Normally, I am not sentimental about holidays, birthdays, graduations, and progressions of time, but as I sit at this late hour munching on a cream cheese smothered bagel and sipping distasteful instant coffee, I cannot help the sentiment stirring inside me. I have made it, survived the journey, and acquired shelter, and I’m relieved.
These two months here have taken their toll on me through the nights on the street, panic attacks, the ups and downs of possibilities materializing and dissolving in my grasp, and the constant struggle to hold on to this path I cannot fathom but feel it is right. Breathe. Countless repetitions of the word, the command in a focus pinpointed on taking the next step with aching feet, climbing the next hill despite the exhaustion, engaging the next conversation while sick of talking, and pushing aside the frustration to fill out the next application. Two months of uncertainty, anxiety, cold, many sleepless nights, citations, and dragging my burdens through my wake. Two terrifying, stupid, and insane months I will never regret, for they have also brought me great joy and fortune. They have brought me a new life.
I now live in a truly international city where my friends make up a good portion of the human spectrum with their different accents, sexualities, genders, skin color, and cultural backgrounds. Just the other day, I watched two transgender woman banter joyfully at one another and criticize how their families rejected them and become exasperated over other hardships they have faced, but they always returned to that joyful banter. I have met people from Germany, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the UK, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Colombia, Honduras, India, and more. I have glimpsed slightly at the true face of humanity and still have much to learn.
I have walked amongst giants from the bottom, but no one will quite impress me as the Punk Priest of San Francisco did and continues to do so on our nighttime walks. Most disregard him or look judgingly at him as he passes, but almost every homeless man and woman greets him if they cross his path. His fame and prestige may not be recognized amongst the aristocracy, but on the streets he is a man of honor and respect, a man loved by many. I feel safe with him as if the monsters in the shadows of my understanding give way to his brilliance. I can think of no better companion on my journey.
Soon, I will have a job that facilitates my self-actualization, earn an income, and reach a degree of self-sufficiency. Soon, I will become a true member of this community, no longer a traveler in search of help but another nurturer giving help. For 22 years, I have longed for a community that cares for its people without concern for capital gain, and here, I have found the closest embodiment of this ideal. I plan to build upon the foundation already in place and reform and restructure where needed. In doing so, I will build the foundation to the life I have envisioned for myself for quite some time. Here is the beginning, but to what exactly, I cannot say. I only know that my story has just begun and a great deal lies ahead.
This week I will be housed in a long awaited SRO about the size of a large walk-in closet that I will most likely share with an unknown roommate. We will have a bunkbed, a sink, four walls, and a roof over our heads. All I need to keep going. Of course, there are showers and restrooms, but they will be communal and possibly filthy. Perfect, I say. I’ll take on any challenge and endure almost anything to build this brave new life of mine. I suppose I should also mention that the people I will be living with are the troubled youth, the recovering drug addicts, and anarchist. In other words, real people.
All of my needs are met here, at least in the immediate. A future is on the horizon, and only infinity awaits me. But, the journey is far from over, and I have yet to truly fly by my wings alone. Nonetheless, my experience thus far suggests a very positive outcome, so I remain optimistic. In moments of reflection like these, I recall the voices crying out to me as I embarked upon this journey. “That’s stupid!”… “I can’t help you do this.”… “You are throwing your life away!” But, amidst the negatives came support. “In times like these, going to the streets is probably one of the best things you could do.” And that surprise party before my departure. What a party! Dancing, drinking, loud music, close friends.
I jumped into the unknown, risking everything, risking my life and have found only beauty and hope. The day nears when I will fall to my knees weeping with joy, agony, fear, gratitude, and love while yelling “I love you all!” Perhaps, it is my luck, my personality, or my destiny that has brought me this far, but I want to give the credit to where I never thought I would. To humanity. I jumped into the arms I expected to drop me, but I was caught. No, embraced. Most people merely talk of starting a new life for the New Year, but I actually get to. Maybe, you can too.