Where I Was Last Year

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.

Mind the Gap

You spend four crucial years with your head in books and (in some cases) getting your head spun around in many directions by faith stuff.

No one ever tells you that the year right after is the most scary and fucked up year ever. No one tells you there are no easy paths forward.

There is no one who is willing to tell you that working part time is a constant tightrope walk above oblivion.

No one tells you that your art won’t become the fulfillment you need it to be just because you need it to be. No one can save you from you.

No one can push you into the places you need to be. No one can magically provide the insulating reassurance that everything will be well.

No one can open your heart in the ways and in the times when it needs to be opened. No one knows what is best for you anymore.

You’re honestly just as ridiculous as you always feared. You’ll probably be OK someday, maybe feel OK here and there, but never know it.

OK is a signifier without an anchor. OK is weightless and you’re a rock. OK is the moon and you’ve sprung an oxygen leak.

You kneel and rise like you always did before. You genuflect. You start to wonder why this doesn’t feel the heaven that it did.

You make grand plans of escape. You drink on foreign soil. You’re more at home with the road moving beneath you than in your queen size bed.

You never thought about the implications of your self until it all began to close in.

You earn a magna cum laude in books but forget you have a body. Your eyes forget how to cry because you have to be On Point all the time.

You will always be an alien in your own home. You worry you will never have a roof of your own, a table, walls to scrawl your truth upon.

You have better conversations with yourself than with the friends who literally brought you to life, who were your sun and stars.

You don’t know if they’ll ever understand or accept the continents within your broken head. You want everywhere but in your queen size bed.

You watch the social numbers to track the wordless goodbyes of those you’ll never greet again. You want to apologize, but can’t forgive.

No one ever tells you Indiana just gets smaller, just gets harder to leave. You knew this. You never believed you’d need to know so hard.

You read all the books about love, and sing all the songs and you feel all the feels. And then you don’t. And then you can’t.

This isn’t a fucking storybook. This is going to be hard work. There are no musical montages in the bildungsroman of your stupid life.

This is the shit that keeps you up at night. And tonight, you said it out loud. It feels no less real, but maybe just a bit lighter.

And maybe the lightness is a lie. But sometimes a beautiful lie is all you have, Dorothy. Sometimes it’s what you need.

Don’t build it all into a beautiful tomb. Expend yourself upon yourself while you are young. Learn the yearning. Laugh. Cry.

Leave.

 

Make Sure to Know

She said it can be great,
to live here on the cheap
where the windsmashed, dusty
hotels of the old downtown
repurposed out as studios and lofts.

She said she’d done thirty-some paintings
last month,
the wacked out emptiness a focal point,
drawing her back upstairs to her rented space,
100$ a month at the Croft.

She said it can work out
to live where there is little,
if you bring the vision with you
if you know just what you’re after,
if you purpose to create.

But don’t move out to find yourself;
The desert will eat you alive.

Confirmation Season

This Easter Season marks my second since being baptised, and my first as a confirmed Episcopalian, and my first as a Bachelor of Arts (Saturday!). Though I’m still struggling hard to find my home in the in-between spaces, St. Anne’s has been a good home for me as I’ve deepened my desire for communion and my intentions to create. And, despite some rough edges, I can say much the same about my time at Grace College.

In honour of these years and the life I’ve celebrated–and of course the great academic confirmation I am preparing to celebrate– here’s an essay about my baptism, my confirmation, and my father, whose story is so linked with mine.

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