Change is coming and there are questions as to why. It is argued the change is self-imposed, rash, and perhaps uncalled for. If I would just see reason, some say. If I would just be patient and give it some time, others argue. If I would just listen.
There is an old report card I found from when I was very young where the teacher wrote that I “finally settled down and was obedient.” That seems to have remained true for most of my life. Since much of that time was spent within the walls of an educational institution, one could even argue that I had mastered the art of obedience. Now, however, another way forward is in order.
My New Year's resolution this year was to jump fearlessly. While I can’t say I’ve completely mastered the fearless part as periodic jitters come and go, I will be jumping. But before I do, I’ve been thinking about what I’m taking with me as I jump and what I’ll be leaving behind. In those reflections, perhaps there is a why.
What makes a memory last? Driving down the I-5 south toward Fullerton to meet an old friend from high school last weekend, I turned the bend and as the downtown LA skyline appeared amidst the traffic and haze the radio played "Don’t Stop Believing." In that moment I was transported through my high school class song to graduation day back in June 2007. As the song played fortuitously, I remembered being high-fived by my favorite history teacher after receiving the diploma cover. The more than a decade-old memory was so clear. I could feel the warm breeze on my face.
Does a lasting memory depend on the people around at the time? Will I always remember the bus rides after tennis matches when the team sang songs too loudly? The music seems to echo through time and space. Will I always remember the retreat to Mammoth with board members of the Pre-Law Society? Will I always remember being sworn into the bar on a chilly December night uncertain what I was doing there? Those days were filled with a dangerous combination of youthful optimism and blatant obliviousness. Will I always remember the time a friend helped interpret during an intake interview with a deaf client? Will I always remember the water runs down at the border in Arizona? Will I always remember feeling proud as I watched students in my class grill an ICE agent at a detention center and then being asked to leave? Will I always remember seeing friends walk on water at the Salt Lake? Will I always remember walking through the redwoods on a cold August afternoon, seeing an enormous tree, asking my friend what we should name it, and then agreeing to his response?
It seems memories interwoven with people carry us forward. Yet, as with any life altering change, there had to be goodbyes. Some difficult, others casual. I've been wondering what decides the difference. Is it the impact they’ve made in my life? Is it the length of time I’ve known them? Is it knowing I might not see them for a long time? Is it accepting that no matter how difficult or not being able to because distance and time will separate souls that have learned and grown together?
It's been strange coming to the realization that certain people seem to come into our lives at the exact right time and with them we can have experiences together that change the core of who we are if we are open. It's been strange realizing that others who have been around a long time can make their mark years later. Talking to the old friend from high school, we talked in a way we never could have during the past 18 years we've known each other. Until now. Until we had both traveled away from home, finished our education, become licensed professionals (in search of work coincidentally!), and learned to listen to the universe. She had always listened because she had always seen. I had started to after the Arizona ghosts. For a brief moment, we shared stories about our lives that would solidify our bond for a lifetime.
What makes a place speak and thereby last forever? Does it depend on the audience or ourselves? I can close my eyes and be standing on Mont Blanc at the top of Europe on a clear day surrounded by snowy peaks and blue skies. Or be standing by a beach in Barcelona on a Christmas Day many years ago with family members who are Buddhist.
The change and the jump was inspired by an adventure, a road trip taken with friends, a “spirit quest” with an unintentional outcome. I am told we almost didn’t make it at one point driving through the slippery mud on the Navajo reservation but I was far too naive to realize that at the time. During the trip I saw a painting at our first random right. The painting was of a girl standing at the base of a mountain during sunset. You can't see her face. The moment I saw the painting I thought about how incredible it was that she was home. From there, I had to go home too.
I may crash and burn. I understand that. But at least I would have tried. Even if the crash and burn is the end result, I will be able to say that in a world attempting to place everyone in boxes of one sort or another, I resisted. In a world that unjustly rewards the most fortunate (where fortune is rarely credited) while so cruelly punishing the less, I failed to conform to educationally-driven hierarchical expectations about my place in society. The paths I was supposed to take left untaken. The work I was supposed to do left undone. The choices I was supposed to make left unmade. Perhaps in that resistance, I will fail to achieve any tenable outcome. But at least I tried.
The why is too complicated to comprehensively explain so I’ll just say this. The desert speaks only the truth and when one is forced to confront it there is no turning back. Once you hear the desert you can’t unhear it. It’s not answers I found in the desert. It’s questions. And if the desert is clear about any one thing it may be this: where one goes to find answers to the questions that keep one up at night may be far more important that both the questions and the answers.
So to answer the why, it is about the where.
And for the where, the journey is just beginning.