When I was in high school there was this park I would go to. If you followed the street down the hill from my house, it dead-ended at a footbridge that went over a creek, and then the road became a bike path which wound behind a golf course and went into a very small park. It was on the edge of a neighborhood where green spaces and a network of ponds wrapped around small enclaves of condos, and I would bike those loops after school like a kind of liturgy.
I would go to the park to journal, to be out from under the eyes of my parents, to negotiate my high school angst in the open air between me and God. I remember journaling on November 11th of my sophomore year (2008), marveling at the fact that by 11/11/11, I would be out of high school.
I made a conscious decision to refer to the intervening ‘November Elevenths’ as checkpoints, ways of marking time, until I got to 11/11/11, the one when I would be in college. As a high school sophomore, making it to my freshman year of college seemed like it would be making to the end of the world, to the top of the mountain.
Years later I would read David Mamet’s On Directing Film wherein he describes how narrative and the passage of time can be conveyed through ‘the juxtaposition of uninflected images,’ which gave language to my love of montages. I read his work while on a Megabus trip south, headed to Tennessee for the very first time. Our hours on the road consisted of reading David Mamet, listening to an audiobook of Donald Miller’s road trip chronicle, Through Painted Deserts, and waking up on the bus to the sunrise screaming towards us from the east.
The random visual memories from years between 2008 and now are little those uninflected images: the floor events in my Res hall in college, the Gordon woods in fall, my contra dancing world in Concord, and then the move(s) south: the farmers markets in Jonesborough and Johnson City, the faces of my neighbors in Houston and vistas from bus routes by which I first learned to navigate this dazzling city...
When I made it to November 11th, 2011, I felt like I had made it so far. I felt like the past three years of high school had contained so much and I’d ended up at Gordon, a ‘finale’ to that succession of November Elevenths.
In each and every season, we have so little grasp on all that is to come.
More than anything else, I find this incredibly comforting. C.S. Lewis supposedly wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.”
Most of my major life transitions have been marked with fear, with alarming anxiety about everything that could wrong and with consuming grief about everything I’m leaving behind. As someone who ‘dwells in possibility’ often to excess, any kind of decision that restricts me to one future and shuts down others [think of Sylvia Plath’s fig tree here] feels like a kind of death.
However, each major life decision is also like a birth, because it ushers in possibilities in an existence that never could’ve been conceived before.
Even back my freshman year at Gordon, I never would have imagined myself living in Houston. I NEVER would have imagined myself living in a historic Black neighborhood, and working in the arts full-time feels like something I wouldn’t have been bold enough to dream.
I woke up this morning – November 11th, 2018 – in my own apartment, with just me and my cat.
Sometimes I feel like every post on this blog is about rejoicing in the life I never could have imagined for myself. It’s been ten years since that afternoon in the park, and I’m so beyond grateful for where I am.