I am historically good at living by words. In fact, I live or die by them. They bring me certainty through concepts and configuration. Lit Analysis classes are sort of an adrenaline rush, because I get to analyze and pick out the meaning of innocent phrases and the subtle satire of an Irishman making fun of the old snobby Englishman *. Even our old roundabout Lewis Carrol argument that "language is too unstable to mean anything. All it can do it be beautiful" doesn't carry much of a threat. Because sometimes all it needs to do is be beautiful, and it generally rises to the occasion if you know where to look. In honor of this gift of language, I am a fan of themes to live my life by. Although not always, there have been times when I was so posessed by a simple phrase that I chose to live and die by it on purpose to figure out wether it was just beautiful, or if it meant anything.
This happened last February when I was trying hard to decide about whether I should move across the country, and what on earth I would do there if I did. And I decided to, not exactly out of a desire to leave but more of some unmistakable voice telling me it was imperative that I muster the courage to pick up and get out. And somewhere around the time I made this decision and felt all decided and half terrified out of my wits, I stumbled upon this gem of wisdom and decided to take hold of it almost as a sign, certainly a confirmation, and most definitely something to be chanted in my brain ad nauseum in the coming months while I attempted to muster the courage.
From our good friend Tenessee Williams:
"There is a time for departure, even when there's no certain place to go."
I was talking with my sister tonight about all the plans and desires she had for me when I came to live here. She was saying that I kept changing my plans and giving her entirely different timelines, which is true. The only thing I was ever certain about was that I was coming. Everything else has been planned ten thousand times, and the reality didn't turn out to look anything like a single one of those plans and timelines I prattled on about. I have struggled with that. I generally thrive on frantic activity and sleep deprivation. I'm not happy without some deep struggle or project to master, and it has been rough on my already tender insecurities to be here working and not tackling a whole lot else besides playing hard with some really adorable people. But at the same time, I've never been able to regret or second guess the decision to come, and while I wasn't aware before that there were things that needed such deep fixing, the simple act of being here far away is fixing them as I go. I couldn't even articulate completely what the purpose is, but I am comforted by the fact that I made myself depart. And I know now that while I had such lofty original plans for a palace, it's alright that I've adjusted down, and even that I may not stay long. My palace turned into a nice cozy cottage, one I don't want to leave. As I said to Erin, "I'm sorry I didn't live your dream, but I lived mine!" Even if I was never sure what that would look like, it worked out somehow.
This cottage home of mine, it was never certain. I didn't know I would love it here. I knew I would love being part of a family, but I didn't know I would fall in love with my little green room, or the fog you find when you get off the freeway at New Hope Church Road, or the scrapes I get into in this foreign land of freeways that aren't I-15. I love Ayr Mount and the walk between work and Duke Chapel, and I have been given a few good friends. Work is sometimes difficult, but I have bosses who will hug me before I leave and friends who will laugh hard with me even when the catering client is rude and people I can sing with. I can look out the window on a foggy day like today and see the woods against the sky in my backyard. I never ever thought I would have any of this anywhere but home, and the fact that this feels like home too is a gift. The cottage home which is, I suppose, a downgrade from the lofty dreams of finishing college and finding a whole group of best friends here and having a North Carolina castle, is also an upgrade. I like my little niche in my cottage in the woods here. I am satisfied and that is certainty enough.
So this is a shout out to Tenessee Williams, for giving me the vocabulary to express why I had to come here. The point was not perhaps the palace, but having the faith that I could be happy in a cottage somewhere else.
"It was worth it to move to North Carolina just for that!"
* Everybody read Dracula. Jonathan Harker somehow doubles as a nice guy and a schmuck you just want to hit. In a subtle, charming, way, of course.