Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Perspective from Another Horizon


Theory is one thing, fact another. 

Do you remember those old personality tests you'd take online? The ones that asked you questions like, "You're in a relationship and you learn that your partner has been talking to their ex behind your back. Do you: A. Confront them about it. B. Ask them if..."? 

Those drove me crazy as a kid. I had such a burning desire to understand myself, to know not just who I was but what type of person I was, combined with a dearth of life experience that made the hypothetical scenarios maddening. The invariable result of attempting those quizzes was realizing I didn't have the context to knowledgeably complete them and that therefore I couldn't get an accurate answer. Buzzfeed would never be able to tell me what my inner substance was. Not if I didn't know it myself.

This blog has been my growing-up space. Across the years it's chronicled when a great many milestones that were previously what-ifs became concrete realities, lived experiments from which I could draw conclusions and formulate new hypotheses. What would it be like to live on my own? I found out in Alaska, and discovered that I am a fundamentally weird person who always should have had plenty of personal space--but not too much of it. The theoretical version of me who basked in the glory of dominion over a whole apartment collided eventually with the real version of me who found that the endless days and nights of freedom quickly became infected by loneliness. 

I'd never again want to deal with having to live at someone else's whims or under someone else's rules. But I wouldn't mind dealing with having to share the television. Or having to keep quiet after a certain hour. Or having to leave some hot water. Not if it meant I had someone to come home to. 

But what about an adult job? my 28-year-old mind wondered as I flew hard northwest en route to an Alaska encrusted with ice and snow in the spring of 2017. Won't I just crumple under the pressure?

I adjusted.

But what about having to be in charge of kids? How can they trust me to do that when I'm practically a kid myself?

Duty is a powerful thing. The nurturing instinct is, too. I rose to those occasions. Over the coming years I learned what I'd do if I had conflict with a supervisor, what I'd do if I shifted to a different specialty in my career field, what I'd do if I visited a foreign country, what I'd do in a serious relationship. And what I'd do in another one

In August 2023 I left Alaska, in September began my probationary period of employment at the job I'd been half convinced was too good for me, and in February boarded a flight bound for Europe. One night in Albion was followed by another travel leg, this one diving deep to the southeast--such an odd inverse echo of the journey to Alaska all those years ago--and then in the early hours of February 22, 2024, I disembarked in the place that will be my home for at least the next year: Konkan City.

Being here has allowed me to answer a number of other heretofore-philosophical questions: What if I were wealthy? How would I handle that? What if I had servants? Would I be kind? What if I no longer got my treasured summers off? Could I possibly endure?

The truths gleaned from those queries are mostly good. On the work front, I have more resilience than I thought I did. On the wealth front I've not suddenly become a conspicuous consumer flashing his bank account to the world. No garish cologne or bulky cuff links. No gold-plated toilet seats here. 

And as someone who now pays the salaries of several other someones, and whose patronage is a regular and welcome boost for a few local businesses, I've discovered that the slight irritation I feel at so seldom being truly alone--between the guards at my residence, the drivers who take me around the city, the housekeeper who tends to my domestic tasks, and the cook who prepares my meals I am constantly in the company of people whose livelihood depends on my pleasure and who are eager to signal their concern with my comfort--has not diminished my inclination to treat staff fairly and pay them well. I'm friendly toward these people without being overly familiar, if only because social fatigue will burn me down if I don't have some time when I'm not on a stage. But I'm good to work for.

This place is very different from Alaska. Some things, though, are surprisingly the same. Iceport has just cracked the freezing mark while Konkan is veering closer every day to 100 degrees, and the quarter-million people who had the audacity to call my former home a city look quaint compared to the 25 million crammed into this section of the Sindhu coastline. I make double here what I did as a teacher. I somehow work less. Report cards have been replaced with expense reports, parent conferences with executive meetings where I say little as people astronomically higher on the income ladder than me lay out strategies for sales and engagement and whatever else we must do. But here, as there, I'm far from home, doing work my family doesn't really understand in a place they find exotic. Here, as there, I'm buoyed by a rewarding job. And here, as there, I leave that job to return to an apartment I inhabit alone. 

The true-love thing emphatically did not work for me. I thought I found it with Anthos, but what I found led eventually to me sleeping with an oversized show pillow so I could trick my brain into a few hours' relief from the crushing grief that followed his leaving. It took me a year after he was gone to return to a basic level of functioning, two years to let go of the flame I kept lit for him, the door I kept open. Just in case he realized how good we really were together. Just in case he one day understood that he loved me as much as I loved him. Just in case he came back. Just in case. A year and a half with him and two years wanting to be with him. I mourned us longer than there was us. And I never want to find that particular kind of pain again.

Once in a moment of levity I said to Gavril, whom I dated before Anthos, that I didn't feel fireworks with him but that if we found ourselves stuck together in an arranged marriage I'd be all right with it. And his goofy Chinese ass, rather than being offended, responded with authentic surprise and joy. 

"That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," he beamed.

At the time I worried my relationship with Gavril, which had so much in the way of common interests and temperament but so little in the way of unbridled passion, was too comfortable. Too sedate. Too much like...well, an arrangement. But a scarce two and a half weeks after my thirty-sixth birthday I've decided that what I feared developing with the partner I affectionately called "Chinaman" is now precisely what I'm looking for.

I want an arranged marriage.

Or, at least, a marriage that is an arrangement. A marriage in which, to quote the great Clarisse Renaldi describing the dynamic to her granddaughter Mia, "we grew very fond of one another."

I'm not seeking, to be sure, an economic understanding or something equally detached. But I'm thirty-six. Thirty-six and tired of walking through the world by myself. Thirty-six and aware that each of us only gets so much time. Thirty-six and mindful of the ever more perilous math around how old I'll be for the milestones of prospective children if I have them next year, or the year after, or the year after. Thirty-six and ready to build a life, with a partner who wants to build the same thing and who is tired of falling asleep by himself. I require a man of agreeableness, similar tastes and outlook, financial stability, and goals similar to mine. Those qualities being present, and a basic level of mutual physical attraction with them, love can happen along the way.

This feels like a tall order in a world of hookups, foot fetishists, and men in their thirties who write "ur" en lieu of "you're" in text messages, so I've enlisted the services of a professional matchmaker to help arrange this arrangement. Such a solution is expensive and might not work, but hey: I can afford it. And when we're all running out of time, time spent trying is time spent well.  

I've been so blessed in so many ways. Maybe someday soon I'll have someone to share it with.


kylie said...

I feel like an arranged arrangement works well for lots of people. I hope you find a good match soon

Anonymous said...

Save your money and make a trip to Bangkok/ Thailand or Manila/ Philippines. They will chase you and you will have more choices than expected. I know what I’m talking .

Debby said...

I am very interested in your next chapter!