Lost Girl of the Week: Jayna Rust

Lost Girl of the Week — By on October 19, 2007 at 5:00 pm

In this entry, Lost Girl Jayna Rust share her experience encountering something truly terrifying on the road. No, it wasn’t a spider the size of her face, a rabid dingo or a roving pack of guidebook pushers, but something growing right out of her own head! Here, Jayna learns that while your body betray your true age, but it can also remind you how very far you’ve already come.
Seeing Grey
by Jayna Rust

I thought my eyes were deceiving me. “No!” I silently screamed at the mirror. It couldn’t be. My hands furiously dug through my still-damp hair, searching again for the (hopefully imagined) culprit. Soon, though, they found what they were looking for. Buried underneath my dark brown waves was a light gray strand.

My thoughts raced between anger and fear. Do I pull it out? Dig through my bag and find my toenail scissors – weird, I know, but the only scissors in my luggage – and cut it? Leave it? “ARGH!!!”

Really. How could this be? Here I am, traveling around the world, five months out of my “real” life, practically in paradise. I’ve got no regular job to speak of, and I wake up almost every day without the worry of deadlines, meetings, or the like. And I’m 26. Twenty-six, for goodness’ sakes. Not even in my late 20s. So why am I finding a gray hair? “I’m not stressed out, dammit!” I mentally screamed at my morning reflection.

Deep breath…I’d been stressed before. I’d actually even found gray hairs before. But that was back in LA. That was back when I’d been forced to grow up too quickly as an inner-city school teacher, or when I was worried about a growing credit card debt, or when I was trying to figure out how to tell two bosses and two parents about my upcoming year away from them. Those were all reasonable times to have gray hairs, riddled sleeps, and explosive acne. Waking up whenever I choose every day when wandering around a foreign city, however, is not.

So how did this beast find its way into my head?

As I slumped against the sink, I began to think about the few worries I do have as a traveler. I wonder if a cute guy thinks I’m a cute girl and if it’s even worth it to think about the cuteness of someone you’ll probably never see again. I worry that my money won’t go as far as I want it to. I fear I will become a perpetual wanderer without any real roots. But most of all, I haven’t escaped the same thoughts I ruminated over with my Redondo Beach roommates for the last four years: where is my life going, and what does it all mean?

As I looked back up at my reflection, I knew I had worries. But as my gaze wandered past my head of hair and back to my temporarily-distraught face, I saw no other signs of them. My full eyes were evidence of a good night’s sleep. My narrow cheeks were evidence I’d stopped eating just for comfort. And my clear skin was evidence my stresses weren’t festering below the surface.

I’m happy. Even with the questions and worries I have – and (knowing me) will always have – I’m happier than I’ve been throughout the rest of my adult life.

As I thought about that silly gray hair, still stuck in its root, I realized something. It’d been growing for quite some time. Judging by its nearly 10 inches of length, it had started its journey long ago. Long before I started this journey. It probably sprouted about the time I took up kickboxing as a way to relieve my stresses from teaching. And probably lightened even more when I sat down with my credit card statement last summer. And maybe even got thinner when I went weeks with almost no sleep as I thought about all that I needed to do go get on the plane. But even though those days were long gone, the old gray gal was a reminder of them.

Looking away from the mirror, I decided to leave her. She’d be my own little reminder, firmly stuck in my head, of why I need to be on this trip in the first place.

About Jayna:

After college, I didn’t head off to work abroad like I’d wanted. I’d been accepted into the tough-entry Teach For America and instead headed off to teach 8th grade language arts in inner-city Los Angeles. When my Teach For America commitment was over, I got a journalism job in LA, but even though both gigs had been good, neither really made me feel like I was doing what I should be…and in my new magazine job, I couldn’t even console myself that I was making the difference I felt daily when I was teaching. So, I did the only thing I could even fathom for my immediate future. I packed my life up and headed to the East for an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of time…so far I’ve been to China, my birthplace of Korea, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Australia (where I am now). I’ve done everything from getting pick-pocketed to meeting my foster mother to being bitten by a tiger (OK, it was a cub…but a tiger, still!). After I make my way to Perth, I’m off to Malaysia for a week before starting a three-month volunteer assignment in India with an NGO that works in human trafficking and HIV/AIDS education. I’ve been documenting my little jaunt on www.ususbaby.com where I record what my little eyes see (and my little ears hear, and my big mouth tastes) that is just way too American to be abroad.

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