A few days ago two things happened.
I finished reading “Tracks” by Robyn Davidson, and I posted my first attempt to make some sense of her beyond-the-sensible and amazing journey.
While the book caused me more than a few sleepless nights, I now feel it was a good kind of sleeplessness – the kind that occurs only with the most profound and unstoppable of wake up calls.
Unlike so very many in our culture today (and even me for a time earlier in my life), Davidson did not wish to be famous. She wasn’t interested in being anyone’s inspiration or role model or icon or heroine.
She was searching for something – something private and personal.
She was searching for some kind of continuity within herself, her path, her past, her future – and at that point in her life, the search seemed to require a dog, camels, and a trek across 1,700 miles of desert.
So be it.
In the Postscript to “Tracks” (written in 2012), Davidson states she can hardly relate to the girl in the book she herself wrote, much less the character in the movie by the same name.
I totally understand.
Looking back now, I hardly recognize the girl who flew alone to India, and then to Israel, in search of ….. something. I admire her sometimes – her courage, her innocence, her hope – but I don’t really know her as “me.”
So why did she do it? Why did Davidson spend nearly two years learning to train camels, raising cash, assembling gear, even giving part of herself away to National Geographic in exchange for a cash sponsorship to buy what she lacked?
In her own words:
But perhaps most importantly, for someone like me, nothing was as important as freedom. The freedom to make up your own mind, to ‘make’ yourself. And such aspirations inevitably involved risk, unleashing opportunities for learning, discovering and becoming…..
I wanted to shed burdens. To pare away what was unnecessary. A process that was literal, in the sense of constantly leaving behind anything extraneous to my needs, and metaphorical, or perhaps metaphysical, in the sense of ridding myself of mental baggage.
The question I’m most commonly asked is “Why?” A more pertinent question might be, why is it that more people don’t attempt to escape the limitations imposed upon them? If ‘Tracks’ has a message at all, it is that one can be awake to the demand for obedience that seems natural simply because it is familiar. Wherever there is pressure to conform (one person’s conformity is often in the interests of another person’s power) there is a requirement to resist.
Here, Davidson perfectly sums up the reasons for and outcome of my own journey as well.
While I wouldn’t have been able to articulate them so clearly at the time (or even now), somehow I sensed that staying at home in the West would mean staying obedient….and staying sick.
By leaving everything I knew behind – unburdening myself of physical and mental baggage – entering a completely new culture where everything I knew as and of “me” would be missing – something in me felt I might have a prayer of true recovery.
I might come home without the eating disorder, the body hate, the anxiety, the depression, in tow.
I might find something in me worth loving, admiring, respecting, living up to.
I might find freedom – and the will to stand up for our human right to be healthy inside and outside.
I did find all these things, by the way. I didn’t find them all at once, and certainly not the moment I returned home to Texas.
But I found them, over time and little by little, and looking back now, I realize yet again that that journey was simply what was needed at the time.
I needed to go, and then I needed to come home again.
And then I needed to get to work on becoming the person I am still becoming today – a person I feel very fond of, in a way that I think would never have been possible without that trip.
Today’s Takeaway: Can you look back at any period in your life which, to you now, perhaps seems strange – even nuts – but without which you don’t think you would be the person you are today? Would you do it all over again, knowing what you know now?