Sometimes on Sundays I go for a drive. I leave in the early afternoon, usually about 1, grab a black iced coffee (with caramel swirl and an espresso shot, without a doubt my favorite way to drink it), and just cruise. It’s a way for me to tune out the world, to literally go for a Sunday drive. I have a few loops that I’ve traveled before, but I try not to think too much ahead. I turn when I feel like turning, and I just get lost in the music and the scenery, especially the trees. One of the pros of not living in a city is that you’re always close to nature.
In these moments, either my head is clear, or I’m letting my mind wander wherever it wants to go. If I start to think about something negative, I rein it back in, as if my mind is drifting out of the lane. I do some of my best thinking on these afternoons, and have even come up with several ideas for blog posts. I need this time to myself, to clear my head before the week begins. I’ve been doing this for about as long as I’ve had my license, which is crazy because I’ve been driving a car now for 13 years. During these afternoons, I disconnect, or at least attempt to disconnect from the world around me, at least for the afternoon.
My therapist in New York was a woman near and dear to my heart. Her name was Marge. I saw her for about two years, and in that time, we covered a lot of ground. We talked about many of the issues that plagued me (and still do), and she offered me various resources for tackling my problems. She taught me breathing exercises that could bring me back from the edge of an anxiety attack, but she didn’t have an answer for everything. One issue that kept coming up still has no solution:
“I just feel like I’m floating out there in space, that I’m a man without a country.” In various situations, I felt that I didn’t belong there, that I wasn’t supposed to be there, that I didn’t have a reason to be there. It’s like I’m an imposter or a fraud, and I’m waiting for someone to unmask me and tell me to leave. It’s one of the most bizarre feelings I’ve experienced, almost like I’m permanently crashing a wedding.
It wasn’t always this way when I lived in New York. During the second semester of grad school, either I felt like I was starting to belong, or I was too busy to give the feeling any real thought. After all, this was the year where I started to get more involved, started to make more friends, started to like the work I was doing. I was gaining the sense of purpose that had eluded me, and it was nice to be moving in a direction, any direction for that matter. Once I graduated and didn’t have a job, the feeling returned in full force.
Maybe that’s the feeling we all get when we finish school or are unemployed; that we have no reason to be anywhere. It helps to have a support system in place, and many people I went to school with at the very least had a significant other and or a spouse and kids. I was newly single, and my roommate of three and a half years was poised to move somewhere else with his fiancée. The feeling of being lost was just so palpable. That’s the crazy thing about New York City, that even in a city full of millions of people, you can still manage to feel completely alone. I know that’s not a new observation, but it’s pretty intense when you experience it first hand.
Within the month I moved home, I had found work and reconnected with many of the friends that I had seen so infrequently over the years, but a year later, I still don’t know if I’ve finally found what I’m looking for. It’s confusing because although I’ve built up a good network of family and friends and found a reasonably fulfilling job, I still don’t feel that sense of belonging that I want. I still don’t feel like I’m exactly where I should be.
“You do know that the problem isn’t out here,” my therapist motioned to the room around her, “It’s in here,” she pointed to her heart.
“I know,” I said, with more than a modicum of resignation in my voice.
How does one go about finding something when you don’t even know what it is you’re looking for? You know that you want to be successful, but you’re not sure how to achieve that. You don’t even know what it would look like. Maybe it’s one of those feelings that when it happens, you just know it deep down in your soul. I’ll let you know if I ever experience it.
My hope is that sometime soon I’ll stop floating out there in the atmosphere, out of orbit. I hope that I’ll start to feel more grounded as I try out different things, finding out what works and what doesn’t. The real problem is with myself, and I know that. Only when I address and fix the problems within will I really feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Sometimes when I’m in the car I drive for hours, not looking to go anywhere in particular, but not quite ready to go home. If I drive for too long, I start to experience feelings of unreality and isolation. I know that I’m going places, can see them right in front of me, but when the windows are up, it’s like your driving in a bubble. The world around you doesn’t seem real, and sometimes that feeling doesn’t end when my car pulls into the driveway and I kill the engine. I still feel as though I’m driving around, not knowing where I’m going. My only hope is that I find it before I run out of gas.