When I was halfway through graduate school, I had dinner with a close friend and remember uttering the phrase, "I think it's much more insidious than you realize," (probably referring to some corporate greed-driven resource scarcity that had been denied mainstream media coverage), at which point she rolled her eyes and said, "See, now you sound like an eco-wacko." I laughed, nodded, and said, "I should take my act on the road!" The thought of traveling across the country, documenting and uploading corporate crime to expose it, like some character out of a Steven Soderbergh movie, seemed incredibly appealing at the time - and this was years before Twitter and Facebook - and even YouTube had even approached critical mass. It stuck with me, and I began collecting clippings - all the places I wanted to visit, people I wanted to meet - and the story I wanted to tell along the way.
I never got to take the trip, unfortunately - six weeks before I graduated, my sister left her husband, and the ensuing months were spent helping her pick up the pieces and rebuild what was left of her life. Ironically, I would go through a similar Nagasaki-like life reset years later - not because of a failed relationship, but a cancer diagnosis that rocked my world and shook my foundations. Gone were the green dreams, replaced by the pragmatism that comes from realizing the world isn't perfect, and never will be.
Now, with the dust settled in both our lives, and my future yawning before me, I stand at the crossroads in a yellow wood. One path leads to a studio apartment and the bottom rung of Corporate America, where I can start climbing up to Middle Management for the third time in my life. The other path - a path I seem to visit a lot, actually - leads to the unknown. I have an idea now - one that whispers to me these days, of the "key in having a key, and going". It says, "take your act on the road, kid, and see everything you want to see, because you're lucky if you get 100 years here." It says I can always rewrite my resume, always put down a deposit, and always grasp the bottom rung of that ladder, because that rung will be there, waiting for me, for years and years and years, no matter how many times I get out of line, and it always leads to the same place.
But how many times in my life will I be without a partner, without a child or a job or an illness to treat, or any number of things that will keep me tethered to one place ? If I go to my five year checkup at 39 and the doctor says, "I'm sorry, it's not good," what will I want to look back on? What will make me feel like I ate life up like an heirloom tomato in the heat of summer? I can tell you one thing: it isn't going to be three years as a data entry specialist at a real estate investment company, living next to a KMart. That is NOT what I went through six months of chemo for.
This, though - this idea: the "bright altar of the dashboard," as Stephen Dunn put it - quickens my pulse. Scares the crap out of me. And makes me feel, for the first time since I watched my dreams sink to the bottom of the proverbial ocean, like I'm following my bliss again. And is there a truer purpose in life? Does Ricky Bobby belong in suburbia delivering pizzas? I think not.
And so, the adventure begins: #31 in my 40-by-40, coming this October to a town near you: Take A Cross Country Trip Across the U.S.A. Stay tuned for dates, locations, and a timetable for my Next Big Thing. ;)