Heart sliced open. Here it is, pumping on the table.
I finally saw “Into the Wild.” Do you know this story?
It is a true one. A college graduate who wished to seek truth and simplicity gave up his possessions, gave his money to charity, drove his junker car out into the desert and abandoned it and then set off penniless to to make it to Alaska and to make it living in the wild.
I read the book. I know how it ends.
I have often wondered why so MANY people like this movie — find the story compelling - when it is about a chosen experience that few people would ever take.
I cried. Not the choke it back kind, or sobbing, but the streaming down your face, letting it roll kind. When he decides that he is ready to go ‘back,’ he cannot. The river is too wild. He is trapped. He mistakenly chooses the wrong plants to eat and poisons himself.
He kept a diary. That's how we know what happened to him.
A lot of people say we go on such cataclysmic journeys to find ourselves. I have thought about this a lot, and I believe, we undertake such journeys (of all kinds) where we and step off that ledge not knowing what happens when we drop, not to find ourselves but to find how we want to truly live.
How WE believe we are meant to live in this short life.
This guy? As crazy as it sounded, as reckless or as bad an idea it was because he didn’t really know how to do it, it is such a famous story because he did it.
He walked up to that cliff, and he leapt high and far and went for it.
I don’t know if I really ever told you how I ended up here.
Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of going to the Amazon, of living there and being an explorer, and of literally taking a trip around the world. I worked toward it for 12 years before I got on that plane.
I was meant to go in last November and spend 6 months in Nicaragua first. Moneywise, I wised up and realized I had not enough (clearly, I still did not) and stayed an extra three months.
During those months? There were many, many long hours inside this head, fearful and scared. What if I am unable to make this story writing a go? What if I can’t do the tribes, well? What if I come back and can never find a job and am destitute and homeless?
The biggest "What if” was always the loss. Always. Not of things or money … I really care nothing of those in the end … but of … the few really strong ties that I make with people. What if I am lonely? What if I make this journey and give everything up — and am not content? What then?
I had some long writing sessions and talks with myself and in the end, I had to make that leap.
I jumped, high and far and have not looked back.
Know what’s funny?
NONE of the things I was so worried about have come to be. None.
I am not lonely on the road. I make friends easily and love to experience all things, and can find the fun or the good or the interesting in pretty much every single situation. I don’t even mind sliding in a pile of deer poop in front of people. When I hear music I like, I dance. In the national park, under the mountains, and in the super market.
I can not imagine myself not saying “I am a photojournalist working with tribes with disappearing and changing languages” and therefore I will make it work. I am always ready to add news lives to this one I'm living.
Life is so … amazing … really truly amazing, and it is so, so fantastically short. On this airplane as I watched the film, every few hours there is a pang where I have this pang of fear of "Oh my God, we can crash and I would die. I don’t want to die!
My friends have died. I have been to many murder and death scenes and seen dead bodies in my job and so many times, it is so sudden and unexpected. I had found my “one” once. I would have married him. I was 21.
He was there, and then he died. That was it. There is such grief there it is hard to explain. It was only this year that I could truly see his face — see him as he was and who he was — his essence.
I was finally ready to open my heart and let people, in and not protect myself from that grief again. It freed me in that last part of myself that was unable to let go and to leap. Look over that emotional ledge, which is the hardest one.
I think people identify with this film because they admire Chris McCandless, the guy who walked off into the wilderness … because we all long to do “it” whatever that dream is, and many people don't for many reasons.
A long time ago, an editor and mentor of mine from the newspaper business told me: “Kris, you amaze me. I like you because you are fearless.”
I had just told him that I was going into the Amazon for three weeks with scientists I had never met. I had just jumped out of a plane.
For years I have thought about that, and in the end? For me, I believe someone who is fearless is not someone who has no fear but someone who is afraid but follows their dream or mission anyway.
I am always the person you met "Out there," whether in Rochester, in high school, on an overnight train in freezing Czech; the girl who got on that plane 10 months ago.
It is me, still now, with the new seal of “wearing my heart on my sleeve,” still on.
As we I have said many times to souls out here, life is so short. Don't I know it. I am most afraid not of death, but to not live.
All other things? I do without fear. Go live with the Tirikis. Walk into a Bukusu circumcision having no idea what’s happening in a hut near Uganda. Waltz into Kalgoorlie and make a little life there. Those things? They ARE who I am. I am my best self.
I am afraid of caring so deeply, and then having it ripped away; of losing it. The people or the moments, because I know how sweet it is.