Naturally, travel is all about identity – what we call ourselves – our “tag”. We carry our labels around to define ourselves in strange lands. They are shorthand tickets for understanding us.
In the U.S. we are generally labeled based on work, how we make an income. This is problematic for me. I don’t have an income. I’m not trained for any job that will provide me money. When people ask me what I do, I stumble around with answers ranging from stay-at-home mom, retired, to self-employed. And then, back to the original – yes, I am a mom.
And this is absolutely and forever true, but these days that passport feels like it’s a bit outdated.
Identity is so important, the scaffolding we hang our life on. Last week my son was describing the anticipation and anxiety of losing his status as student, a job he’s had for almost twenty years. Who will he be without that tag? Where is he going next?
At home my friends are so accomplished, with incredibly interesting, meaningful jobs. Educated, trained, practiced, tech savvy, and so competent and productive. My book club buddies have credentials like you wouldn’t believe: PhD, MD, realtor, designer, author, professor. But not me. But they’re my friends, so it’s all okay.
Here in Zug, I am a “corporate wife” along for the ride, a support system for my husband’s work (he has a pretty long label, not really sure what it is at the moment). It’s a good enough moniker for now. And nobody’s really asked me what I do anyway.
Running down at the lake, alongside the train (so awesome) this afternoon, I am the anonymous “runner”, but curiously self-conscious: how do they see me? American corporate, Swiss local, Danish tourist? Rich, middle-aged? Gay, divorced? A natural blonde or highlights? A poseur or the real deal? Is my tag showing?
Years ago, my friend Lisa and I used to say we were writers, even though we had never written a bloody thing. We saw ourselves as authors who just hadn’t picked up a pen yet. Before her, I’d never met anyone who saw herself that way.
But I always thought she was kind of brave. We were both huge readers and so didn’t that give us license – because we sure as hell knew good writing. Weren’t we one of them?
I’m coming to understand that yes, we were, and we are, writers. We are writing all the time – in our heads. Like a movie voiceover, the words play out in a stream in our minds, from our perceptions, through our senses.
We are the words inside us, and they live in the book of our body. They rattle around our rib cages, pumping and aspiring, churning and digesting and awaiting release. Buried in the gut, dark, unseen, often forgotten. Stored and tissued, flexed – breathing in and out, in and out, sighing, yawning, screaming and crying silently, so know one sees.
And we are, all of us, banking the images in our brains as they happen, as they become stories, snippets of anecdotes and little dramas to act out for our family, for our friends, for ourselves, like:
… hey, listen, this is really funny, so funny, just hysterical, you have to hear this …
And then I saw the field of pick your own lowers and it reminded me of my mom, I wanted her to be here with me to see it too.
Or – that guy started yelling at me in Italian – but he was smiling (!)- and then he grabbed my cell phone and deleted all the the pictures of his produce!
And also – God, it really hurt my feelings – sometimes I hate him.
And then – Listen – and then when we got to the top, the mountain sort of fell away beneath me, and whoa, serious vertigo.
And so tonight, it is kind of like that, I trill out my story from the bathtub to my husband in the kitchen –
… guess what happened? Can you believe it? Let me tell you again, so you get the picture. I don’t know if it really happened exactly like that, but you get it? It was sooo amazing.
And inside I’m yearning to hear his thoughts, get his review and if I’m honest, to have his stamp of approval. But mostly I just need him to listen really closely.
Because it’s me, it’s all me – it’s my book.
Please read me, I think. Just open me up and read me.