My childhood fears have ebbed over the years, though every now and then my early experiences visit me in strange ways. Whenever I talk, it’s not unusual for people to ask me where I’m from. People usually claim I have an accent. It’s actually not an accent, but a scar left over from my speech impediment. I have been placed all over the world though. Constant questions about my heritage always come racing at me from strangers. People are always asking me if I’m from Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland…
One day, I was working in a department store in Kansas and this older man and woman approached me. After answering their questions, the man repeated my answers back to me. I nodded, thinking he was doing nothing more than confirming what I had said. But as they turned to walk away, the man grabbed the woman’s arm and whispered loud enough for me to hear, “If these foreigners want to stay in this country, they better learn to speak the language!” At the time, I was shocked by his words. Now, I find it funny. I’m proud of my international voice. Though I am still naturally shy and socially awkward, darkness and loneliness no longer consume me. I no longer need anyone to take care of me, hold my hand, fight my battles for me, or watch over me while I sleep.
One evening, I stood on the balcony of my apartment in California staring out at the San Jacinto mountains as the sun set behind them turning the peaks to a dark gentle brown. I knew at that time that I didn’t want this existence to end. Even with all of the struggles I have known, I don’t want to leave this life. Why is it that I have lived without a home before, not knowing where I was going or how I was going to survive…how was it that I lived off just a bowl of rice every day for several months and still believe, within myself, that I have always had the best of everything? I continue to behave like a young girl, dreaming of castles and princes, even though life has tried many times to convince me there are no such things for me. Sometimes I believe I am incurably optimistic. My greatest accomplishment in life is knowing how to always remain in a state of gratitude. I have always known how to count my blessings.
My experiences have been so different from the many people I have known. My experiences continually pull me from this world and yet hold me to this life. I travel alone and free not knowing where it will lead me. I live traveling aimlessly on the roads that bring me closer to God than any religious following ever could. I say my prayers when I am traveling. When I get scared of being lost and alone, I pray and feel a presence in the empty seat beside me in the car, guiding my path. I am surprised that there are people in my life who still see this as a defect in me, but it’s okay. I know what’s real.