Today is apparently one of those days when I’m going to have to deal with feeling caged – caged by expectations, caged by necessity, caged by empathy, caged by apparent gender, caged by loneliness, caged by time, caged by indecision, caged by anxiety.
A day when I hear screams of rage and grief in my head and wish I had a private place to let them out.
I’ve never been a sentimental person, I’ve never been a nester, I’ve never been a collector of things with which to fill a house. I didn’t want a settled suburban existence. Suburbs have the power to crush my soul if I’m not actively fighting the banality of their existence in other ways.
I’ve always been a wanderer and explorer, though.
At 4 years old, I was wandering rural fields digging for old rusted treasures, playing among the gravestones in an abandoned cemetery, and carefully climbing onto the cement platform underneath the little bridge that crossed the creek, eyeing the dark water of unknown depth with fear and determination.
At 7 I was on my hands and knees in ditches peering into culverts, following a different creek that wound by our new-old home, winding my way along cow paths while picking wildflowers, exploring barns and outbuildings, destroying some poor neighbor’s haystacks, and collecting interesting stones, which ended up in my bed for some reason, leading my dad to declare I was clearly not a real princess.
When I learned how to read and discovered fantasy and science-fiction I learned to travel and explore in my imagination as well, wishing that I had a way to travel to other worlds for real, especially when at age 8 we relocated from my rural world to a new, unpalatable suburban world.
I wanted to follow rivers to their source, find and prove dinosaurs still existed* and follow every path I chanced upon to see where it led.
I chafed over flat horizons, endless highways lined with hideous buildings, gutters and ditches and creeks and canals filled with trash, neighborhoods with the same 5 house styles replicated for blocks.
When I was 18, I had the chance to leave my country and visit another, where I spent a month living out of a backpack while staying in hostels and I was enchanted. The reality of my dream of travel had not turned out to be too stressful or too banal, and I did not want to go home. I was enchanted.
I knew well before then that I wanted to be a writer, and that being a writer did not mean fame or fortune or guarantee getting published, and that even if I did get published, it would not guarantee readers and financial independence.
But I figured I could keep working jobs, living frugally, and saving up until I could travel somewhere new, and just repeat this until I felt like doing something different or lucked into financial independence via getting published and popular.
I didn’t crave fame and fortune and security, I craved beautiful horizons and the freedom to pursue them.
I did not end up with that future. I was caged by religious indoctrination, expectations, apparent gender, necessity, loneliness, empathy, and love.
I have people I care about and a high capacity for guilt when I feel I’m letting them down.
I don’t know that I would have it in me to live the life of that adventurous explorer now, even if I had the chance. I know now the heightened risks of traveling alone while appearing female. I don’t have the health, stamina, and hopeful, naive confidence of my teenage self.
I just know I don’t want to feel like I’m caged.
*Thanks for the shitty young earth creationist ‘science’ education, Mom.