I went over to my sister’s house the other night, and she asked me what she always does.
“So… How are you?”
The question comes genuinely, but has a historic hint of ‘I see you crazy little sister, you’re on one of your epic adventures, how are you?
How am I? I’m not even sure how to answer the question. I’m at an absolute turning point, and, as it is, no matter what, I’m already turning.
“I’m at this point of transition. I dunno, it’s like… It’s like… Choosing scrambled eggs for breakfast.”
Now, at this, Katie (my sister) is looking at me with a confused, skewed face, thinking I am going crazy. Hang with me. I might be, but at least this makes sense to me.
“It’s like when we go out to breakfast and the waiter is at the table, asking for your order. Do I want scrambled eggs this morning, or should I go a potentially less problematic route?”
What should first be understood is what eggs are capable of to a sensitive stomach like mine. A nice hash has two prospective paths. One, it will pump me up and put me in just the right mood to achieve great things throughout my entire day. Or, they could turn this girl’s stomach into knots within an hour of consumption. A half a plate could keep me cuddled on the couch for the rest of the day.
To make things worse, the ladder option comes with two additional possibilities. One, I am crippled and in bed praying for cramp relief, or two, I cramp, I cry, I spend an hour minimum on the toilet, but then I feel great. Like a single moment of intense intestinal distress will take me back to the path of superwoman.
So, now you see the position in which I find myself. The cosmic waiter is patiently cuing me to get on my horse about it, to take the risk or not. Everyone at the table seems upset at the sweat rolling down my forehead and the general look of confusion on my face.
While eggs are a nice allegory, the reality is I need to leave on my trip. I’ve been planning a cross country study abroad adventure for myself to make the next move in my life. I bought a van, plotted out some points to make sure and visit, and stashed my account (a bit) to help feel more secure, but I don’t. I have the unwavering feeling that I’ve just had a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and I’m moving into the territory of pain or pride. The chance terrifies me in a way I have not felt in all my years of traveling. I can’t say that I’ve always felt safe, there were moments of hesitation and concern sprinkled into each trip. However, I have never felt as unsafe at the front end as I do now.
As an adult, The United States is not someplace that I’ve chosen to roam. Most of my goals have taken me away from the country entirely. I have never been very interested in checking out my own nation, and have had an overall feeling of displeasure about it for years.
I remember as a child, I would frequently travel with my mother. She was a big fan of finding a direction and taking it until we ran out of interesting things to look at, or gas, whichever came first. We drove to the east, all the way up to Massachuesetts, and from Michigan to Kentucky about a hundred times to visit my grandparents. The west has been largely unexplored by me, something I feel needs to be remedied and I can’t wait to go.
Unfortunately, something else I remember from childhood is driving down the street of my home city with my mother and best friend at the time. We were all of ten, maybe, on our way into town when suddenly my mother looked back through the seats and told me to put my head down. Put my head down? Where was this coming from? Not something she had requested before.
I did so, with some hesitation, but not before seeing the line of men wearing white robes and hoods walking down the road the same way we were going. My mother is white, my best friend was white, I am not. Therefore, my head was the only one in any real danger.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve found it to be one of the leading stopping points in my progress. It’s not that racism wasn’t present in other countries, quite the contrary. I have found this hierarchical system in every location I’ve seen. There were inherent beliefs I could recognize and places that didn’t seem invested in making me a customer, lest friend, but I didn’t have concerns about being lynched by white men feeling insecure about my potential.
Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but it shouldn’t. Violence against Black folks in the states is constantly present and ever increasing. A young Black woman traveling with only her dog in tow seems to me like the perfect person to pick on when it comes to racial brutality.
To top it off, I have to be present with the reality that I am largely ignorant to the ins and outs of race relations in the United States. A theoretical knowledge is all I can claim at best. I’ve grown up largely sheltered from the truth of the violence, aggression, and hate present in the world.
I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI. Not without its racial redlines, but at least optically a bit more progressive than some. They jokingly call A2, the bubble. Inside the bubble it’s peaceful, people are engaged, they are academics, the townies wear Birkenstocks and the newbies smoke weed. Many like to put signs in their yards calling for change and vote blue to make it happen.
In my mind, this is not a bubble, but a dream. Everything is perfectly sweet on the surface, but a continuation of the nightmares below. Neighbors ignore you with smiles and greetings, only sneering upon turning their backs. The many with yard signs widely refuse to pick them up in protest of local issues. Gentrification is masked by terms like community improvement or education expansion, and huge systemic issues are always ‘over there’ but not here. A good place to raise the kids, and totally adhered to the system of subligation.
For me, the bubble broke, or I arose from childhood dreams, when my therapist (one of the newbies, not townies) shared with me her thoughts on providing money to a man experiencing homelessness. Then further deteriorated when speaking to an old teacher about the injustices recapturing the attention of the contemporary world. The complete and final rupture was when a figure from my past told me flat out, I was not woke. And as much as I hated to admit it, she was right.
So now here we are, me on a trek to fully recognize what I don’t, and you reading a piece you thought was about breakfast foods. So let’s get back to that.
Leaving for me feels like this important choice: to egg or not to egg. Do I chance the risk of completely failing, falling on my face and potentially into real, serious danger? Do I escape into a world of waffles – sweet, filling, but empty and all together unhealthy? Or do I jump into the hash, expecting a day full of greatness, intestinal distress or not?
As it goes, I’ve already ordered the eggs, I’ve taken the first few bites, and I feel the oncoming stomach ache. What’s to come is to see if, in the end, all the shit is worth it.