I’ve got highways for stretch marks, see where I’ve grown?

Yesterday I woke up certain I knew who I was and where I was going. I wanted to write lists of details. This is who I’ve been. At 6 am I fought with my alarm, acted out “that crazy, annoying American in my hostel” and made package camp coffee before leaving for the bus. I waited exactly where the previous bus had dropped me off, but the stop was on the other side of the building. Because the bus driver was a wonderful person, I was able to get on the bus. She did point out my ticket was for the next day. She was kind while I frantically searched for the correct information showing I was supposed to be on the bus that day. The actual answer was during all my detailed planning, I missed a day. I had nowhere I needed to be.

I explained this to my driver and she talked me through running in, updating my ticket date and coming out to show her. I emphatically thanked her and was preparing for a crazy five minutes as I exited the train when she said, “It’ll be the same price and you’re not coming back this way anyway.” She shrugged and said not to worry about it. We talked for a while about where I’m headed next. This was the beginning of being guarded about where I’m from and where I’ll end up on this trip. It’s intense enough without continuously repeating, “I’m moving and this is how I’m doing it.”

I did manage to get enough slow cell phone Internet service to book a hostel before the next bus stop. Thank you to Via Rail’s advertising for letting me know stations are nearly always downtown. Also, thanks to Hostel International Canada for partnering so well with Via Rail and having a slow cell phone internet friendly website once I got to the booking information. I nearly paid for the wrong date. I almost panicked when I caught the error. I did wonder if I could even do this. This thought was enough to send me to the Maps App where I checked the address to confirm proximity. I was now deep enough in the Toronto suburbs I could do this without issue. Everything matched. I could do this. I told myself I was going to be okay.

When I was going through hypnotherapy with my therapist, she explained the most important part of reliving past trauma is learning how to care for yourself when you’re nearly finished. Together we explored things from my past that felt terrible and she taught me how to offer my inner child a space where she felt cared for and safe, by me. This isn’t an endorsement for relying only on oneself. I remember my father saying I didn’t have anyone else I could count on over and over again as a child. He was wrong.

This is about building community and safe spaces. Without my bus driver, I wouldn’t have made it out of Niagara Falls. If she’d said I couldn’t get on the bus, whatever happened next would’ve depended on the lady behind the counter at the bus station. How I interacted with each of them changes every situation and discussion of how well this trip is going. My candor and honesty about what were happening were the only reason I didn’t get kicked off the bus. That’s relying on the kindness of strangers and it’s something that’s very hard.

At the next bus station, I stopped at the counter to fix my tickets. I didn’t want to fix anything beyond Toronto because I’d already booked a night there. Canada has a complex system of trains. There’s the national train, but also local trains for major metropolitan areas. It’s not so different from America. The ticket I had was purchased through Via Rail, but it was for a GO Train. The counter was for GO Train. They did not have access to my Via Rail account or ticket and could not help me. They suggested I call to update my ticket. It’s twenty cents a minute in Canada and I am sometimes stubbornly cheap. I asked if they had anyone checking for tickets on the trains. He said, “It’s not worth the risk. I’d call and update what you have.”

I’d been thinking about risk for the past few days. I’m having a hard time writing about the Midwest. It’s something I expected and it was a risk I was willing to take – blogging about my travels while being unable to write about emotionally intense sections. I was staring at a boulder in the white water rapids at Niagara Falls. I kept wondering

When they say keep going, do they imagine I’m the boulder or the water?  Do they say it without knowing? Is it just a hope that I’m the water and not the boulder being eroded over time by the constant pressure of the ruthless water? Am I just hoping I’m the water? Is the risk that I’m the boulder?

So, I knew I wouldn’t be calling Via Rail. I did try to buy a GO Transit ticket to replace my previous ticket, but only after I was on the train platform and a minute or so before it was scheduled to arrive. I kept trying once I boarded the train. Honestly, I was a bit jumpy because I was scared the fines would be outrageous and the person checking for tickets would not be kind. In the end, I couldn’t get enough Internet and no one came through. This isn’t a cautionary tale because I’m not really telling any of those this trip. It is, however, a reminder to only take calculated risks. The boulder was probably put there by ice under circumstances entirely out of its control.

The minute I stepped off the train I felt so much better. Almost immediately a few friends were messaging me as if they knew it was time. What’s lovely about the space I’m in right now is the friends who message me are from a wide range of time periods in my life. Even so, all of them are asking the same questions and offering the same encouragements. This move is clearly something they all see as a net positive, no matter how big the risk.

The rest of the day was a hodgepodge of me filling in pieces of who I am. A puzzle of reconnecting who I’ve been with who I’m becoming. I was worried about continuity of identity a lot the past two years. The first two weeks on this trip I realized there was never a high risk I’d lose that core sense of self I developed as a teenager. Usually this is the part where I slip into third person because I have a hard time directly talking about personal things. Today I can’t do it. I’ve been worried I’m stagnating instead of allowing myself growth options. A more accurate term would’ve been stalled. Connecting the various parts of who I am is an integration I’ve struggled with my entire adult life. My therapist and I had a few long discussions about to what detail this was an important thing to do. She wasn’t telling me anything new; I was just resisting.

Relying on the kindness of strangers, having a lingering expectation friends from across my life will be reaching out, and understanding how society works well enough to find affordable last minute accommodations while being paranoid I’m breaking a law while traveling internationally – these are massive things and ensure I’m never entirely alone. I have to interact. The same people I confirm are safe confirm I am safe. Understanding how I interact with society only comes from shared knowledge from others. Trusting in others and myself to this degree is something I’ve been seriously struggling with. Seeing myself do it like I never had a choice was really rewarding. Its good to know I’m still interested in connecting, even if socializing in the hostel was too much interaction once I was in Toronto. All the work I’ve been doing the last two years keeps showing me it’s paying off and I’m starting to see little buds growing on my branches.

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