On my cross-country bike trip
20 years ago I was on the cusp of turning 10, and I remember virtually nothing about that; 10 years ago I was months away from turning 20, and I was too self-absorbed to contemplate the future; and now I am 29 and may be too absorbed in the day-to-day to really remember what I was like and who I was in the past two decades. What’s got me thinking about that un-medicated, chaotic and doubt-riddled person is a book I just finished titled Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything, by Barbara Ehrenreich. In the book, Ms. Ehrenreich uses the journal she kept during her teenage years as a springboard from which to revisit the doubts and dreams she had during that tumultuous time.
As soon as I finished reading—just hours after I began—I decided to look back through my own journal…hundreds of pages of frantic writing covering the years 2002 – 2005, when I was 18-21. Before I delve into this, let me just review some facts about me during that time. First, I was around 7 years from finally being diagnosed as, and treated for, mild bipolar disorder; as a result, I found myself jostling back and forth from unbearable bliss to the kind of depression that slows your synapses to a crawl. Second, I kept this journal while I was an undergraduate at California State University Northridge (CSUN,) meaning that for a time I was living at my parent’s house in Tarzana, CA., and for a year I lived in Granada, Spain (studying abroad), and for several months I rode across the United States on my bicycle and then fought to intergrate that experience in whatever came next. Third, I spent much of my time reading about Buddhism and philosophy; delving into the works of Romantic poets; and contemplating the nature of my existence and the meaning of it all. And finally, I was a colossal pain-in-the-ass: self-righteous, pompous, filled with illusions of grandeur, judgmental, and so on.