Where we live, what we do, who we love, why we continue to exist. To a great extent, we decide our own purpose.
And while all of these decisions are ours to make, we cannot have our first choices all at once. Life is about picking one or the other — what we do orwhere we live. Who we are or who we love.
There are an infinite number of options, and they change daily. This means that we are the result of the choices we make. They’ll rip us apart and build us back up.
At the end of the day, we have to choose the outcome that will cause us the least pain and bring the most happiness. The two are forever intertwined; a package deal that comes with every single breath we take. This delicate chemistry of loss and gain controls our lives.
We kill 24 hours each day — 24 hours we’ll never get back. We hope that, when the sun sets, we can sleep with the decisions we’ve made during those hours. We hope that we can rise again for the next 24 stronger, and able to keep moving with the conviction that the choices we made were right.
Life is this giant bridge, one without rails, immersed by fog, hovering over a churning bay or ocean or river - depends on where you live, I suppose.
The point is this:
You can keep crossing, keep moving forward with the crowd, and someday you’ll reach the end. I hope what you find there is pleasing.
You can jump off and sink down, if you so choose. Make of that what you will. It’s not about giving up.
You can climb the spans, walk the beams, slip on a dewy surface or soak up a ray of sun above the clouds. Below you, everything will move on as planned.
You can stop and enjoy the view, letting the hustle and flow of life move around you as you watch the water bend and twist in the light. You can stop for a moment with one of your fellow travelers, perhaps talk for a bit, let their hand grasp yours as you try to understand all that’s around you.
What you cannot do is turn back. This is a one way bridge. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have forgotten what was at the genesis of this bridge. That is okay. You must simply keep moving forwards, toward the end - don’t spend too much trying to understand. You may crawl, walk, run, or skip. You may do things to slow your journey or speed it along; but you will always, always move forward.
What can I say about this year? Somehow I can’t finish a year without looking back a little and seeing the whole thing as a continuous chunk of time I need to analyze and reflect on. Because as much as I don’t believe in the arbitrary way we manage time, we do and it begs insight and attention.
This year started in the most amazing way possible. I was unbelievably loved and safe and I’d found home.
And then life went on, just a few days in, and I had to spring back from the harsh reality of jobs and love and life. Whatever.
And then things changed again, in the weirdest way possible. And everything that had happened at the beginning of the year gave me the courage and the lack of care to just roll with it.
I still don’t know what to say about that period. This period. This time in my life where I suddenly have everything I’ve worked for, but am counting down the days until it’s all taken away by fate. Because that, my friends, is inevitable.
I turned down something like…four job offers? WHAT. In this economy, right? Shoot me. And then I found the perfect one and I couldn’t be happier. I love what I do. It’s not what I imagined - it’s not where I’ll end up or do my life’s work. But it’s pretty fabulous for the moment.
I got a tattoo. Judge me. I’m free and I’ve lived for too long according to others’ ideas of what my life should be. This is for me, and no one else. Shoot straight, my friends.
I thought I might lose my best friend ever, my sidekick and brotha. That silly little bay horse that waltzed into my life and somehow saved me. God, I wish I could count the times he’s saved me. He’s beyond perfect because he’s far from it. He was rejected and ignored, and I was hurting and at the end of my rope. And somehow we got thrown together, and we stuck with each other. I don’t care who thinks he’s just a stupid horse; he’s my stupid horse and he means the world to me. Ending this year knowing he’ll stay by my side is the best feeling on earth.
All in all, this year was amazing and fabulous and a ton of work. It was really, really fucking hard. I played around with being down and feeling sad when I was younger, but man, real life will shoot you to the ground and spit on you. That said, I’m unspeakably blessed in more ways than I can count. I’m surrounded by the most amazing people on earth, some of my work has paid off, and I’ve found my way, if only for awhile.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”—
It’s almost been a year since this quote rocked my life.
“In bed that night I invented a special drain that would be underneath every pillow in New York, and would connect to the reservoir. Whenever people cried themselves to sleep, the tears would all go to the same place, and in the morning the weatherman could report if the water level of the Reservoir of Tears had gone up or down, and you could know if New York was in heavy boots.”—Jonathan Safran Foer
The waves were high that morning and he wondered if he should go out. It was shorebreaky, the faces steep and just about the worst for surfing. But others had done it, and he would too. He pictured himself being pitched over the falls, his board spinning in the air above the froth, his leash twisting and twisting and snapping against his leg, his body rolling in the surf.
The air was that perfect mix of salt and seaweed, a briny, raw scent that burned his lungs. One at a time, he lifted his arms and rolled out his shoulders, letting the muscles stretch and pull, his breath coming in deep waves with the motion. He let his arms fall to his sides and pull him down so that his forehead touched his knees. He let it rest there, leaning into the pressure of his back muscles stretching and relaxing. He let his hand drift until it found his leash, and he wrapped it around his ankle with more care, more thought than usual. He twisted it to that perfect spot on the outside of his ankle bone and lifted his board from the sand, tucking it under his arm. It fit so perfectly there, nestled into his armpit, the wax facing out and grabbing his rubberized arm.
It fit there, in his embrace, far more snugly that she ever had, he thought.
Head up, he scanned the waves and waited for a pause. When a lull in the sets appeared, he strode out into the ocean, grimacing slightly at the sting of the February waters, as he always did. Shoving his board in front of him, he thrust it over a breaker and leapt on, his arms slicing cleanly through the water. It was a beautiful morning to be broken.
When he made it to the lineup, he sat for a beat, facing the shore and everything he’d left behind. As much as he always tried to leave everything on the beach, to ditch his worries and forget the pain that drove him to the waves, he never could. He knew he had to take these things with him out here, let the ocean take them and roll them over and carry them out to sea for him.
There was a man in a faded wetsuit a hundred yards to his left, sitting peacefully on a Harbour log. His grizzled beard held droplets of water and bits of seaweed, and his arms hung loosely at his side as he scanned the horizon. The man hadn’t moved the entire morning, passing up set after set of clean waves. It was getting choppier by the minute, and he knew the set would become blown out and mushy within the hour. Maybe the man knew something, he thought. It’s always the perfect waves that have the power to do the most damage.
He finally readied himself for a wave, spinning his board beneath him to watch for something worth grabbing. It was like window shopping, this waiting game. You could sit in the lineup all morning and not have the courage to take a wave, or be too picky to grab something less than perfect. It got to a point at which a surfer had to just take what was rolling through. We can’t predict what the ocean will serve us on any given day; the surf reports don’t lie, but they are guesses at their core.
After letting a few decent sets move beneath him, he spun towards shore and stretched out on his board, reveling in the way it always somehow became an extension of him. Arms pumping, he paddled forward and waited for the wave to grab him before popping up. It was decent, almost overhead, and he had to be nimble to navigate the drop. Part of him wanted to become a noodle, to fall apart and let the wave crumble over him, take him whole. But his instincts kicked in and he sliced into a bottom turn, letting the rails dig into the belly of the wave. There was no barrel here, but he preferred it. Getting lost in a green tube would have been too tempting.
When the wave began to close out, he kicked over the crest and let his board flip up into the air. Diving backwards, he let the cold Pacific swallow him whole, the water shocking his system. For a few blissful seconds, he tumbled about weightlessly, letting the current take and pull and rip and tousle his body, rough at times and gentle at others.
In those seconds, as he was suspended in water and salt and seaweed and sand and hydrogen, he thought about the whole thing, the course of finding her, of loving her, of knowing her and being completely broken by her.
He opened his eyes and saw the haze of seagreen water around him, felt the sting of it against his eyeballs, the pressure of the waves tumbling above him. It was a place he wanted to stay forever, but he eventually punched off the seafloor and rocketed to the surface, his right hand leading his head, trunk, hips out of the water. He floated for a second and let another wave roll over him, feeling the relentless tug of his board as it was pulled towards shore. He wanted to just drift, let the ocean take him as its own, let the sun shine down on his slick body, let the salt corrode his skin over days and weeks. But the more the air filled his lungs, the more the salty water kept him afloat, the more the sun warmed his face, the more he knew he would stay earthbound, tied to the solidity of life if only for awhile longer.
It was the walking away, the ignoring and the harsh slap of reality that allowed him to move on. It was realizing that he was more than what he was with her; that he was a human being capable of surviving on his own, happy or not, that forced him to rein in his board and swing his arm, then his leg over it to paddle back out. The waves were growing now, the swells coming in sets of three or four with long pauses in between, as if the ocean had to stop and gather itself, find the water and power and wind to whip up these monsters. He grunted as he crested a swell and popped up, scanning the skyline for the next group, waiting for something worth chasing.
He let seven sets roll beneath him before he found a wave breaking at the right point. He tried to find some symbolism in this, in waiting for something that was just right, that was breaking at the right point, just growing and cresting in a way that meant he didn’t need to move his position so much as swivel around and pump his arms like pistons until the wave took over. But he wasn’t much of a reader, and he decided it was better to separate this moment from the shitshow that his life had become. Instead, he gave a few strong strokes, dove into the wave, and waited for the push of the ocean beneath him. Eyes up, he pushed himself up and dropped down the face, just barely bringing the nose of his board up enough to cut across the face.
The following seconds were a blur; he may as well have been existing in a different world. He was machine, animal, an extension of the wave. He was part of the earth and completely separate at the same time, and it was perfect. In that moment, he was okay, and he knew that when the wave finally closed out in a thunderous rush of spray, he would still be alive in every sense of the word.
There’s a park up on the bluffs that looks over the whole city, and it’s one of those places you could just be. We used to sit under a spreading tree, our sunburned legs dangling over the concrete lip, letting our bare feet brush the bushes that fell away to the the chalky cliff below.
We used to talk about it all there, about what being happy was and how far we’d come. We’d talk about running away and being something. We’d talk about the depression, about feeling like we were stuck in slow motion, while the world moved forward without us. We’d talk about love and God and suicide.
We were free, we were open and honest and we were bound in our pain. And we watched the cars pass below, we watched the boats in the harbor and watched the swells roll onto the beach. We’d watch the sun rise and set and the stars move over us and drink in the inky sky.