The economic vagabond


Every time I have to travel for an extended period, or move apartments, as I am doing right now, I am reminded of my apparent disconnect with the universe. Every time I find a corner of it to call my own, and at some point, I have to leave it.

Moving houses always makes me wax philosophical. The catharsis of parting ways with sentimental items, the constant introspective revision of whether something is really important enough to lug around the city, makes the entire process emotionally draining.

This reminds me that most of the meaning one finds in life’s narrative is constructed by us. I ask myself difficult questions, and to my best ability answer them as honestly as I can. “Who am I?” I ask myself. The most honest answer I can come up with is, “I do not know yet.” The human mind does not like uncertainty, we do not thrive in it, but there is a certain serenity in uncertainty, an openness. It brings with it the realization that some things are not written. We write them ourselves as we go along.

I’ve never stayed in the same place for more than 2 years. It is not the branches I fear, but the roots. I don’t set them up. I stay away from things that tie me down. I value my freedom, and I prefer the neutrality of being non-committal over the depth of being bought-in. I do not want to buy-in, I want to be able to sell-out as easily as possible if the situation does not suit me. I am not tied to the land, I am not bound by space. My identity is as fluid as my address has been for the last 13 years.

My genes may come from a tropical corner of the world, but my progeny are no longer tied to the lands from which I come. In fact, in all probability, they will never fully even appreciate it. Why would they? I barely do myself anymore. When I go “home,” it is now as foreign to me as these foreign lands I now call home. My roots; the distant, disconnected roots that they are, are far from me. My family is scattered around the world, like so many stars in the sky. We fly around and see each other, but fate will most likely never bring us back into the same city to live as neighbours ever again. And I ask myself, “Was it a fair price to pay, for the prosperity that it brought us?” Honestly, it is too early to tell. The price, I fear, has not yet been fully paid.

Nothing is to say that this is the best way to live. I woke up one day, and found myself an economic gypsy. I spent my early adulthood as a vagabond, and it is the only life I know. I look at belongings as temporary clumps of atoms. I will die, my possessions will end up at the bottom of an ocean, and the sun will explode in a fiery explosion in five billion years, and nothing will remain. To me, it is not bleak, but beautiful. It is not nihilist; it is inspiring. We are here for blinks of an eye, our existence a breath of the universe, a hiccup in its clockwork symphony. When I ask myself, “What is the meaning of it all?” the most satisfying answer I can come up with, is: “to bear witness to its existence.”

When you are propelling yourself forward with all speed and haste, you rarely have the time to look backwards. Maybe that is why when I am clearing up my few belongings and possessions, detached though as I may try to be, I look back wistfully at the space I occupied for the last few years. I ask myself, “Where will I end up?” It is an innocuous question in comparison to the mind-set that gives rise to such a question. At the end of the day, in my heart of hearts, I may not know where I will end up, but I am pretty sure I know exactly where I will not end up. It pained me at one time to admit it to myself, but now I say it freely: I am pretty sure I will not end up where I began!

Somewhere in between the relics of my past, and the promises of the future, I have found meaning, and a reason to exist. So I square my belongings away carefully, in the knowing that I will someday get my wish. One of these days, I will have moved houses for the last time, and a small corner of the universe will forever be mine. For now, though, I charge ahead. There is work yet to be done, and a life to be lived.