So, I’ve stated before that I am very different from the other members of my family. What’s different, you ask? The way I speak, the way I think, my dreams and aspirations, my taste in reading material, my taste in movies…(get the picture??). People have asked me, and I’ve asked myself, “What made me so different?” Well, I have given this a lot of thought, and I’m starting to think that my Nana is to blame. You see, I believe that people (children especially) are greatly influenced by the things to which they are exposed, but I think that reading material has the most affect. On this premise, I thought about the things to which I have been exposed the most, which are moving from place to place and National Geographic magazines. That’s where my Nana has influenced my life, albeit indirectly, a great deal.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t very close with my Nana as a child, nor did she seem that interested in me. Due to this distance between us, I received the same generic present for just about every birthday well into my teens (at some point, I just got a check in the mail). The generic present: a year’s subscription to National Geographic. I don’t know how interested a young child normally is in National Geographic magazines, though I do remember cutting out pictures from the magazines for projects in elementary school, but at some point I started to read them in earnest. In fact, I remember in junior high, my bedroom walls were covered with the maps I found in every other issue. To expand my collection, during my senior year in high school I spent two class periods as a library aid. That year the library was getting rid of old newspapers and magazines…and guess what they had??! Yup, National Geographics out the wazoo! I then had magazines older than myself, and they became my yellow drug….providing an incredible high (I mean this metaphorically of course).
With every glossy, yellow magazine that arrived, I became more enamored with other cultures, with dreams of traveling the world. I romanticized those roaming journalist, imagining that I was one of them, living a most wonderful life and taking gorgeous photographs which would inspire a whole new generation of vagabonds. With each map added to my wall of wonder my room resembled a cartographer’s office more than the room of a 12 year old girl, my knowledge of various cultures expanded, and my dreams became more extravagant. Floating down the Amazon, climbing the pyramids in Egypt, riding an elephant in India (a culture which fascinates me to no end), roaming the wilds of Alaska, going to the Christmas festivals in the Black Forest of Germany, learning to flamenco like the Spaniards in Madrid, climbing the stairs of the ruins in Ireland. These were my dreams, are my dreams, forever will be my dreams.
In the 8th grade, I decided that I would learn languages so that I could speak with as many people in the world as possible, to facilitate my travels, to bring my dreams closer. Therefore, in college I’ve studied French, Spanish, and a bit of Italian (I later tried German, but it was just too hard for my French-i-fied tongue). With these new words in my head I felt that I could conquer the world and begin my travels. Alas, life set in, along with student loans and the need to find a job, but I’m determined to never let my Geographic dreams fade. For now I console myself with periodic injections of a new issue. As an adult, I branched out to National Geographic Traveler magazine, and even started my nephew on their kid’s magazine…perhaps in the hopes of expanding his horizons as I felt mine had been. Sadly, after moving for the umpteenth time, I realized that I could no longer cart around my personal NG library, and recycled the lot of them. I still hope to have my name inside them one day though, to meet the people that live in the yellow magazine. One day.The difference between myself and my loving family? I’ve read more things, a wider variety of things than they ever have, I’ve traveled to different cities with no settling down in sight, I love foreign films (even if it means reading subtitles for 2 hours), and my dreams are still just as Yellow Magazine influenced as they have ever been. My dear family doesn’t very much like to roam as I do; their feet just aren’t as itchy. Their dreams consist of having children and a comfortable house, a happy life, among other things. My mother’s dreams: to win the lottery and provide well for her children and herself, and for me to have a baby….make that babies…sometime soon. My dreams, my dream job?? Eventually I want to be a contributing writer and photographer to the magazine that has most influenced my life; I want to travel the world (on the back of a camel, elephant, or donkey! Comfort shmomfort!). Are my dreams better than theirs? I don’t think so. We may not have the same dreams, we may not have the same definition of success or failure or even happiness, but having a head filled with different worlds, cultures, and ideas doesn’t make me any better or worse than them. It just makes us different, it just makes me a Vagabond.
P.S. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. I had to take them covertly in the library as I was already getting looks for drooling all over the back issues. Did you know they let you check them out? As though I would remove the 1906 issue! I was sure that if it left the library, the whole place would tumble down around me as I passed the seal. (Do you like that Indiana Jones reference? Now I need a fedora and a whip!) If you have a sudden yearning to fortify yourself with some vintage NG awesomeness, I’m sure you can find a collection at your local library as I did. Want something more recent? Subscriptions are super cheap people! Do it, do it now! (I said that in my most awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger voice….just for you)
So, I don’t know about all you gym go-ers out there, but I’ve noticed something about the gym life. I guess I should start by stating that life in America (and every other culture) is governed by social rules and mores (that’s pronounced more-ays for you people who haven’t taken Sociology 101). These consist of actual laws, such as “no murdering allowed”. The social rules (mores) are the expectations of behavior that prevent or encourage people to act a certain way. For example, if someone says hello, it is expected that you say hello back or else people with think you’re a dick. Today’s topic is about how these rules and mores go out the window if you’re in a gym.
Number 1 Rule Broken: Unwanted commentary, conversation, and/or remarks.
After a good hard workout, I’m a big fan of relaxing in the sauna, or if it was a swim, I sit in the jacuzzi to warm back up and ease the tense muscles. My first encounter with a rule breaker was in the sauna on my first night as a member of the gym. While relaxing in the sauna, and my music playing (to distract myself and warn off potential talkers) a man suddenly asked me if I was John’s sister. I say no. Thirty seconds later he asks if I am sure. WTF?!!! Ummmm, yeah. I’m sure. Folks, the weirdness did not end there. He had a big jug of water with him which he alternately chugged and poured over himself. After every gulp session, he let out monstrous burps. Now, I’m no delicate flower, though I was raised with Southern manners, but this is just nasty! Then, he sits with his face turned down and alternately spits on the bench and shakes the sweat off his face. After encountering him multiple times, I realized his purpose in doing this was to cover the entire area below his face in liquid. As far as other unwanted conversation goes, I’ve had plenty. A big theme at my gym is that strangers strike up a conversation to get to know me, then either a stranger who is obviously hispanic or someone they know comes in, and they relate the entire conversation we just had in Spanish to the other person. I know, cause I speak Spanish; I have yet to ask them (in Spanish) why they do that. It makes no sense, people! I’ve even had one person, after asking what I did, if I was married. And when I said no, he asked if I was a virgin!!!! I’ve asked my friend if the same thing happens to her, and she said no, but pointed out that she wears her wedding ring at the gym (Hi B.) If that’s what it takes, I might have to get me some bling! Moving on…
Number 2 Rule Broken: Polite courtesy of not being overly loud or having a loud phone conversation when you’re in close proximity to someone else, especially if it’s a quiet place.
To me, this is kind of like the library rule. I used to go to the Aquafit class 3 times a week. It never failed that at least 2 time per week, a small group of women used it as their social hour. I’m sorry, I’m focusing on not drowning and remembering to breath as I contort my body through the water, and your inane chatter is freaking distracting! There’s a freakin’ instructor! How’s about we shut up and listen so she doesn’t have to put on her pissy face, and repeat the directions while giving you meaningful looks!!! And people on the phone! Are you really exercising?! NO! Take that conversation about your baby daddy or the guy that’s blowing you off outside!! I admit, I have had many personal conversations at the gym before. But I was with my gym buddy (Hi guera!) and we spoke quietly, and normally in Spanish, which most people in STL don’t speak.
Number 3 Rule Broken: Inappropriate Attire….or just really ugly stuff.
- A guy wearing speedos with rubber duckies printed on them to do his laps. Just…no thank you. Speedos in general.
- Guys wearing their boxer briefs to swim in. Probably the ones they’ve had on all day and are soaked through with jungle butt nastiness.
- Men working out in jeans.
- And women looking as though they’re dressed for an event, puffing away on the stair climber.
- Women wearing wigs while working out or in the sauna. (I profoundly apologize if you’ve lost your hair due to a medical condition) But, if it’s for vanity’s sake, then you’re stupid.
Number 4 Rule Broken: Locker Room Nudity
Obviously, nudity is to be expected in a situation where people are changing clothes, and showering, and whatnot. However, there are still limits! Now, I don’t hide, and I don’t rush. I change my clothes cause that’s what I have to do. What I don’t do is parade around naked, or do stretches while nude. (I know this is probably a dream situation for the male population) I guess I’m just more modest than the average person. But when I see anyone parading from the showers to the lockers with the towel around their head instead of their body, my brain immediately goes into shock. I have now seen more naked women, of every age, race, and shape, than I ever expected to in my whole life. While I admit that I have admired a body or two (not as a creeper, or in a sexual way, but in the “Wow, she has a great body” kind of way) I still don’t want to see all that!
I ask you, what is it about the gym that let’s people get away with all kinds of stuff? What makes people feel so at ease to be disgusting or overly friendly? To cross personal boundaries? I just don’t get it. Is it like this in other cultures? Do the rules just go out the window as soon as you put the jogging shoes on? If I ever make it to a foreign gym, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’m trying to keep my eyes averted, head down, music loud, and stay away from the spit. Vagabond out.
Here is my current situation. I moved 1800 miles to take a position that I thought would define my place in life. Well, it’s had the opposite effect. The job fell through, and now I’m trying to get out of a city I don’t like and trying to find a job that won’t make me want to take a large dose of arsenic. It’s looking more and more like finding a job before moving is going to prove difficult, so I’m left with the unstable position of moving without a job. This, as you can imagine, has made me terribly anxious. True, my friends would be happy to have me back home, and are willing to house me for as long as necessary, but this also makes my anxious. You see, I like to have a certain element of control in my life, and right now it’s sadly lacking. Also, I hate the idea of having to depend on others that much. Yes, I’ve had to go to family before, hat in hand as they say, and I’m doing it again now, but I just hate it!Recently, I was talking with a friend, and she encouraged me to look at my situation differently. According to her, the world is my oyster (I’ve always found that expression to be kinda nasty) and the fact that I have nothing tying me down and no where that I have to be is something I should appreciate. I could go anywhere, do anything (so on and so forth). Basically, the possibilities are endless. On one hand, I guess I can see this way of thinking. No one is expecting me anywhere…so it doesn’t matter where I go or when I get there. But on the other hand, I could end up in another city, out of a job and out of money. Taking this into account, it’s really hard to see my current situation in a positive light. I figured I’d go back home (St. Louis) and live with friends until I find a job, and I planned on making the trip as fast and short as possible. My friend, G, had another thought. Why don’t I see some great things on the way?! It’s not as though there’s a time limit, and when will I next be driving across the country? Welp, I think this is a fabulous idea! As long as I can rustle up a tent and some camping stuff to keep me from spending too much money on motels along the way, it could turn into another adventure and an opportunity to see some great sights! The Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, The Valley of Fire, etc. I was starting to re-think this idea when I was catching up on the New Girl, and it’s like the universe was talking to me…as though I had sent a letter into an advice column! And, the universe responded, Dear Perplexed in Reno….! Jess (played by the fabulous Zooey Deschanel) was laid off, and Nick told her the same thing G told me. There’s nothing holding you back, and all of these possibilities are open to you! It was so crazy to be hearing almost the exact same words, that I decided I should take them to heart. So, I’m trying to look at my situation as less of a set back and more of a unique opportunity. Where will I go from here? I’m not quite sure, but I know the journey will be an adventure. I will embrace the self-given title of ‘Vagabond’ and hit the road not looking for a destination, but looking for an experience.