Expat Diary July 21, 2018 – Moving past the half life
The week since I’ve been back to Bali has been largely uneventful – well, except getting hit by a motorbike the first day. I was crossing the street in front of my villa, heard the sound of a young girl squeal behind me, and next thing I knew me and my groceries went flying on the pavement. As locals came running to check on me, two girls about 11 perched on the bike were apologizing profusely: “sorry, mister!” And that’s one of the downsides of living in a developing country. You might get mowed down by a couple of sixth graders on a narrow road.
Fortunately, I was fine – nothing more than some scrapes and scratches on my leg that you’ll find on every second person that habitates this island full of narrow roads and kids driving motor vehicles – but it does underscore that Bali can be a dangerous place. And except for excursions out at night, when it’s cooler out, I’ve mostly spent the time in my room wor—-er, doing laptop projects.
There’s a couple of ways you can look at this. One is that I’m in one of the most beautiful places in the world, 12 minutes’ walk from the beach and I’m choosing to hang out most of the time in my villa (which to be fair, is pretty sweet – I scored a deal on a place that was doing a grand reopening. Cable TV, new decor, good wi-fi, pool, niiiicee…).
The other, which is the way I am looking at it, is this is the crucial step that I needed to take to establish a life in Asia. At some point, if you’re really going to do this, you need to figure out how to maintain yourself, what percentage of your time is going to be devoted to enjoying your environment vs. sustaining your ability to be here.
It’s looking more and more certain that I will be back in the U.S. for a few months to wrap up some affairs in the near future. I don’t want my life to turn into an endless cycle of being in Asia but running home to the U.S. periodically to make money. If it turns out there’s a financial incentive to be bicontinental, I suppose that’s fine. But that’s not something I want to do by necessity. I’m not a young man. There’s enough time left to me, God willing, to start something new and see it through, but it can’t be something I put off indefinitely.
I’m alert to the idea that when we escape boxes we build for ourselves in our lives, we have a tendency to build new boxes. This is a concern. But honestly, the things I did back in the U.S. careerwise I mostly enjoyed. Yes, I did get tired of performing, but the recording and producing and also the social aspect of music were mostly enjoyable to me (except for the physical discomfort of being behind the computer, which seems to be lessening, thank God).
What I didn’t like back in L.A. was that when the time came to take a break from work, there was really nothing else for me to do. I would leave the house, go for a hike, eat dinner alone maybe, and come back. In my age bracket, and with a city as sprawling as Los Angeles, it was too difficult to access my network of friends and very uninspiring to go out and “try” to meet people – people that, because of my peculiar life, I often had little in common with.
Here, whenever I decide I’ve had enough of the digital world, I can turn off the laptop, go outside…and I’m on a beautiful tropical island full of friendly people, interesting places to see, and a new culture to assimilate. And when that gets old, if it does, I can move on to another place for awhile. By starting to figure out how to pull the threads of my old life as a producer, musician and record promoter over to this side of the world, I’m finally getting away from having half a life here, and half a life there. I can see some semblance of balance coming into view. And I’m also relieved to see that, though I’m still not quite paying my way yet, the amount I’m having to bail myself out from savings is thankfully lessening with each month.
So why have I been in a funk for the last week? Well, as they say, no matter where you go, there you are. When the external factors in your life start to line up, you start to see more clearly how you get in your own way.
My basic personal problem is I tend to have a deep need for things that are basically in opposition to one another. I have a great need for social contact, but I also need a lot of alone time, and I’m easily overwhelmed if I don’t get it. I also have a great desire to find a home and a place where I belong, but I’m also easily bored and can get restless if I don’t have some sense of exploration and discovery in my life.
In my 30s, I dealt with this dichotomy by going on the road. For that time, it was a perfect solution – the road was different every day, but it was also the same every day. I also loved it because I didn’t have to think very much. It was strenuous and difficult but it was also simple. You drive to the gig, you set up for the gig, you play the gig, you tear down for the gig, you go find your couch, rinse, repeat.
Eventually I got tired of it and tried to root myself in various ways, but it didn’t quite work out. Some of it was that my health collapsed and made being out in the world much more difficult – and I still deal with some of those issues to this day – but some of it was just my basic restlessness. Nothing ever felt quite right to settle into.
Now, here I am, and to some extent it’s like being on the road all over again. I have places where I feel comfortable and welcomed and stimulated. But I’m still shifting locations periodically, still trying new things out. In theory (unlike in the United States) living in Asia would allow me to continue this way for the rest of my life. That’s an option, but I hope it doesn’t work out that way. There are new challenges in my life that I want to undertake – challenges of commitment, of partnership, of adopting a place as my own. I know that it’s not time yet for that. It’s actually prudent to be a little flighty at this point in the game – not get too caught up in one place, one person, one line of endeavor – while I am still figuring things out like sustainability and the pratfalls that await me in the various cultures I am grappling with.
I always said when I left the U.S. that my hope was at some point something would call out to me and say “this is what you want to do,” and I could enthusiastically commit to that. That is not something that I can force to happen, nor should I. For the time being, rebooting Karma Frog and the process that’s underway with that is absorbing and interesting to me and I’m fine focusing in that direction. Though I’m less than enthusiastic about returning to the United States – particularly as the collapse I’ve predicted for some time seems more and more imminent – I am excited about reuniting with my band and some interesting shows that are in the works.
What I hope doesn’t happen is that when I return here with a life underway, it doesn’t become a life of endlessly flitting from one thing to another. If that’s what I’m destined for, if that’s what makes me happy, so be it…but coming here in the first place required a leap of faith, a step into the unknown that scared the crap out of me, but turned my life around. I hope that if that opportunity comes again, whether it’s days or years from now, I’ll recognize it for what it is, take that step, and be happy I made it.
For now, though, the greatest lesson living here has taught me is patience. So I will type on my laptop, and go through my tasks for the day, and then I will go to the beach. And be happy for what I have, and try not to worry about the rest of it for the time being. For the present, I’m where I need to be, getting what I need to get done, done.