(disclaimer: this post will discuss issues of depression and suicide. Please know that I am very much OK. My process involves speaking/writing about any issues I face in order to give things perspective)
I knew it was coming.
My brain had been bathing in dopamine for the past few days as I bounced around the beautiful northeast. I had done a good job of keeping an eye on my spending and planning, which can both be issues when I’m ‘up,’ and now, with Ari gone, I knew the crash back down was coming.
The ‘up’ time, at least in my own mind, is something to behold. I am a toppler of empires. I’m the funniest person in the room. If I wanted, I could write political and philosophical treatises that would revolutionize the world. I am the most humble person you’ve ever met!
Fortunately, when these kinds of intrusive thoughts flow, I know the come down is just around the corner. So I prepare.
First, I tell someone. Ari, knowing these moods as well as anyone, is usually the only person I need to tell in my goal for solidarity. Generally, I will note that I will “need to sink into some darkness” for a bit, and she will know what’s coming.
I prepare for it like I would a hurricane.
Finishing all of my grocery shopping on the Friday after Ari left, I battened down the hatches.
My process involves Netflix, and lots of it. Fortunately it was a rainy and cold weekend in Melbourne so I didn’t feel too guilty about staying in.
How to describe the feeling? A mixture of a emotions in a swirl, punctuated mostly by a sense of inadequacy. Thoughts that I’m a fraud and everything good that’s come to me is undeserved. Mix this together with a total lack of motivation and, a general anger that I’m having these thoughts at all, and you have my weekend in a nutshell.
Through the week and towards my trip to Darwin, it was difficult for me to get out of my funk. A visit back to the MCG to watch some Rugby certainly helped, and my excitement to travel picked my spirits up. Then, landing in Darwin, I heard the news that Anthony Bourdain had ended his life in Paris.
A knot immediately formed in my stomach.
Suicides are difficult to read about for anyone who has felt or been around that darkness, but Anthony Bourdain was somewhat of a hero to me.
A rebel traveler who broke away from the stale, velvet-roped path most trod by TV hosts, initially, I truly didn’t like him. I thought he was too snarky. That he didn’t really appreciate the culture around him because he was too food-focused. Over the years, I realized that my dislike was based in the deep sense of jealousy I get when someone has seen more of the world than I have.
Anthony Bourdain was also an addict. And anyone who has tackled that beast and gets through the other side is an immediate kindred spirit.
Sitting in the cab on the way into humid Darwin, it was hard for me not to wonder — is this the inevitable future for people like us? Do you ever really beat it?
Reading through his quotes, I came across one that stuck — “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often though, they hurt.”
This was a travel story that hurt, but one has to keep fighting and reaching for the moments that are beautiful.
The hostel, I quickly found, would fall on the ugly side of travel.
Just after 2am, the walls bounced with techno music. Stumbling kids lined the hallway as they planned their late-night feasts. Turning on the lights, the ground moved. Roaches, and lots of them.
I laughed. This, oddly enough, is my kind of travel. Give me a wild card any time over a cookie-cutter hotel room.
Knowing I had 4 hours before I was supposed to be up and out to see the jumping crocodiles of Adelaide, I cocooned myself in sheets and slept face down.
Mere minutes before my alarm was to sound a door slammed above me. Causing something to fall from the ceiling making a noticeable **ping** on my mattress. Coming eye to eye with the mother of all roaches was yet another reminder I was in the tropics.
Using my kindle to flying the monstrosity away from my face, I got ready to face the day.
The first stop was the Adelaide River – home of my favorite animal, the estuarine, or saltwater, crocodile. Since Steve Irwin awed me as a child, I’ve wanted to see one in the wild. And see them I certainly did.
Though in the safety of a caged boat, it was still evident how dangerous these animals are. Especially when the 5.5m, 1-tonner gave us a push with his tail that made the entire craft shake.
After the Adelaide River, I was off again to Litchfield National Park, where I was saw spectacular waterfalls and strange landscapes dotted with magnetic termite mounds.
Deeper into Litchfield, I was able to swim in some non-crocodile infested water, though there were plenty of other animals around!
The next day, I was off to Kakadu National Park.
I should mention that the entire time, I had been watching my phone intently. My sister was back in Austin, very pregnant with her first child. He was set to arrive at any moment and I was going out of cell range.
The drive out to Kakadu was long, but we couldn’t go 10 minutes without sightings of emus, kangaroos, wallabies, dingos and tons of different birds.
The first stop on the trip was the Yellow Water Blillabong, which was lush with life (and, of course, crocodiles).
Next was the famous Angbangbang cave paintings — made by aboriginal inhabitants over thousands of years. The paintings were fascinating — making the long drive well worth it.
But, when we got to a cave with paintings depicting childbirth, and suspected of being where aboriginal women gave birth for hundreds of years, I had a feeling that I would see the news from my sister soon.
Asking the local deity, the Rainbow Serpent, for a safe delivery, I left Kakadu and, as soon as I came in range, my cellphone buzzed frantically. The baby was on the way.
Once back into Darwin, I was a ball of anxiety. I hated being so far away and feeling so out of control. Pumping my parents for information they didn’t have as they flew to Austin, and frequently calling them once they landed — I settled in for a long night.
My sister’s labor lasted over 30 hours. (not a typo, that’s thirty)
By 7am on Sunday, 11 June Darwin Time (10 June in Austin), I was an uncle.
Seeing the first picture of Jack broke me and I let it all out – quickly leaving a cafe as I burst into tears.
Mere hours later and with Jack on my mind, I was lowered into a tank with a saltwater crocodile at Crocosaurus Cove.
It was then I decided to leave my mark, however small. To share my time and travels with someone who has yet to explore the world around him.
Quickly turning my camera around, I recorded myself — talking directly to Jack and sharing facts about my favorite animal. Thinking about all the other videos I can record before he’s 7, 10 and 15. I found my point of light.