Love, Our Common Truth

IT FEELS STRANGE to be alone again. It’s 5:45 am, and I just said goodbye to one of my best friends who had joined me for my final ten days in Lisbon.

I’m headed to Milan for a layover before heading to Calabria, the southernmost region of Italy where I’ll be working on a farm for the next few weeks.

I take a sip of espresso from the paper cup and ball up the white, crunchy wrapping of my final pastel de nata.

Is it sacrilege to say this airport pastel, enjoyed with bleary, misty eyes, has been the best one? Maybe it’s just been the most emotional.

I toss away the trash and stack the dull grey tray amongst the others. I sit back down, as I still have an hour to saunter to my gate.

The airport fills as morning dawns. It’s peculiar to watch the airport’s energy shift — a few hours ago it felt like the place to go for people who don’t know where to go. That was Mo and me.

Nobody looked like they wanted to be there, but like us, they had to be. The rules change. You sleep on the ground, you eat things you normally wouldn’t because you deserve it, damn it; you wait.

Now, the airport’s a bustling threshold of beginnings and ends.

There’s a woman in the food court who’s also alone, and I wonder what she’s feeling.

Has she had to say goodbye? Is it the beginning of an adventure? Is it just another day? Is she afraid? It would seem bizarre to ask, hey, I saw you from across the food court and I just want to know what you’re feeling.

We remain mysteries to each other and ourselves. Yet little by little through this journey of life, that mystery unravels. We traverse through the physical world and, in doing so, our own inner landscape.

As we do, and if we’re fortunate, we might realize that our worlds aren’t so different.

Experiences vary. Our outer worlds can be as juxtaposed as night and day — upbringings and backgrounds, lessons learned, and the weight of the baggage we carry.

But I know because I feel it deeply, that we’re all human seeking a common truth.

I’ve spent the past two months working and living at a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal. I made more connections with other wandering souls than I can count.

To wander doesn’t mean you’re lost. To wander is to question and embrace this trip that we’re on.

You never know who will leave an impact on your soul. You can’t imagine who you will change.

These past two months were formative for me, partly because of what I did, but more so because of what I learned. I learned about myself through interactions, decisions, thoughts. I’ve better perceived my character and the type of person I hope to be.

The experience in Lisbon is still fresh in my mind and heart, as it flashed by quicker than I can comprehend. Yet this common truth, the answer to every question our hearts can ever hope to ask, is love.

Love is that shape-shifting presence that is felt, shared, and boundless.

Love is what we can’t explain, and why we feel so deeply.

Love is the will to live, the force that causes us to rise in the morning when all we’ve seen, heard, and read tells us that there’s no reason.

Love is our innate desire — our longing to do good, our effort to be better. These feelings are entwined with human nature, ancient as the hills on which Lisbon stands.

Love is why it’ll tear at us to go through the motions of a life that isn’t ours. We can hardly explain any of these things, yet they all lead to love, for love is the clear and welcomed path out of the dark forest of existence.

It’s the dark green color of the grass in the afternoon shade. It’s each soul passing by in peace, not needing to burst like a balloon, but knowing, just knowing, deep within your being, that what you feel and what I feel can’t be so different.

Love is every smile shared between a child and adult — a child who reacts to a world they don’t yet know, an adult who’s touched by a world they thought they knew.

Love is every time we look into the sky and wonder what the stars contain.

It’s not the end but a beautiful beginning, the glowing light of infinity that wakes us from our daydream.

Maybe we’re all just children, growing older every day. We easily lose sight of this, as life shapes us without mercy. It’s the spirit of the kid we must retain, to one day grow old, weathered and strong, with the light of a star still in our eye.

Love keeps the stars shining.

It’s sad to say goodbye; it’s been a while since we’ve spent time together like this, both questioning the world and our place in it.

We’d laughed a hell of a lot during these ten short days, on buses and with friends we’d just made. We laughed just as we’ve always done, no matter the situation we’re thrown into. That’s what makes us brothers.

Neither of us knows exactly where our journey will lead. It’s a gift to have a friend, somebody close, to share in that not knowing.

Perhaps you’re lucky if you know exactly what you want from life — the world tells us what we should want, and it’s challenging to disentangle the two.

This is something not to be feared, but embraced with courage for what the world might present when we get out there, when we dive within, and try.

I recently heard a quote by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield, which has impacted me greatly. Pressfield said:

People always tell you that life is short. But actually life is long. What I would say to a younger person is take some pressure off yourself. There's all this bull shit in the social media that there's a hack and that you can do it tomorrow. Enjoy the trip. Pay attention, and keep your eyes open on the journey.

Mo and I spent a lot of time talking about what we truly want to do with our lives. Time is what we make of it. It’s not the duration that counts, but what we fill our days doing.

My interpretation of what Pressfield means is that life can be a long, meaningful adventure. Not meant to be rife with anxiety from the pressure to make it all happen today.

Life can be a human endeavor emblematic of the hero’s journey, full of trial and error, tears of joy and tears of pain which fall from experiencing the full breadth of our time on earth. It’s a long process with so much to learn.

Maybe we expect it to be otherwise. We should know what we want, because it seems that everybody else does. We should know who we are.

But these answers don’t fall upon us all at once. They come, if we’re lucky, like scattered drops of rain on a moody summer’s day. Perhaps it couldn’t hurt to take the pressure off; it doesn’t all need to make sense.

When I look back on this chapter in a year, in five or ten, I won’t recall the moments of insecurity, the questioning and doubt. I’ll think about laughing with other beautiful souls, old friends and new.

I’ll remember the days when I would step onto the hostel’s balcony to listen to the rain. How happy it would make me just to watch it fall.

I’ll savor the nights I spent wandering the streets alone, moved to a point of disbelief by the color, the energy, the light that is Lisbon. You are here, I would tell myself. That’s all you have to truly be.

I believe this more and more with each passing day.

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