I like analogies. If you know me, if you’ve ever read my personal journal – which you haven’t or I’d have to seriously maim you – you would know that I tend to find deeper meaning in a lot of common everyday things. I see Truth in normal situations and depth in mundane occurrences. Drawing similarities out of these ordinary happenings helps me gain new perspective on some of life’s nagging questions and helps me to process difficult issues. Since one such analogy has to do with traveling, I thought it appropriate to include in my blog. The issue is that of a life in transit and what that means for my relationships.
People are constantly coming in and out of my life. They enter, stake their claim, shake things up a bit, and are gone again. It’s not their fault that our relationship is short lived, I’m not even saying whether this continuous overturn is inherently good or bad, it’s just the nature of this transient life I’m leading. And yet, even though it’s my choice to seek new adventure and explore new horizons, it doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy this constant coming and going. In fact, I tend to have a really hard time with it. Especially when I let myself get really close to someone, knowing full well our time is limited. The goodbye is inevitable and it’s always painful. Yes, these people always add something precious to my life, but they also take with them something precious when they leave.
It was my first time in Istanbul when I met Steven. We were instantly close and had everything in the world to talk about. We sat over fish sandwiches and Turkish tea exchanging tales from our travels; me philosophizing about why we travel, Steven regaling with episodes of his journey from Cape to Cairo. We wandered around the city together, getting helplessly lost, taking loads of pictures, browsing shops… laughing the entire time. We became incredibly close in just those four days. Needless to say, goodbye was difficult. Especially in our situation where there was absolutely no way of knowing if or when we would see the other person again. I’m American, he’s British, we met in Istanbul as I was passing through – not the best of conditions for a blossoming friendship. It turned out that Noel and I were actually able to return to Istanbul two other times in our travels, but goodbye only got harder. I was still raw from saying goodbye to all my friends in Korea and South Africa. I was just plain sick of “goodbye”….
This is probably about the time that you’re rereading the title of this blog and wondering what the heck a “dolmuş” is and what it could possibly have to do with sad goodbyes. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Dolmuş, pronounced doll-moosh, is like a shared taxi-van. Many of the countries Noel and I went to had their own version of this. South Africa had white vans that seemed to kidnap people every few blocks and hold their ransom at 4 rand. Turkey was similar, but yellow instead of white. It was basically a taxi with a set route. If you were going in that direction, hop on! Then when the van was full you’d set off. A pretty smart concept, if you ask me.
So I was on the dolmuş from Bakirköy to Taxşim after saying goodbye to Steven for the last time, and I was struck with the thought: Life is like a dolmuş. My life is like a dolmuş that I’m driving. I’m going my way, I’m following my route, I have set destinations (regardless of whether I know what they are or not). I’m turning the van, choosing the pace, accelerating, breaking. I’m in control*. People who want to go my way climb into my van and join me. Some may get out after a few blocks, some may stay for the whole route. But they always reach their destination and go their own way. Our lives only align up to a certain point. Eventually the van empties and new passengers board. This is what my life is like. Destination: high school. Destination: College. Destination: Korea. Destination: home. At every destination my dolmuş empties and new people come in. There is joy in the newness of every journey, but there is tremendous loss at the end of each voyage.
I don’t know where I’m going next, and I don’t know who will join me on my way or how long they’ll stay, but I’m longing for the day when someone comes on board and doesn’t leave. We decide together where to go, we share the burden of driving and there’s no destinations but the ones we share. I know you’re sticking your fingers down your throat trying to gag away the cheesiness… Trust me, I am too. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired of goodbyes. Maybe, just maybe, this dolmuş needs to park for a little while and wait for the right passengers to come along….. but then again, maybe the right passengers are just a few blocks away.