The Existential Funk

So here I am – a traveler who’s not currently traveling, and a writer who’s not writing enough to win his bread and butter. My predicament leads me to ponder that forever-confounding question: who am I?

From a Zen standpoint, this is a question to which I should be comfortable not knowing the answer – you know, emptiness and all that. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that I have a bit of an existential dilemma on my hands.

Part of the problem, or perhaps the whole of it, is my ego wanting some measure of validation. My self desires identity, and the personae of traveler and writer (or travel writer, maybe?) are both bold and attractive. But it’s important not to get caught up in the idea – the lifestyle of airports, cafes, filled notebooks and wanderlust – while neglecting the substance.

Don’t misunderstand – I love to write, and traveling and meeting people are my true passions in life. But at my age it’s beginning to be a question of talent and soul. The lulls are when I have too much time to think, when I worry that what I’m doing is not enough. I think about the people I look up to – Rolf Potts, Howard French, Eric Pape – and feel inadequate to an extent. Despite being out of university not three weeks, I feel there’s a fire under my ass and that I’m slow on the uptake.

In a conversation yesterday, my friend posited that perhaps it’s simply that you never hear about the downtime that famous writers take – and not that they never take it. That sounds reasonable, but whether it’s my conditioning, my perceptions of success or a legitimate aspect of being driven, I can’t help but feel stagnant in a way.

There’s no easy answer to my existential question, but maintaining a balance is key; I can’t live my life or interpret my identity entirely through the frame of my future aspirations. I love where I’m at and I’m blessed to have the good people that surround me. Perhaps this restlessness is part of who I am, and I’ll figure out the angles just by following where it takes me.


4 Responses to “The Existential Funk”

  1. 1 pam June 13, 2007 at 9:34 am

    You’re not alone, this happens to all the roaming writers, I think. I wrote about it some time back, I hope you’ll indulge the link:

    Also, I have a “day job” – and while I love love love to write travel and am giddy every time I sell a story, most travel writers will tell you, I think, not to quit YOUR day job. You see that all the time.

    Good luck getting out of it. Daily Transit is great, so I’m sure the state is only, a-hem – transitory.

  2. 2 dailytransit June 13, 2007 at 11:43 am

    pam – thanks for the kind and encouraging words. your post was great, and being a Seattle native myself I can relate whole-heartedly to those winter blues. I used to stare out onto the Sound for hours, picturing the world “over there.” I have to say, it was much better looking back from the other side of the Pacific and marveling at how far I’d come…

    A day job is of course essential, and I’m working out the angles to shift my freelance reporting career into something more stable – for a bit. I’ve got some savings to subsist on, and that should help me ride this out until I’m on the road again.

  3. 3 Mike June 16, 2007 at 11:14 am

    I sometimes feel as though I’m in the same “holding pattern”. I long to be a full-time traveler and a writer (though perhaps not necessarily a “travel writer”), but it’s difficult to believe I could be either when the business cards on my desk read “Creative Director” and I’m still punching a 9-to-5 clock in a big, beige office building.

    I think the best solution is not to seek validation at all, unless it’s from within. Be passionate about what you write and the experiences you undertake and the rest will likely follow. I think blogging provides a measure of external validation – people read your work and oftentimes provide feedback. But if validation is the impetus (and for you I know it’s not, but hypothetically …) for why you’re writing rather than simply writing about whatever your passion is, the validation will certainly be short-lived.

    There’s always going to be someone bigger, better, and more prominent than you in virtually any field. I think it’s important to have mentors, but measuring yourself against their successes is sure to just beat you down.

    Just my $0.02.

  4. 4 herb-aceous December 23, 2008 at 4:41 am

    when you step back and take it all in, it’s nice to say it’s good, then on to the next thing that moves you. a fresh idea drops in and says let’s do it and you are on your next adventure. never be the same, only better. as long as you can think and feel, you have immeasurable worth. wall street will never get it.

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