The Quest

April 11 2013



Someday some hypermanic kid
will produce a moronically maxed-out adventure odyssey
that will spark the overdue rebellion
among all the over-pressured SAT grinds,
and us grumpy midlife critics
will get to witness a new Kerouac,
and the greatest pent-up young-life crisis
in the history of the world.
- David Brooks, “Sal Paradise at 50,” NY Times, 2007

This is about a quest. An ordinary quest -- no dragons, sorcerers, mythical beasts. I wish. This is about my journey into the soul. Now I know what you're thinking. Not another egotistical self-absorbed desperate whiny journey into the soul.* Why would you want to read that? No. Like I said, this is about a quest.

Step one: Abandon >all< earthly possessions.

Well, almost. I have a backpack. A light one, with no more than a few toiletries, sleeping bag, a few extra shirts.
And I have a boyfriend, whom I love almost as much as life itself. He’s not coming with me. I can’t even imagine life without him. He is Mr. Perfect in every sense of the word. His name is Michael. I could write a whole book about how much I love Michael. In fact, I did. It’s my diary. Not for publication.
Anyway, he is the reason why Step #2 is REALLY REALLY HARD!

Step two: Buy a 1-way ticket to the other side of the world.

Step #3: Go on the greatest adventure of your young life.

But before I get ahead of myself, like I said, this is about a quest. There is a back story. In order to appreciate the full meaning of the quest, you need to know the back story. If you would rather skip right to the adventure, see p. __ (How to talk your way out of paying police bribes in Nepal) or maybe p. __ (Sleeping through terrorist attacks outside your window). But trust me, you want the back story.

Like many young middle-class Americans, I went to college. I went to a good college, University of Washington.

No, wait. Back up. This whole mess started with the SAT. That fucking standardized test. During high school, I was convinced I was going to be an artist. I wanted to go to art school. But my parents, of course, wanted me to go to a respectable school and pursue a respectable career -- one that would actually make money.

Sound familiar?? Doesn’t every young person go through something like this???

So I took the SAT. And I got my score, like everyone else. But while everyone else was looking at their scores thinking “Fuck, I’ll never get into Harvard with a 1080!” I was looking at my score thinking someone vastly OVER-estimated my intelligence. Someone at the switch messed up. Pushed a button. Dropped a box full of files. Maybe some poor sorry 22 year-old at the SAT office never learned how to alphabetize, mixed up Sarah Ouderkirk with Sarah Actually-wants-to-go-to-college, or Sarah Grew-up-in-the-Ghetto-and-really-deserves-this-opportunity, or a BILLION other Sarahs ...

But there was no mistake. I was doomed. Cursed with an above-average SAT score, my parents and everyone else expected me to go to college.

So I applied.


@ Reply with “Quest” in the subject line and I’ll send you more.


Sarah Ouderkirk
La Jolla, California, USA
[email protected]

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