Thursday, July 30, 2009

C'est la vie

At what point do I surrender my goals and turn back in the direction I came? When should I look around myself and say, "Damn, I've made a mess of this place"? There are so many forks in so many roads that the wisest of elders couldn't say, "Go that way" with absolute certainty. When I was 20, I crisscrossed North America, and I did so by sticking my thumb in the air. It was free and unpredictable, and I was gone most of the year. When I returned to Texas, I started hatching a plan to do the same in Europe. I never went. My dad sat me down for one of our only father/son chats and told me to think about what I was doing. He said he had taken my "path" and was just now meeting me on it upon his return. I smiled condescendingly and declared, "I'm not you." I'll be god damned if the man wasn't right, but I'll also be damned if he wasn't wrong. He didn't know what he was talking about, and I don't really know what I'm talking about now. What I do know is that I'll never know enough to tell another human being this is the way. Take it. My father knew that too which is why he never explicitly said, "You're going the wrong direction." He only suggested it and then put his hands up in defensive ignorance when I pushed back.
I still haven't been to Europe, but I will one day.  Probably not as a hitchhiker though. That's the exchange, I suppose. I got my GED and went to college instead. Formal schooling was an education not unlike traveling. I found enlightenment there, and by dividing my youth into reckless abandon and rigid discipline, I experienced the best of all possible worlds in the prime of my young life. You may roll your eyes and and say, "You're only 29.5, handsome Carlos," but the implications of your rolling peepers would be wrong. A thirty-year-old man can't sleep on the roadside or in a hostel full of beautiful twenty-year-olds. At thirty, he's no longer a wild youth with stars in his eyes. He's a drifter, and no one wants to pick up, share a room with, or make sweet love to a drifter. At thirty, he can take freshmen classes in college, but the blazing class discussions, led by children discovering how loud their voices can carry, are uninteresting because he's made peace with so many of their injustices and is ready to evolve. I learned a lot from my year of traveling and four of college, but I've twisted and turned down so many directions that not one person can offer guidance that wouldn't require my returning to that initial fork where I met my old man a decade ago.
I don't think my father ever truly found his way who has? But he's all the wiser for his bullshit mistakes, as am I, as are you, and at the end of our lives, I hope we, who bumble for sense in this senseless place, can each reflect not on how many times we had to return the way we came, but on all the things we gained in realizing this isn't the best direction.
I'll be blogging less. I'm trying to focus on my various larger projects, but I'll end this one with a favorite poem by Theodore Roethke. I won't qualify it with anything more than what I've already written, so enjoy it for whatever you find in it's reading.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

11 comments:

Megan said...

Love that poem.

f8hasit said...

My dad's best quote was, "TIME is your most valuable commodity."
I now realize his genius.

Blogging less? But how 'handsome Carlos' will we, here in the blogosphere that have now become accustomed to your deep insights, ever manage?

Hope all goes well. But please, keep us posted.
:-)

C. Andres Alderete said...

It's a fine poem, Megan.

All's well, Nancy. Just trying to prioritize (sp?). Anyway, I don't expect you to mange. My next blog will be about mixing a Kool Aid end-all.

f8hasit said...

That's funny.
But can we use Vitamin Water instead of Kool-Aid? It's so much better for you...

...oh, yeah. End-all. Wouldn't quite matter now would it. Let us all know that are part of the Tired One's cult following!
:-)

Chrissy said...

Don't ever surrender your goals until you reach them. Or you'll wake up one day and say, "I should have...."

dreamchaser1998 said...

Dead silence in my house. Occasional clicking of the mouse as I read next lines of Capone story. Then... Oh gawd, you left the poor thing outside?! From-the-gut laughter that even shocks my 2 pups! Visuals on that, priceless!! But f8hasit says you might be slowing the grinder?? Noooo! I'm new to your blog and I'm reading someone who lives in TX (god, I miss the Lone Star!) and is also reading American Pastoral...what are the chances?! Thanks for sharing...have enjoyed so far, must check out your archives for more. Cheers!

C. Andres Alderete said...

Nancy, you can have vitamin water, but only you.

Chrissy, thanks for the encouragement, but I can also wake up one day and say, "shit, I've wasted a lot of time trying." It's a catch-22, I suppose.

Dreamchaser, I'm also really handsome. Thank you for the flattering words.

Chindiana said...

Dude, forget Europe and head to Asia. Better yet my corner of the continent. 30 and 20 years olds are considred equals on back packer beaches.

We can get that beer on that beach overlooking that volcano.

carma said...

Best wishes on your journey. I'm a good bit older than you and am often filled with regret that I didn't try to accomplish some of the dreams I had when I was young and starry eyed. Don't make the same mistake :-(

C. Andres Alderete said...

Chindiana, I'll head that way eventually. I happen to love beer and volcanoes so that's a wonderful incentive.

Carma, I lost the stars in my eyes many years ago, but there's not a whole lot I regret. Thanks for the the good luck.

Bash said...

My favorite quote from my old man was, "Life is like a pendulum on a clock... it goes one way, but it always comes back and goes the other." I incorporated a subtle version into a song. Very nice poem... I watched a new show last night on the Travel Network that I thought would be a great way to live, unfortunately my writing skills aren't my forte, but it could be an option for you: http://confessionsofatravelwriter.com/

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