berkeleygateThis story continues from:Lina“.

I was 17 years old when I dropped out of high school and headed west without a plan. My extended family was mostly from California, and my sister was going to school at UC Berkeley. As an idealistic kid, I was intrigued by the 60s and the sound of Berkeley resonated within. It’s where I would have wanted to go to college. Without a plan, Berkeley pulled me its way. I drove across the country, stopping at the Grand Canyon, and to my sister’s apartment.

The timing couldn’t have been much better as she was leaving that day to spend the next few months in LA and had just acquired a new apartment, which she wanted to sublet. Without pause, after four days of long driving, I drove her to LA, dropped her off, and drove back where I now had a place to stay for several months.

My aunt and uncle, Bob and Susie, also lived in Berkeley and, as timing would have it, they were looking to fill a job delivering newspapers. As a kid, I had a walk-around-the-block paper route for four years, but this was something altogether different. Here, the route covered 50 miles or so of driving up and down and around large areas, folding papers with rubber bands while knee steering, and lofting papers out the car window at high speeds with precision, or so one hopes. They trained me and I quickly got it down. I also took on an inserting job, assembling the various sections of the Sunday paper for the whole district.

I now had a quiet place to live and a job that required almost no personal interaction. I was able to live in virtual isolation, where I was free to suffer.

painjesusThe suffering came easy. I spent most my time lying in bed, thinking of Lina, writing poetry and thinking deeply about everything. The apartment was filled with roaches, and as a pacifist, we made a deal that after 8 pm every night, I would turn the lights out and let them have their run.

I was raised somewhat frugally, and had a good head for math. I tried to live on as little money as I possibly could which, aside from the apartment and car expenses, amounted to very little. My food bill averaged about $1.80/day, which included rare trips eating out. I lived mostly on oatmeal and potatoes with low-cost melted cheese. I was able to save almost all the money I earned.

I had begun fasting every Sunday in high school and continued it here. I was working all day on Saturday both delivering newspapers and inserting, and would then basically pull an all-nighter each Saturday night delivering Sunday’s papers. Because of Saturday’s long day and all-nighter, Sundays became consistently grueling, where I would spend them in sickness, vomiting pure, acid-green bile.

My self-discipline was very strong, and I endured the hardships.  Occasionally, I would do three-day fasts, and one time, to test my self-discipline, I decided on a whim to fast for 8 days. I told no one about this and was sick nearly the whole time. After day 5, I gave up, going to the grocery store at 1 am to get ice cream. That’s when I first became aware of the limitations of my will power.

During this time, I also read about the possibility of becoming breatharian. I had become a vegetarian at the time of leaving high school and thought that it would be amazing to be free from food entirely. The step to getting there, I read, was in first becoming a fruitarian. For several months, I tried living on only fruit. I became skinnier and weaker and probably anemic.

teatoast_1The suffering, loneliness, and physical endurance were all very difficult. At one point, I imagined sourdough toast with butter and tea with milk and sugar. This is a treat I would eat at home in Connecticut. My mind was so rigid in self-deprivation, that it didn’t even occur to me how easily I could satisfy that craving on my own right in California. The craving made me yearn for home – to find a little relief.

My car was also consistently breaking down. Bob and Susie would do all the repairs with me, and at a certain point I felt like I was becoming too much of a burden. I guess I was just too frugal to spend money on hiring someone. I had come here to die and not to learn to live, and as the troubles kept coming, I felt more and more helpless.

Eventually, I decided to leave the route and drive back to Connecticut. My parents were very happy.

Continue to: Know Thyself – Part II – Beginning to Blossom