I'm sitting on an overnight bus from Hué to Hanoi, somewhere in the middle of Vietnam. It's 930 pm local time, and my best friend since birth, Dusty, and I have been on a bus for the past 36 hours. It's an interesting phenomenon, meeting fellow travelers who months ago decided to come to the same spot on the map and a few days ago decided to book the same bus out of the dozens of options in Ho Chi Minh City. For a brief moment, our lives are intertwined as we all struggle uncomfortably for a few hours of sleep. It's strangely reassuring that there are people all over the world like us, who have come here to live cheaply and make stories. Young, adventurous, and no idea what to do with their lives. I like that.
I read a book called The Art of Racing in The Rain yesterday and it was magnificent. It's about love and struggle and human connection through the eyes of a dog. It got me thinking about what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. If I wanted to be literal I would say it's brain size, but that's far too simple. Our brains afford us many advantages: verbal communication, economic specialization, the ability to remember and to plan ahead, etc. It's that last part, planning ahead, that's been on my mind quite a lot lately. I'm at a point in my life where I have absolutely no idea what comes next. I could work as a counselor at a rehab in Malibu or teach english in Vietnam or work for any number of companies in West Africa. The issue is, my big, beautiful brain allows me to feel all kinds of anxiety about what comes next. I feel shame, despair, worry...the whole spectrum. We tell ourselves that it's okay to be uncertain, that it's exciting. And in the end, it is. But it doesn't mean it's not difficult to justify sometimes.
What I envy most about the rest of the animal kingdom is their ability to live completely in the present. To be a chimpanzee using a stick to fish termites out of a rotted log, enjoying every exoskeletal crunch without a thought as to when he might find termites the next time and the time after that. To be able to appreciate every moment for what it is, a moment of sweet life, is a skill I hope to improve upon.
We've been sustaining ourselves on this marathon bus trip with random snacks bought along the way, and for one of the first times in my life I feel too hungry to fall asleep. Thinking about the dumb luck I must have to be be born into a life where I am able to truthfully write that last bit is overwhelming. I have a package of mixed nuts from home that I'm going to eat after I finish writing this. I'm going to enjoy each morsel without a thought as to when I might eat next, where I might stay tomorrow, or what I'm going to do with my life. Practice.