Sweet Home Carolina
August has been a bit of a complicated month for me. There has been as much cause for celebration as there has been for apprehension. I’ve been a bit tongue-tied by the goings-on of the month as is evidenced by the radio silence from my otherwise noisy keyboard. It’s not writer’s block, per se, but rather a flood of dissonant thoughts scattered across my neuropathways that are in constant competition for focus and attention. The best way I can describe it is to imagine standing in a field full of fireflies, where from a distance one can appreciate the beauty of the sporadic pulses of lights. However, when you venture to examine a specific bug in more detail, the second it catches your attention it just as quickly disappears from your sight. Each pulse of light is inevitably followed by a period of darkness.
That’s been the story with my brain lately: short bursts of inspiration followed by a disorienting absence of direction. It’s hard to move forward in any sort of meaningful way when the path is so sparsely lit (the phrase “pissing in the dark,” comes to mind). Perhaps it is best, then, in these moments to simply lie down and let the ambient light of the fireflies blend in with the night sky and enjoy the view for what it is while you wait for morning. Morning, in this case, broke in the form of a long weekend back home in North Carolina to visit with my family.
The gentle pull of my home state has been a recurring theme for songwriters. From James Taylor to Ryan Adams to even Petey Pablo, these musicians have captured the essence of what it feels like to have the Old North State feel like your own north star, a steady beacon of light peeking through the haze of nightfall and quietly calling you home; a sense that someone, somewhere, has left a light on for you. In times of change where the best way forward is as unclear as ever, I’ve often found that it is best to go back to where you started. Like the hapless disc golfer stuck in the weeds and bramble searching for his Frisbee to no avail, if he would simply return to the tee box from which he threw his drive, he could identify the tree his disc slammed into right before things got off track. If we spend all of our time and energy searching for things we’ve lost, or perhaps never had, without coming back to home base from time to time to reset, we can become lost ourselves.
So what’s the point of all of this abstract crap, anyway? Well, specifically, I broke my hand in two places the very same day I quit the job I’ve held for almost four years. This, of course, also happened the day before my wife left town for two weeks so I was left with an abundance of time to sit alone and think about what I’d done. Adjusting to life with one less hand was challenging enough, especially when you factor in that it took a week and a half for it to get through my thick skull to go see a doctor, but I was stuck with the realization of how much our jobs can be tied to our identity. Transitioning away from a job can feel like losing a part of yourself. While it is a part of my current identity that I am shedding voluntarily, I am nevertheless feeling a bit like a hermit crab in between shells. Molting is a common process, one we will undergo many times in our lives if we’re lucky. To make way for new growth we must shed something of ourselves. Sometimes it’s a prejudice, sometimes it’s a loved one, sometimes it’s a job. Whatever it is that you’ve outgrown, it is a brave and noble venture to cast aside your current comforts in favor of the search for self-actualization.
The beauty and burden of searching, however, is that your findings are not limited to only what you are specifically seeking. Many things become uncovered along the way and some of them are unpleasant. The process of growing was never meant to be comfortable. If you’re lucky, your growth pattern is a gentle, upward slope, but for most of us it looks a lot more like a staircase; nothing for weeks, months, even years and then all of a sudden an epiphany hits you and everything has changed. The challenge is to have patience with yourself and to understand that there really isn’t a finish line, only a string of milestones. Make sure to celebrate each one. In the meantime, I am approaching this transition with as much excitement I can muster. Sure, the thought of being unemployed in the city can be a scary thought, but at this point in my life to delay the pursuit of my bliss any longer feels far more frightening. Until I’ve found what I’m looking for, though, “you must forgive me if I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind.”