Published in Natural Awakenings Atlanta for the column "Walking Each Other Home", November 2022
Before the quarantine I was living my best life, volunteering as a researcher of wild orangutans in Indonesia. My return to the US was just four days before all airports would be closed to international arrivals. I had become so relaxed in the life style of a traveling wildlife volunteer, that I couldn’t have imagined it would end. When I decided to take that four-month world trip, I had no idea that Covid would happen and I would lose my livelihood and have to start over.
When Covid hit I had been nomadic and living single for three years. Living a nomadic lifestyle wasn’t something I had planned necessarily and it was not always easy. It was hard to find others like me traveling alone abroad. Sometimes someone would ask me where I lived but then get very uncomfortable when I’d tell them “I don’t have a home”. Knowing that I could not afford to both pay rent and travel the world at the same time, I chose to sacrifice a home and to become nomadic. I had dreamed of traveling the world extensively since I was a child and I was finally doing it. Travel was important to me, so a little discomfort did not matter. The thought of not being nomadic and working to pay rent each month was more discomforting.
Arriving back to the US when covid hit, I got depressed, like everyone else. We were afraid for our lives and for those of our loved ones. And on top of that, many of us had lost our livelihoods and our jobs. For me the seasonal festival business that was my main income may not be open for years. Right when I had finally reached my goal since childhood, it had ended abruptly. Suddenly I had no income and international travel was off limits. It was time to start something new.
This was not the first time that I’d had to begin a new life. Already, three times before, I had lost almost everything I had. The first time was as a young adult, when I moved from Georgia to the west coast, trying to help a partner escape heroin addiction. Then again, ten years later when I evacuated New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. And once more a few years ago, when my partner and I split up, and we had to sell the earthship home that we had spent the last several years, and every ounce of our income, blood, sweat and tears, to build. Each event was as heartbreaking as the last.
When Covid came along it was my fourth time starting over. It is never any easier than the time before. The only difference now was that starting over was not new to me. I began to wonder, “Why does this keep happening to me?” and “What am I supposed to learn from this lesson?”. It was difficult every time I was sent down a new path and forced to start a new life. Once again, I was heartbroken for a life now gone. The sadness was overwhelming. I needed to know what the universe was trying to teach me for this to keep happening.
Eventually, I began to understand. I remembered the other times that I had lost everything and what had happened next. From my tragedy always came a renewal, a rebirth. I finally began to see that after each loss there was always a better path ahead, and often a much healthier one. That realization would give me the strength and courage to keep going each time.
Choosing to trust that everything would work out, relieved so much worry and sadness that may have stunted my growth moving forward. I feel fortunate to have had those difficult experiences now. They taught me that there is no reason to believe that things will not work out because they always have in the past. Today, those memories of times of loss are a reminder of that. That each time I have had to start over, an even better life than before lay ahead of me.