Tough question

“Is this your house?”

The woman was 60-ish. Nicely coiffed and coutured. We had probably both attended high school at the same time. We had probably since followed a familiar trajectory—marriage, kids, job, maybe a divorce, maybe a second marriage.

It was a logical question. I was “mature”—the elder female of the group. One would assume that I had lived in this farmhouse for years, tastefully remodeling it as the kids left and I became more financially secure. My husband was probably out in the barn. He was probably nearing retirement, and we were settling into our cozy golden years.

*     *     *

Sometimes, an innocuous question like that takes me by surprise because my trajectory is so far from normal. It’s one thing to do the RTW backpacking adventure when you’re young. But for all my overblown rhetoric about so-much-to-see-so-little-time, the fact is that I’m an anomaly among my peers, which is another word for weird.

Most of the time I don’t care. I’m often in places where weirdos are common. Where people come and go by many different paths.

But here, in my own midwestern backyard, that isn’t so much the case. Here, people work, put their kids through college, take care of their homes, live in the same place for years, and have certain expectations about the way things ought to be. I know this, and I respect it. The Midwest breeds stable, decent, hardworking people.

So why would that question knock me off my pins? Is it because I’m insecure in my life choice? Am I that uncomfortable being “different?”

Well, for one thing, I DO know this culture and its values. I was raised in this midwestern cradle, so when I see that look of incomprehension and feel the grit grinding in the mental gears that try to position me in some social strata, I feel like I’ve just told my mom I’ve dropped out of school. Because here (and, I suspect, elsewhere) judgements are based on the quality of the house, the prestige of the career, and the value of the ancillary accoutrements. I’ve always been a loser at that game anyway, but turning in my chips for an uncomfortable transient life is a choice few of my contemporaries would aspire to. And in fact, few have. I only know of a handful of women my age who travel solo fulltime, although I suspect there are a lot more that I haven’t heard of.

So I see myself through the incredulous eyes of my peers, and I am reminded of just how different I am.

Do I care deeply? No. It’s just an odd and uncomfortable niggle. An unexpected and unflattering reflection, like a sudden glimpse in a store window, that makes you wish you’d done your hair and makeup.

“No,” I told the woman. “This is my son and daughter-in-law’s house. I live in the 14-foot trailer behind the barn.”

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14 Responses to Tough question

  1. Ara and Spirit 3 November, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    “One Man. One Dog. One big world. Many roads…A travel journal for wanderers of all sorts”.

    Sorry, I just had to as I felt the similarity of us, to the Day strangely 5 years later with a moto, sidecar and by now a few tents! We just took possession of a car though! How strange… we will be trailering.
    Good for you… so what for the 2G showers… Mother Nature is generous.
    Great Show you have.
    Be well… we might just see you on the road.
    Ara and Spirit

  2. Your envious daughter 2 November, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Good stuff mumsy! I appreciate you being an anomaly. I think you gave me some of the weird gene too. Fly on!

    • Kate 2 November, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

      Tank you berry much, Envious Daughter. Take that gene and fly with it yourself. I’m looking forward to your trajectory.

  3. Erik 1 November, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    In the end, you have to live with yourself and your decisions, and you’ve done quite nicely.

    • Kate 2 November, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

      See you somewhere on the road, Erik? I’ll be that weirdo in the little trailer on some lonesome highway.

  4. Anne 30 October, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I think you should be proud of yourself for havin’ the balls to do something not everyone would do! Who said it’s no fun to swim against the stream?
    People probably feel just as uncomfortable as you do, when hearing the answer to the “is this your house”-question? Because it makes them think about their lives – always following the one plan – house, kids, enjoying the retierement on their front porch. But who would be brave enough to get out of all this to travell on their own? Most people wont – part of it is certainly the “what will others think of me”-question? But honestly – who cares, as long as you’re happy with what you do and feel comfortable about it? Let those narrow-minded people stick to their plan as you stick to yours… and write them postcards from all the amazing places you’re visiting 😉
    I am very proud of you for actually doing this after talking about it for years and I hope that you’ll have a long and pleasant journey coming up!

    • Kate 2 November, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

      Maybe I’ll meet you on part of that long and pleasant journey to the Canadian maritimes, hey?

  5. jean selby 30 October, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    I’ve known you for a long ime. You aren’t weird, you never were. Just your silly impression of yourself.
    Well, maybe now you are a bit off the center road. But if you enjoy it, carry on.

  6. David 29 October, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I wish I could have the mental strength to do what you are doing. Life is to short to spend at a 40-50 hr/wk job, its just so hard to not conform.

    • Kate 29 October, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      All true: life is too short, and it’s hard not to conform. It’s also scary to chuck over all those accoutrements that make us feel so secure.
      But…there’s a time for chucking, and this was mine. I’m glad I did, even if it makes me a weirdo.

  7. Cyndy Pietronico 29 October, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Remember the grass always looks greener…..Life is an adventure and you should be proud that you are courageous enough that you live it as you see fit, not as everyone thinks you should. Carry on!!

    • Kate 29 October, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

      Well, there’s no going back now. But, honestly, except for missing the garden and the hot shower, the grass doesn’t look too green over the fence.

      (Hi, Cyndy–glad you’re still with me.)

  8. Mary 28 October, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    love you Kate ~ who’s house by the way?

    • Kate 29 October, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      I can feel the love, Mary. Thanks.
      My son and daughter-in-law’s. The picture isn’t actually their beautiful house. I had already mailed my camera to NY City where I am now, so I had to find a stock photo.

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