I’m proud of myself.
Like I told you, I always knew I would marry Cindy. Just one look and I knew with bone-certainty it was love. Soul mates. Kindred spirits. Whatever you want to call us, I always knew we were fated to be together, build a life together.
However, there’s been a problem swirling in human DNA since the reign of the ancient Greeks. When Oedipus challenged fate, lost, and naturally, carved his eyes out.
It’s an inherited belief that with a certain mix of age and experience we think we’re strong enough, smart enough, and tough enough to best fate.
During my senior year of college, I read Kerouac’s “On the Road” for the first time. His images of the unfurling freedom waiting for him out on the glinting asphalt of the open road were intoxicating.
At the same time I also realized I wanted to be a writer.
Drinking beer, listening to Pink Floyd, I fancied images of heading west, attending grad school in some big university, rubbing elbows with famous writers, moving to a big city, leasing an overpriced one-bedroom loft and scoring a job as a sports journalist.
I knew I wanted a writing life. But I thought I wanted a writing life on the road. A life to offer me the excitement that my current life lacked.
I felt confined. Trapped by my small private college, my hometown and everyone in it. Including Cindy.
I thought I wanted more.
I’m not proud of myself.
I remember, as I entertained a sports journalism life, how much of an asshole I was to Cindy. How reckless I was with our relationship.
As she sat on her bed in her dorm room, white Christmas lights snaking across the joint of wall and ceiling, I told her she was holding me back.
Young men, like the gods we dress ourselves up to be, often believe we are the sole creators of our success and happiness. So we distance ourselves from others. We forge fantasies. We mask our unhappiness and insecurity with false bravado and empty dreams. We puff out our chest, turn our hat backwards and pretend we’re in control of our life and that fate is just a motif found in ancient Greek theater.
I yelled at Cindy.
I told her after graduation I was heading west. I was going to be a sports journalist. I wanted a life on the road, going to games, sleeping in hotels and writing stories. So I invented a life that a 22 year old man would likely invent for himself. Exciting, mobile, and bursting with possibilities.
When I told her to let me go she sat on the edge of the bed and cried.
When I told her it was over she protested and I grew angry and stormed out of her room and marched down to my dorm and got drunk with Pink Floyd.
When you get a chance, I highly recommend reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.
It’s by far the most soul-cleansing book I have ever read.
Early in the novel the alchemist explains to a young shepard, Santiago, that all people are born with a Personal Legend.
That your Personal Legend is your destiny. It’s the person you were born to be.
According to Coelho, children are very much aware of their Personal Legend. Whether it’s writing, painting, fixing, building, singing or rodeo clowning children know, even if they lack the ability to explain it, that by pursuing their Personal Legend they will reach spiritual enlightenment and earthy happiness.
But we grow up.
And not in a good way.
We question our Personal Legend. Our passions turns bitter. We start to value opinions over the intrinsic truths that were once as tangible as flesh.
We adopt shiny, plastic notions of happiness because they are easy to assemble and sell at cocktail parties.
We distance ourselves from our Personal Legend, leave it behind like a broken Chevy on the side of the open road and sink into a life we will soon come to despise.
Many years ago I was reckless with my relationship with Cindy. Too scared to accept my Personal Legend. Too self-adsorbed to recognize that Cindy and I share the same Personal Legend.
Thankfully, she was not.
Sometimes she’ll read my work and laugh. Sometimes she’ll cry. Sometimes she’ll, as Springsteen once wrote, “laugh and cry in a single sound.”
Sometimes she’s quiet. Sometime she hugs me and smiles. A smile that reminds me of what I have and what I almost lost.
It’s evening and I’m writing this at our kitchen table. The table is strewn with the kid’s homework and half-filled cups and credit card bills and it’s marked with a splatter of forgotten spaghetti sauce that is beginning to harden.
There’s nothing exciting about scene. It’s painfully pedestrian. Epically suburban. It’s the complete opposite of where I wanted to be when I was 22.
But I’m happy now. I’m home.
I’m right where I need to be.