We’re leaving everything behind

“We’re leaving everything behind,” the blonde haired little girl said in the glass elevator at the Brussels Midi train station. I laughed and made eye contact with her parents.

“That about sums it up,” I said.

I’m adjusting to having left India. I knew I’d have to adjust but I’m surprised at how it’s affecting me. Everything looks empty to me, even though it’s summer travel season. There’s so much empty space, even in a dense city like Brussels. Keller told me this would happen: where are all the people? The colors passing by the train window are the ones I’m familiar with. Everything looks so tidy, clean, sanitized. Everything has its place. I miss the chaos of Bangalore’s traffic (I never expected to say that!), I miss the colors of sarees and salwars and so many different kinds of people.

I do seem to have gotten over the “Hey! White people everywhere!” thing that hit me the first two days. Nobody stares at me for having red hair. I don’t miss that. But I do miss people, already. I miss the MSR contingent, my flatmates, my friends. I wonder whether it’ll be possible to make it back for Doors of Perception in Delhi, but I suspect the timing will be wrong… we won’t be on spring break yet. I’d consider not going to SXSW if it meant I could go to Delhi in March. At least Yashas and Jasmeen will be in the US in the fall. Maybe Abhishek will be convinced to visit graduate programs and stop off to see Zack. But getting a visa is a pain and travel to the States is so expensive.

* * *

Right now, I’m on the train to D├╝sseldorf, after taking the Eurostar from London. The trains and stations are full of groups of students with backpacks and sleeping bags. My time for that was 15 years ago–the summer of 1991, I criss-crossed Europe, from Stockholm to Italy, meeting up with friends before starting school in the Netherlands. For the first time since 1994, I have a Eurail pass in my bag. No backpack on this go (it’s at Ruth and Erez’s in London)–just my trusty Tumi all beaten up–and a Freitag bag with my laptop.

* * *

I am turning 35 in three months. This has hit me the last few days. Enrique turns 35 next week when we are in Minneapolis, on the 26th. I’m exactly three months younger. 35 is not very young. People seem entirely surprised when they find out that that’s my age. (The nice grandmother at the fabric store on Saturday in Bangalore thought I was the age of her 19 year old granddaughter! Granddaughter and I laughed about that.) My friend Dave, who I saw last night, was 35 when I met him. I thought that sounded older and somehow distinguished. He’s now 41. But I think this is the first birthday I’m freaking out about.


  1. I’ll see your 35 and raise you 5… I turn 40 in two weeks. I’m not freaking out about it at all, really. Maybe with five more years comes peaceful acceptance ­čÖé Acceptance is not resignation though… I’m looking forward to my 40s. In some ways it feels like the age I was always meant to be.

  2. 35’s easy. 40 was OK, 45 didn’t hurt. You are, literally, as young as you feel. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, be happy, keep your mind active and you’ll last forever.

  3. I always forget what age I am. It feels sort of disembodied when I do finally remember my age (36). For some reason, I think of myself as being no older than 32…But by turning 35 you are now old enough to run for President!

  4. The reverse culture shock (mild or harsh) is one I am very familiar with, but I have come to realize I have many homes. I am home sick much of the time when I am what people traditionally call home, but that place for me now is my common point of origin for much of my travel. Home is where people I enjoy are, but rarely are they all in one place I am near, or aggregated in a place I am near.

    Aging… At 27 I was filled with fret of turning 30 and getting old. But, when I turned 40 (now 41) it was life changing. My view was no long, “I have time”, but “I have so much I want to do”. I became even more impatient and could not longer put up with not making use of my potential. It caused me to leave a comfortable, but boring job and strike out on my own to help others reach to get to better information products that worked better for people who want the information or media. I got tired of observing what was not going well and needed to be changed and saw my time as limited to actually work to make that change come to fruition.
    Through my adult life my common salutation in person is “enjoy”, I really mean that every time I say it. If you do enjoy what you are doing in life (for those of us that are fortunate to be in that spot on the Maslow heirarchy) then you really need to focus on work and life that you enjoy. Make your passion your job. I realized I had not been taking my own advice and made that change. Looking at life as a shorter proposition than the journey behind scared me. I am less scared, but still look at a lot I want to accomplish.

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