There’s a trope in video games where all the fun of being a one-man army is ruined by needing to protect someone. Video games, an escapist form of entertainment by and large, usually have an archetypal male who has martial arts skills, an arsenal of guns, athletic build, and sheer determination to rise up to overcome impossible odds, being the hero we fantasize about being. Then the trope comes: the princess is no longer the one we are trying to save at the very end of the quest from the dragon, but instead is the president’s daughter whom we find near the halfway point of the game plot. She is vulnerable, a pain in the ass, argumentative, bossy, and now the freedom to handle anything with reckless abandon is now turned to babysitting a brat while surrounded by zombies. This is known as the escort mission trope, and that is how I have come to view what being in a relationship is like after my personal experiences and the fact I live a vagabond’s life, adventuring through dangerous spots.
A little over years ago was when my last relationship ended. I’ve had a few dates here and there, but nothing serious. I had a serious thing going on earlier this year, but ultimately, it was a reminder of why another person in my life is a distraction, and I’m better off alone. It wasn’t a relationship, per se, it was a holiday fling that I tried to extend beyond what I should have realistically expected from a backpacker. Thankfully, we remain friends, but that’s only through mutual effort to be adults instead of children.
It was during that time I saw how vulnerable I was to the volatility of someone else’s emotions and approval, leading to emotional blackmail and self-loathing. It was also a time where in finding a way out of that abyss, I realized I have it pretty good: I have my education, I’m traveling, making a difference everywhere I go, making good art (with the camera, pen, and guitar), and most of all, great friends who believe in me and care. To put my self-worth in the hands of someone else is like Mario going through the castle only to be told the princess isn’t there, making his effort almost seem like a waste, but ultimately, go through enough castles, and you’ll find her at the end.
I’m not out to save anymore princesses. I’m out for adventure. I’m also no hero right now, I’m a mercenary–I need to find something worth my time to do the things I have done. Getting the job done isn’t going to happen with another distraction, and I don’t need to save a princess unless I’m being paid well. If I were to have someone, it would be someone whom I could rely on to do what I do as well as or better and challenge me to only improve myself. Someone I don’t have to save, but can save herself and save me if need be, best illustrated in this shoot-out and marriage proposal scene between Meryl and Johnny:
Or to be rockstars like the real life couple and bandmates, Matt and Kim:
Again, with the life I live, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can climb mountains, sail oceans, dive in dangerous depths, handle a rifle as well as I do my handgun, take on people with the fists of fury, read the books I love, or make art to keep sane in a world that is quickly falling apart. Nope: not gonna happen, and I’ve pretty much concluded I’m better off alone. There’s only room for one woman in my heart anyway, and that’s my grandmother back in Pittsburgh.
How do I see myself these days, when I look at the pariah I am to many? Well, I try to live like a hero, walking between messiah and martyr complex. Too many comic books, science fiction movies, and video games lead to this fantasy world in my head that I return to in order to find a level of madness that keeps me sane. I’m the guy who wakes up in another world, alone and stuck with nothing but memories of people he cared about and his own moral code keeping him fighting on. Replace that with me instead having friends elsewhere in the world and not close by, and I am still that lone wolf wandering through the desert on my way to the city where I will face my fears and do the right thing with my sword.
I’m the lone gunslinger journeying out west away from the trappings of civilization, offering to do what no one else will do to survive.
I’m the wandering samurai who serves no other master than his highest ideals, who lives day to day helping others and is left with their charity to feed, clothe, and shelter him.
I’m an exiled prince who is dead to his family and his village, forced to wander the world and live by only what he can do, unable to relate to others because they do not know his ways from where he came from, and he does not understand the strange things they do.
I’m the wounded war veteran who deserted his squad in favor of peace, turned mercenary to survive since he can’t live in civilization.
I’m the lone space explorer voyaging through the cosmos, across worlds alien and familiar, frightening and fascinating at the same time, the only one equipped for the strange universe we live in.
I’m the sailor on the seas of fate, doing penance for angering the gods, looking for “home” and holding on only because of the memories of what it must be like.
And this is me right now, with my camera and guitar, riding the motorcycle across the earth, and this is what freedom sounds like to me:
For this very reason, no woman should, could, or would in her right mind follow me, let alone bear my children. So it’s a blessing that the past few months have forced me to be alone and happy with that, and it feels good to be responsible for no one else but myself. Most of the lovesick fools out there want someone else’s love, but it comes with a price, and they don’t know the freedom I know now because they forget too quickly what it’s like to be a prisoner to someone else’s emotions and emotional blackmail.
My freedom came from the moment I climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia back in July of this year. I never reached the summit (about a hundred meters before I realized it was too dangerous and I should turn back and live to try again another day), but I’ve been climbing the metaphysical mountain still. When I made my way all the way back down, I looked at myself and realized I do pretty well, and am better than I thought I was. I can do anything and if I can endure the impossible, why are my thumbscrews another person’s approval, whether in love or as in my last entry, their acceptance?
Manila sucks, L.A. is abhorrent, my grad school program IRPS was a joke, and relationships that don’t empower aren’t worth the heartache no matter how great the sex may be. Living alone with just a couple bags and a guitar makes it easier to save up and move at the drop of a hat.
A lot of couples I talk to nowadays look at me with envy, for the freedom they don’t have. They are happy to be with someone, but love (or whatever it is they have) isn’t enough to keep them happy. Me? I have my freedom, and the price of freedom is high. But I won’t trade it away for anything.
Sometimes I see myself in a war zone darting between gunfire in some temples and cathedrals, or running underneath the tunnels in Venice as a faint opera voice is singing and shots are blazing as I run and hide to finish my final mission. Of course I’ll live–I’ve survived worse. I know I’ll eventually find myself after each tough mission riding in a car back to the front porch of my grandmother’s home to see her and rest, because only when my work is done can I rest.
That image of fighting these endless conflicts and surviving them sometimes involves two kids I adopt as my own, a boy and a girl, whom I teach to be strong, survive, fight, make art, and help others, continuing my legacy. My family lineage ends with me, and a new one begins based off of ideals, not bloodlines and inheritance. Quite honestly, another parent would get in my way. My father was one who could raise two kids on his own, and there’s something I romanticize about being a lone wolf with two cubs. But then again, I am probably talking out of my ass, as I romanticized death before, only to find out how much of an annoyance it was, particularly when climbing down Mount Elbrus.
So no. No fantasies about death, no fantasies about being a single father of two adopted kids (they are a pain in the butt like the trope earlier mentioned about protecting someone who gets in the way of your mission), no fantasizing about the perfect partner, whether it’s cute and bubbly Ellen Wong, artistic and vulnerable Thao Nguyen, or Bohemian and adventurous Faye Wang. The only certainty I have is that I am better off alone since I don’t have to manage anyone else’s emotions or emotional blackmail, just my own happiness and well-being. I can be present in other people’s lives at a distance and through my works. I’m a pariah to most, and many of my friends prefer me in small doses because my presence isn’t welcome with many in their groups. It’s best this way to walk alone.