter from my fellow surfing students mix with the Jack Johnson music that played all day long. Nothing but beach for miles around. We lived off of oatmeal and pasta, but it didn’t seem to matter when we laid in the hammocks in the shadow of palm trees or surfing sheds. Days were spent on the ocean, catching waves, exploring the beach, going rock pooling, or on towels doing yoga or licking up the sunshine. Nights were spent with music and beer in harem pants. All the girls’ hair would be as filtered as dreadlocks with colorful threads braided in on a whim. Students and instructors alike would go down to the beach and look at the stars that shone so bright because we were so far from the luminous beacons we call skyscrapers.

My sacred heart misleading me

to follow the impulses of its beat. I sometimes catch myself looking at my passport as if to seduce it, convince it that it’s a good idea to go wherever I want. My eyes hooded with dilated pupils while my fingers trace its curves. I stroke the pages, caressing the stamps, letting them recall their nations on my lips. My brain arguing all the reason and logic of why to leave the red little book where it is, and return to my studies. Most of the time my brain is successful and my wandering eyes return to the screen where white pages wait for my words. But sometimes… sometimes I let my heart win and my savings trickle out of the account and turn into delicious food and more pictures for my wall.

And I don't know where to go

from here. This place I’ve reached of conflict. Many simplify it as a fork in the road, but my road keeps extending, the choice seemingly always a little further away. I see it, I reach it, and it moves. But the fork isn’t as much a fork as it is a one lane road unfolding to many lanes, each with the possibility of waning off to somewhere. Some of the lanes seem to have signs saying where they are going, making it easier for the traveler, but not all of them do. Some of them go off into the distance with nothing but a promise to keep going and take you somewhere.

No, I don't know where to go

but I know where the main road is going right now. Straight ahead at the speed of life bound through finishing college and getting internships and a career. I keep seeing off-ramps that would take me to Asia or Africa. One as a volunteer teacher, another as a freelance journalist. A third veers off, offering no job suggestion just a promise of life full of camera shutter sounds and extreme solitude.

I could go home to my love

, comfort, and stay where I know everything will work itself out. Go home to Denmark, get an office job that might satisfy my need for self-actualization, meet a nice guy who makes me laugh and treats me well, buy a house together, get married and have kids, and be close to my family and the friends I know and love. It’s a path so many of my friends joyfully walk down. But I’ve never met someone who made me want to marry. I’ve never met someone who made me want to have kids. And I’m scared that if I did, it wouldn’t be enough for me.

And live the life I've always wanted

and a life I thought was the right way to live. The way my parents lived, and their parents before them; A life of traditions. A life where people got married, worked, had kids, a house, and a daily routine. A life of family dinners, homework, yard work, grocery shopping, lunch boxes, car seats, and Sundays at the sports complex. The life that my Barbies and my dolls lived when I played with them. The life I lived when we played house and adapted the lives we knew.

Or I could go on running off

letting my feet take over from my head. Stop typing right here, pack my bag, grab my passport and hit the road. Not letting anyone know where I’m going or even that I’m going, just putting one foot in front of the other until there’s no more land to be covered. Living off of my savings and making it work along the way. Taking any and all odd jobs to fuel my journey. Sleeping on strangers’ couches or under the stars, hitch hiking, taking busses or boats or bikes. Believing that world is full of kind people and that fate and God would see to my needs and my safety.

Into the night, lonely and haunted

, scared and excited at the same time of what’s to come. Every day a new experience, every day different from the one before and the one that comes after. Never staying in one place long enough to get caught up in a routine, but never moving too fast to enjoy life either. 6 months max, then on to the next stop. A whirl pool of new people and new adventure and when it stops spinning find the next one.

And the strange thing is

that both pull at me strongly like currents of my soul, one appealing to my brain and one appealing to my heart. What do you do when you’re split between responsibility and desire? Between tradition and passion?

I don't know which I prefer

of the two paths that seem opposite, yet lay right beside each other in side of me. One lined with family, old friends, and everything that has made me who I am – the comfort and safety of a life I know I can live well and easily with a plan for what’s going to happen, a plan with an end goal and structure. The other lined with strangers, new friends, and everything that makes my pulse rise – the freedom and independence of a life that promises nothing for certain but carries the possibility of everything.

As I sit here and watch the sun set

, wishing myself to be on those stone steps in front of the beautiful Parisian marble church. Instead I find myself on the iron barstool by my breakfast bar in my kitchen in Milledgeville. The pastel rainbow sky looking like the watercolor painting that hangs in my grandparents’ beachhouse. The singular beauty of the place lovingly called ‘Milly’ entices me to stay. Ink dripping from my teeth as I devour essays and literature, quenching my thirst for academic expansion offered so diligently here at Georgia College. Yet a constant pressure to prepare for jobs and the future ties knots in my shoulders.

Paris falls under my eyes

when I pull up my photo program on my computer. I go through the albums seeing the different colors of the different places. Remembering the greens of the rain forest in Sumatra, where the humidity lets the sweat on your skin pearl as soon at it comes out from your pores. It was my birthday and we trekked through the jungle where we saw King Louie hanging from a tree and gave him bananas. Neither Bagheera nor Baloo made an appearance, but I think they were there in spirit. The next album has the pictures from Thailand, where the sea and sky had the same teal color and jade tinted rocky islands surrounded us as far as the eye could see.

History against one life

in all these places. Though I have never felt more insignificant and humble than when I saw the sun raise over the Australian outback. The ancient rock formations of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon immersed in bloody orange while the sun lit a bonfire in the east. Talking to Aboriginal Australians to understand the more than 10,000 years of traditions connected to these sacred spaces, my world shrunk in comparison.

My sacred heart's on no-one's side

, not even my own. It beats just as strongly when I look at the photos of Denmark and my childhood. Because they are on my wall too. A photo of my grandparents’ farm sits proudly beneath the photo of Sagrada Família’s grand pillars and splendid stained glass windows. The snow covered lawn telling tales of children’s play with snowmen and snow angels, and the red brick building stands proud against the blue sky. Windows and the back porch door symmetrically lined underneath the black roof tiles that break for two skylights and parts in the center for the second story living room window. The porch protruding above the neatly trimmed bushes holds so many moments of so many lives, a place of safety and comfort and family history.

And I don't know where to go

from the place I’ve come to. Here, Milledgeville, now. Going to school and learning, I should be appreciative and happy. But sometimes it is all I can do not to long for other places; to dream of the lands that my feet have yet to touch and to wonder who I might meet. I should be grateful for the opportunity to go to college, especially in a foreign country. I should do everything in my power to give back to the place that has taken me in and given me a home. I should be dedicated to getting good grades and making honor roll. And I am… Most of the time. But I don’t think my heart is really in it.

No, I don't know where to go

or who to ask about what to do. Who would understand this feeling of constant restlessness? The slight fear of staying in one place too long and getting too comfortable? The split between control and adventure that divides my very being? These voices of accountability that tell me to finish what I’ve started and be a responsible adult and get job. These voices are countered by urges and cravings for more than 9 to 5, for driving around the world in a campervan, for hiking in Himalayas, for standing in the Mongolian Dessert, for living a future without a five-year-plan.

I could go home to my love

, safely, a life of following the norm and the statistics, where fear of theft is the biggest concern around the Christmas holidays. It would be a life of stability and consistency where the days would go by over and over, seemingly the same day playing again and again, but surrounded by people I know to be good and true.

Or I could go on running off

and take a plane to somewhere I’ve never been and where I’d know no one. Jump on a boat in the Gulf of Florida to a Caribbean Island where I could be a scuba instructor for a while. Only to fly to Costa Rica and work on a coffee plantation, then taking a bus down through South America. All these places where freedom pulls me from the people I love and into loneliness. An ocean of constant waves of hellos and goodbyes, where long term relationships drown and best friends never see each other again.

And the strange thing is

I’m almost scared to choose for fear of choosing wrong. If I choose the life of ease and ordinary, will I end up with resenting myself for not taking chances? If I go ‘the path less traveled by’, will I end up alone and lonely forever searching for something that cannot be found?

I don't know which I prefer

, so I’m going to travel down the main road a little longer; taking small detours to Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Abu Dhabi, until I have my diploma and then maybe I will know what ramp to take or maybe to stay on the main road. Either way, I will keep traveling.

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