Twelve months ago, I was clearing the archive on my blog, looking for a fresh start, making a fresh start, promising myself that the time for waiting to write was over (was it over?). Putting on my fresh face, holding gleaming pitchers of foamy milk, smiling for tips again—I was working. Moving back in with my parents to live in their house for more than a month at a time for the first time since I was eighteen. Sitting on my couch—in Carnegie Hall—listening to John Darnielle defiantly sing of survival and departure and everything I needed to live for myself. January.
Eleven months ago, I was already moving to melancholy beats, convinced I was letting myself down. Crafting a Valentine’s Day special all for myself because I was working—on Valentine’s Day, the stupidest day of the year to be alone (the most singular day to be single.) Surrendering my place behind the altar because the last thing in the world I wanted was to be seen. Then, I was writing—inspired, feverish, resurrected writing—finding words for the strange religious hope I still had, screaming syllables for equality and justice and solidarity. February.
Ten months ago, I was clearing my schedule to go and meet writers—book people, true people, MY people—because for the first time in four years I could set my agenda. Reading voraciously and forming attachments and beginning to see the railway and the airport as places of purpose. Starting to want again, to deeply truly want again, for myself, some kind of story with meaning and beauty. Aching for the wideness of the universe and the narrowness of love. Tuning into my feelings with music on trains—believing in what those misfit kids had. Believing I’d fit one day too. March.
Nine months ago, I was back in the saddle—the academic saddle—fulfilling the last of my school obligations, going back to a place where I’d pulled away suddenly. But first—Nashville. Beautiful, heady Nashville—all alone on Broadway, sore tempted to get a pair of boots made for walking, drinking in cigarette smoke and award-winning coffee and deep-fried whatever. Slamming poetry for strangers, falling face over heels for the poem from the kid with the curly red hair. Reading my story for the chair of the whole thing, shaking her hand, proud of myself. Knowing I had a future if I wanted one. April.
Eight months ago, I was honoured with high praise, donning regalia to receive my diploma, shining my shoes to walk down the aisle. Secure for a moment in the brief euphoria of having done all that I set out to do at seventeen. A bachelor. An artist. A scholar. Celebrating with the whole gang my birthday, my selfday. Surprised by the beauty of it all, the together of it all. Not scared for once that nothing I’d want would come true. Having the best cake and eating the best cake and toasting for real at what felt like the beginning of everything. May.
Seven months ago, I was sweating the small things, the air sweltering round me all heavy and awful. Wearing the same smile at work as I’d always had—faking the smile when it all felt unreal. Struggling to shrug off a casual insult—that’s not a word I should ever put up with not from you of all people—and then, Waco. Green campus, desert town, and the poems I’d been haunted by pouring out from nowhere. “Don’t move out to find yourself.” And then, Valpo—tea and cakes and the stories I loved with the brother I loved, and new kids to see myself newly again. June.
Six months ago, I was giving voice to all the things I always thought I never would—naming the things I wanted. Visiting my whole self, its contents and discontents, becoming free. Telling a new story of my past with quaking hands and open, melting heart. Sitting in chapels and making of dives a confessional. Opening doors and letting in love and letting the truth live out. Refracting light from all my facets in the middle of a dust dry summer. July.
Five months ago, I was realizing that I couldn’t stay still much longer, realizing that I hadn’t been in one place interrupted so long since school started. Beginning—at last—in earnest to look elsewhere, for new soil, for a place where I could be a fresh green self. Thinking of all the freedoms now available without a scholarship to think of, without a department to commit to. Daring myself to try new recipes, find new tastes and pleasures. August.
Four months ago, I was hugging transcontinentally, rolling here and there on trains long put off, but worth it in the offing. Meeting old friends for the first time with my best face forward, best stories out loud for ears. Sitting for pizza, ordering dessert when offered, standing in lines and finding the best folks there. Believing for the first time that maybe someday my stories would reach new people, believing that I could live in cities too. Deciding to write—for truth, for hugs, for freedom. Deciding to move. September.
Three months ago, I sat in hesitation, recognising in all my ideas a frailty that only breath could tell. Haunting myself with “What if that’s no good, boy?” Fearing that moving on meant losing home. Sleeping on Sundays from my frank exhaustion. Hoping against all hope I’d wake up new. October.
Two months ago, I made like Peggy Olson, deciding to chin up, do my work, and try. Writing out cover letters, shopping them round. Building new confidence that I’d succeed. Knowing I owned my skills, trusting my best face forward to speak well for itself. Then, Boston. You won’t believe the warmth I felt in Boston, given that it was mostly winter there, but Boston. Best couch I flopped on all year was in Boston, with friends and pie and stories shared, and further lines and hugs and tears shed gentle. Boston was where I knew I loved myself, was thankful. November.
One month ago, I was working, making coffees, checking my email when I got the news: Someone out there decided I was worth it, gave me the shot I needed to start fresh. Then I was leaping, crying, laughing, dreaming. Everything coming bright and right and new. All of the work I’d done earned work I’d wanted. Nothing like all the fears from time I wasted. This was a Christmas so unlike the last one, where I began to dread the year ahead. This was a promise—good things for the taking. Kick up your feet, it’s time to live again. December.
Happy New Year! Here’s to new words, new places, new dreams, and new loves.