Here's a bit of a good news: The bus system in Gainesville, a Florida city where I've lived since I moved to the States from Poland now offers service on most holidays. To someone who drives or even walks this might not be a big deal, but to me being able to get out of my apartment and have an adventure has always been something extraordinary. Seeing empty parking spaces, with most of my favorite shops closed and friends leaving town, watching neighbors rushing, having somewhere to go is always bad enough. My independence and my self assurance were fueled by my ability to experience things. This is why it was in America that I finally felt free. I could get on a bus, go anywhere and experience the world. Yet around holidays- bee it Veteran's Day, Martin Luther King Day or Christmas I'd be stuck again. In my apartment, by myself, waiting for the ordeal to be over. Sure, I'd tell myself that it didn't matter. That I can watch TV, catch up on my reading or order something extremely unhealthy, typically the night before- because some of the delivery services celebrate too. But no more. No more wondering if I have enough food ordered in to last me a weekend, no more binge watching bad TV or eating junk. No more thinking I need to leave a New Year's Eve party early and get a ride from a kind stranger. Now I can just get on a bus in the morning. That empowered feeling that I've had for as long as I lived here comes me having choices. And it's usually around Christmas that I'm reminded how limited I really am. In transportation, in socializing, in human experience - in ability. And I'm reminded, how much in actuality I have to rely on other people. On that entire set up that must be in place and work like a well oiled machine for someone like me to stay independent. And those are some of the things I don't like thinking about. I want to be my own man. A few weeks ago, I've had a discussion with some of my Board members. They didn't quite understand the connection I was making between feeling good about myself and being able to do things for myself. True, it might be anecdotal - but I think back to Christmas in 2008, the first time the concept of holidays in the city really dawned on me, and the first year I didn't go anywhere or visit with anyone. I'm an intelligent guy- I can reason with myself and say it's only a day, and a day doesn't matter. I'll wake up in the morning and it will be over. I had a plate of Publix sugar orange and blue frosted cookies and a season worth of "Sarah Connor Chronicles" to stream online. Yet, I felt isolated, alone and stuck and I couldn't shake that feeling. It was also at a time where I had a reasonably nice apartment in the middle of nowhere. If I get the blues today, at least I can roll around downtown. It's funny. I was here where there the buses weren't running on Sundays. I'd mostly stay home or study. Saturday bus used to finish at 5. Now we have holiday service. In a few years, I'm sure it will be running on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gainesville is growing and I can get that feeling again. I can stay, I can go, I get to be my own person.
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