Phil was upset. More than upset; he was obsessed. He failed to realize that he was trapped in a world with a singular task-oreinted motivation. But, his developed purpose wasn’t perceived to be morally wrong, or stupid. It’s not like he believed that he was brought on this earth to make as much money as one possibly could or to draw a completely perfect circle with no fuck-ups or edges; he knew his reason was important. Unlike other reasons, his was truly meaningful and superior. And he was proud of it. He felt different. He felt superior to others; not in a condescending way, but in an operating-on-a-higher-wavelegnth, way. He treated others nicely. He was applauded for it and it’s something he took pride in. It made him happy that he had questions and no one had answers. Sure, sometimes he sought others’ approval in life, or asked for advice, but, in the back of his mind, he took comfort in the fact that no one knew what the fuck they were doing.
Phil almost never had the same-two weekly schedules. Never. He changes his lifestyle often. He doesn’t like change, but through his extensive research of self-help books and reading articles of happy adults, he knew that if waking up earlier or eating organic foods got him out of his comfort zone, then it’s what would allow him to have a successful life. Not necessarily in terms of wealth, but in terms of peace of mind or in terms of regret. Actually, I take it back. He actually did want wealth and other materialistic goals, but he was deathly afraid to admit it, even to himself. He didn’t want to be labeled a selfish person. He didn’t want to be part of the problem. Everywhere Phil looked he saw messages of helping others and getting over yourself. He would not even entertain the thought of becoming famous and rich because he knew he’d like it. He would love thinking about it— having a massive house, a beautiful wife, taking exotic vacations determined by picking location names out of a hat. It’d be incredible. But he didn’t want it to affect the way he talked to others. He saw himself as an intellectual, a philosopher in a world of mindless people stuck in a maze.
He’s trying so desperately to find the right way to live life. He’s always had this mindset since college. The big man upstairs only knows if it was the medication, radiation effects from his childhood cancer treatment, eating excessive amounts of corn, or bumping his head on low ceilings, but he’s different.
He had a new regimen this week.
Mondays, Wednesdays: wake up at 5:30, meditate, cook, gym, work, buddhism meet-up, volunteer at a local cancer hospital, dinner, bed.
Tuesdays Thursdays: wake up at 5:30, gratitude journal, cook, run outside, play online chess, work, gym, read non-fiction bed
Friday: Wake up at 5:30, meditate, work on his side data analysis project, cook, yoga, work, book club, philosophy zen podcast.
He found comfort knowing he was mentally healthier; mentally better than the day prior.
He felt accomplished. He felt disciplined. Like a whole new man. He felt like he should have done this earlier in his young life. His girlfriend of a few years was impressed, but, when I saw her I could tell she worried about him. He doesn’t have this crazy schedule every week, but there’s always something going on. Something he’s obsessing about. Last month it was chia seeds, the super food. The four months before that it was abstaining from alcohol. The two months before that it was coffee. The month before that it was carbs. The two weeks before that was a kale, acai, and celery juice cleanse with the exception of seeded-fruits. He just liked to challenge himself. He loved improving. He just gained a certain confidence knowing he could control himself and become an upgraded version. He was addicted, but it wasn’t like he was addicted to drugs or gambling. His addiction wasn’t morally wrong, or stupid. His was meaningful and superior. He knew he was getting down to the point.
She knew Phil needed this trip. Whatever Phil was looking for, it wasn’t here. He had learned a lot, but he needed a little change. A leap of faith. A find-your-wings-on-the-way-down type of leap. One that he heard intellectuals and philosophers talk about all the time. The kind of leap that shows up in his zen blogs, meditation magazines, and health online forums. He knew this is what he needed to understand more. He’s been doing the best he can with what he’s got, but it’s time. People around Phil supported him in a laughing, admiring, supportive way. He always sought something more. More information, more insight, and it made him happy. It gave him confidence and he couldn’t get enough.
The night before he left his best friend Ed came by and said, “You know it’s enough right? You’re enough.” Phil understood how his friend saw things, he really did, but he knew deep down what he’s done isn’t much. Sure, his rigorous schedule, his dedication to mindfulness, his passion for zen, his attraction towards creative writing, his accomplishments with his health, and the accolades received when he was in his peak form were impressive, but the way he saw it, he incrementally progressed in many fields. No mastery in one field, but scribbling on each canvas. Before this week, he took a 10 day hiatus from meditation. His zen students and he are on a path to enlightenment. He has found his passion for writing and is brainstorming ideas for his first memoir. He overcame a deadly disease, but he was a baby and his intentions or will had nothing to do with overcoming it. He was proud of his achievements, but he knew his mind always held him back going to the next level; but, after reminding himself, he was occasionally proud. It’s not that he saw himself as shit, but loved the fact that there was always ways to improve and more to do. But, he didn’t quite realize this.
He was being drawn to this trip. Everything had led up to this point and he was ready to understand more.
He didn’t sleep much on the plane, but he didn’t care. He downloaded a couple books by David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers, and was making progress in each. They made so much sense to him.
He lands in Paro International airport; exhausted but amazed at the mountains surrounding the airport. Maybe a little frightened. Also excited to augment his text document of countries visited (he wouldn’t do it until he landed because the list is official). He takes a car service to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan and gets dropped off at Changangkha Lhakhang, a Buddhist temple in the heart of the city. He dozed off occasionally on the ride to the capital and the driver asking for money served as his 11:22 alarm.
He arrives in Thimphu in front of the temple and Phil actually thinks he may have seen it in one of the articles he’s read. He takes out his iPhone to take a picture (he thought about bringing his nice canon camera, but he decided his phone’s capabilities are fine and he did not want to lug around the heavy camera with its bulky case). He’s excited to be transformed. To be enlightened.
He closes the door to the taxi and gets his phone ready to take a picture vertically. Distracted by his anticipation of taking a photo, he gets hit by a black Toyota Prado.
Tourists once viewing the Buddhist temple are now tending to Phil, who is now in front of an adjacent building on the sidewalk. Emergency services are on the way, but many are convinced he’s dead. Phil did not have a clue about Bhutan’s rule of driving on the left-hand side. He looked the wrong way when trying to get a good picture and was blind sided.
The Bhutanese driver who hit Phil is panicking. Phil is unresponsive and most likely dead. It wasn’t his fault, but he’s distraught. The driver sees Phil’s duffel bag away from the body and heads over to it. He reads the baggage tag on the outside:
Phil P. Garrond. New York, New York.
The Bhutanese driver, who’s name is later found to be Dechen Wangmo, searches his name into google. He’s speechless, but reminds himself that excessive worry is trivial.