Been doing a lot of thinking lately. Obviously. If you want to play along at home, imagine the best thing that has ever happened to you in your life. Imagine that this had lasted for nine years. Now, imagine that instead of being a source of solace and comfort for you, a font of inspiration and confidence, it is transformed almost overnight, without warning or even coherent reason, into a source of betrayal and pain.
Anyway, this prompts a lot of thought. And key among the thoughts is the one of where the future will be, if there is a future to be had at all. I have really made extremely little progress in figuring this out for myself. I know I will not be living in Princeton anymore, and I’m pretty sure there are wide swaths of the country I can rule out for either lack of friendship/support or lack of interest in ever being there. Georgia comes to mind. Iowa, maybe. Seattle, a town I’d desperately like to live in someday, is just too far from any close friends. Same goes for anywhere abroad, except maybe parts of Mexico. Though I hear it’s tough to do regular border crossings.
There was a list at some point, though the list sometimes feels too narrow and other times too broad. Two cities have risen near the top, though they both are towns where I have no super-close friends. In one of them, I do have a whole debate team that would be the main source of my sustainability and interest for the year I could spend there, there being New Brunswick, New Jersey. In the other, I know no one, but would be a short jaunt from the Grand Canyon, long established as my spiritual home and epicenter. This one being Flagstaff, Arizona, the town I just told my friends in LA after Kunkel’s wedding would probably be my first choice of places to live if practicality were no object.
It’s by no means exhaustive – there are plenty of other places both west and east that are in contention. And even if they contend for 2010-2011, there’s no telling how much longer I’d stay in the same place. Both New Brunswick and Flagstaff would kind of be project towns. The former being a place to throw myself into debate, hoping to find satisfaction from fulfilling the coaching commitment I already made to a group of exciting and improving youths on the verge of their potential. Probably for just one year at the absolute most, to fulfill the commitment and see this year’s batch of seniors through while still laying the groundwork for a program that will (hopefully) have arrived by that year’s end. Flagstaff would be about me becoming a bit of a Desert Rat, spending maybe up to half the nights outside or in tents as I tried to hike every trail in the Canyon or maybe even embarked on an endless jaunt through the wilderness. To get in shape, to heal myself and restore my faith in the soothing light of the high desert. The same could be done, with more familial support and less natural perfection, in Albuquerque. Maybe – maybe – even somewhere in southeastern California that’s in range of all the friends I have in LA.
In thinking about these choices, it’s become increasingly clear that I will have regrets no matter where I go. And not just in the sense of the decade of regrets I’m only starting to come to grips with in my own head that pertains to the crisis writ large. If I go west, I will forever regret reneging on my commitment to Rutgers, feel bad about leaving the program I was helping to build in the lurch at the outset of arguably their most critical year. I will writhe that the opportunity to work with those kids is another casualty of what Emily has done to me, that the kids I’d be turning my back on would be unwitting victims of her recent rash actions. Conversely, of course, staying east offers numerous challenges to forming new bonds with people. For reasons I have been routinely unable to fully explain to others’ satisfactions, I feel enormously uncomfortable in the east. I find it to be cold (not physically – I like that kind of cold), uninviting, harsh, unwelcoming, and populated with people generally even more emblematically so. The idea of embarking on my most fragile and vulnerable year of existence on Earth in such an unforgiving environment seems almost pathologically stupid. And so I would regret, every time I was sad or lonely or desperate, surrounding myself with the forbidding world of the east instead of the relaxed, warm, and welcoming confines of the American west.
These are not the only factors involved, of course. Proximity to friends and family are huge, and made more complicated by the idea of sort of choosing between friends, or rewarding friends in some de facto sense for being near other friends and thus creating more of a safety-net community. It’s arguable that I shouldn’t try to do anything this year, instead drifting for weeks at a time from one friend to another. This seems bad because of the aimless stasis and limbo it might engender, but also seems safer in some ways and more likely to remind me of how much I have to live for. Not one of these choices is easy.
There’s also the factor of being too much of a dead weight on friends. I’m not saying this so that forty people e-mail me in the next 24 hours and reassure me that they are happy to do whatever they can for me – I already know you all feel that way. And thank you. But at the same time, I can feel the palpable toll that I and this situation are taking on the people that I care about. Anyone I stay with for a while ends up seeming exhausted, drained, and almost annoyed. I get it. It’s human. I am too great a burden to be shoved on any one person right now, or even a collection of people. Folks have to live their own lives, get married, have good times, embrace experiences that are not convincing their friend why there’s a reason to go on. And here again is perhaps the case for New Brunswick or Flagstaff, somewhere that the relationships I rely on day-to-day are tinged with less overall overwhelm at the depths of what I’ve lost. Granted, that may be infeasible – it’s possible that no one will meet me for 3-5 years without immediately being confronted by me as a broken semi-person. I don’t know. But there’s something to be said for forcing me into a situation where I have to form new bonds. There’s also a lot to be said for the idea that I wouldn’t do that even in a town where I knew no one, that I would just draw inward until my very sense of an outside world collapsed entirely.
There are no right answers. Such is the nature of calamity. There may be hope – maybe, I’m not sure – but there are no right answers. And so I continue to spin my wheels in futility, to face my impossible choices and decisions, to try to talk over the repetitive intractability with those who’ll listen. I know how I feel about regions of the world, though, but this isn’t the only factor. And I’m still not sure how I feel about the world at all, and whether it can still be the place for me.
I am trying, as calmly and slowly and rationally and logically as possible (under the circumstances) to figure this shit out.