Chapter 26: Home/Hope
I’m driving along Interstate-280 in New Jersey. My car is traveling over the crest of a hill, and through my windshield the moon dominates the night sky, shining brightly. So this is it: the voyage home. “The end” has ceased to be a faint beacon blinking in the distance. It is here now, blinking so bright it might blind me. Six weeks of steady movement have brought me to the end of the line. No more forward or reverse, no more South, West, North or East. I will be stationary now for an indefinite period of time. The trip is about to draw to its conclusion. There is nothing left for me to see. Now here is nowhere. No more racing freight trains. No more alone time. No more exploration. No more days filled with possibility. No more looking ahead. No more excitement. No more pleasure. No more ease. No more drifting. No more stories to tell. No more new people to encounter. No more inspiration. It can be found in little things—glimpses of the unyielding calm that comes over you when you’re doing something monumentally important for yourself—in flickers of half-forgotten memories, in a prolonged pan-continental voyage, or just a long car ride alone.
I met people and had experience that I hesitate to call “life altering,” (I try whenever possible not to speak in hyperbole), but it truly is the most apt description I can think of. Everyone I’ve come in contact with during my travels, I would say, is an idealist. We all are, really. We want nothing more than to contribute something meaningful, something that may outlast us—a legacy that could come to define our time here. And yet, confusion and unease can keep us from success. We are susceptible to manipulation by external forces. Though distractions and the inevitabilities of the real world often stifle our dreams, we continue to seek opportunities to accomplish what it is we really want from life.
The sad truth is, I am most likely not going to experience anything like this ever again. And what’s more, the visions and memories of this adventure are not going to translate back into life in New Jersey. Driving through the Black Hills, or up the Pacific Coast Highway. Finding myself in deep conversations with strangers thousands of miles from my nearest confidante. How does one continue to find joy in uncertainty when the mundaneness of everyday life threatens to suppress the urge to so closely examine the world and its inhabitants? What am I going to do now that I’m home, go to the movies? Get drunk with friends? Play music or watch a sunset at the art park? The prospect of returning to where I was six weeks ago is frightening. Let’s face it: I’m going to go home and my downtime will inevitably lead to malaise brought about by the blasé of life as usual. For weeks I have been one hundred percent immersed in the country. By comparison…home…I can’t see it the same way that I’ve seen the rest of the country. I’m not looking at it with new eyes. I will no longer be a stranger in a strange land. I don’t know if I’ll have that desire to seek out a map and find something new once I’m home. It will just return to exactly how it was before I left—a return to normalcy.
The other night in Chicago, as we were driving back from a restaurant one of the neighborhoods bordering Highland Park, my cousin Mim asked me a question. She wondered, “If you could create a job for yourself what would it be?” I told her that this was my ideal job. Exactly what I’ve been doing for the past month and a half. Constantly moving through different places. Transcribing all my observations. Meeting people. Illustrating in words every tinge of every situation that befalls me, no matter how gripping or mundane. That’s what I would do. I think we both inherently understood there was no need to discuss how one might monetize such an endeavor. I think Mim and I would have agreed that there’s not much money in being the literary equivalent of a troubadour.
My fatal flaw has always been, and might always be a general lack of confidence in my work. It is difficult for me to see anything as finished, and done so correctly. Nothing is ever as good as it could be with a little tweaking and some time. It’s why so many of my thoughts stall, be they songs, or stories, or even entrepreneurial ideas. The task that awaits me upon my arrival home…the compilation of all this data—both tangible (cassette tapes, notebooks and pictures) and intangible (my memory)—for the purpose of sharing with anyone who cares to read it already appears too vast and too difficult. The things that I’ve seen really were so incredible, and I fully comprehend the impossibility of my rendering them in words. I just want to do my best, and I hope that it comes across. I want it to be clean, and readable, and entertaining for myself just as much as for anybody else. I hope every expression on every face, each word spoken and it’s precise inflection, and all the beautiful visions I still see with perfect clarity whenever I close my eyes…I hope I get it all right.
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