The last day, the very last precious moments of my twenties, rolled along with a single thought reverberating in my head: what has been the greatest thing I’ve learned from the past decade? Part of this focus is a desire to, in someway, close one chapter of my life, while part of that focus has to do with the game of “thirty things you’d do in the first thirty days of being thirty” we played at the bar the previous night, which led me to think, even further, that there must be something learned, there must be some great revelation from the last ten years of life that I can take to the next ten years. So, in the beautiful clarity of the first day of May, the first true day of spring this year, with cloudless blue skies, mild temperatures on the rise, and tulips at their brightest yellows and pinks yet, finding the nugget of truth, the one sentence I could encapsulate ten year’s worth of experience into, seemed easy.
Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.
Quickly, the morning passed. As I walked to work, listening to the new Fall Out Boy album, strumming an air guitar not too aggressively to illicit morning glares, the nugget wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it would. Maybe the nugget had something to do with the night before. After hearing that the play, Shipwrecked: The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougmont (as told my himself), New Haven Theater Company was currently producing and in which I got to play the title role, the most substantial and exciting role I have had to date, would no longer be produced because of a bureaucratic technicality , I was numbly devastated. Two months of labor, the most dedicated, thoughtful, consistent love I had shown for just about any endeavor, all for not. At least, all for not in the immediate. This tremendous let down had me bellowing to my best friend, Ma,“If life is constantly full of failures, finding the silver linings, and small victories, I don’t want any part of it.” Soon after, I gave the sheetrock a few solid jabs.
Did I really mean that? Apparently I wasn’t emotionally numb at all, which is why I decided that this couldn’t be the nugget—it came from an emotional place of immediate frustration. Once, in my early twenties, I would have believed it, and thus gone a few rounds with the sheetrock (which always win), but now I know better.
As the workday progressed, so did my thoughts on where the nugget of truth lay hidden.
“Damn, Christian, you old. And you don’t have a woman yet!?”
“At least you don’t look too old. We got to find you a girl for tomorrow!”
“When are you getting married?”
My students always do have a way of, um, tactfully speaking truth; maybe the decade’s truth was hidden in love. As I listened to their words, and to the arguments over the subtexts of texts, and their subsequent relentless questions, fill the air of my office, I thought back to my own love life as I entered my twenties. While texting wasn’t pervasive (still blows me away how far technology, and our ease and accessibility with it, has come in the last ten years… wait, is that the… never mind), I was brought back to my own ridiculous arguments and miscommunications over words never said. I celebrated the not so momentous “turning twenty” birthday in my New Hampshire hometown. I should have been in college, but I had decided to participate in the whole time off from school to get my head right on why I’m continuing an education sabbatical. This was true, I was no longer sure why going to school matter. Soon after I got home and realized the real world outside of the comfort of school is fucking hard, I knew why I needed school. But, part of my motivation to move back home was her. We had been in a long distance relationship, and I didn’t want that any longer. After all, we were going to get married. I never said that out loud, but it seemed implied. And, just as soon as I moved home, and formed that incredibly solid relationship, I started to wonder, “what else is out there,” which of course was never spoken out loud either. We didn’t get married. A few year’s later, a met another her, this her I was sure was the woman I was going to marry. Again, those words never openly shared. We “dated” for six and a half years, and the whole time, while forging what was the strongest relationship I knew beyond the relationship I have with Ma, I always pondered, “Is there better out there?” We did not get married.
Now, being in the dating scene for the first time as an almost thirty-year-old man, I can say that all that wondering has brought me to the sometimes not so wonderful land of the dating world. Had I learned, was the nugget of truth that the grass may be greener on other lawns, but its important to truly embrace the lawn I stand on? Had I learned that full commitment involves patience, trust, honesty, and growth together, and above all, communication of intentions? Yes, I understand all of this now. But, I think I always did. I just didn’t put it into practice. And yet, there is also a stubbornly optimistic notion from my twenties that lingers, that keeps the belief alive that, with love, really with everything in life, the best is yet to come. I have faith that some of the best comes in the 3-0.
The last day of being twenty-nine, and still no nugget of truth to take with me into tomorrow. So, as the sun began to set, I did what I often do in times of confusion and frustration—ran. As I trotted through the first five miles of my run, thoughts changed with every step, until I got to…
“Maybe the nugget is the words of wisdom I keep in my wallet, all those years ago from Counselor Kenny. Maybe I’ve truly understood that ‘the only journey is the journey within.’” I began thinking about how in the past decade that while all of the events of love, loss, success, failure, in the nine different addresses I’ve called home, the greatest journey has been when I’ve taken the deep breaths, the deep spaces, stopped to write and reflect, and taken the journey inward. My clarifying concentration was soon broken by a man, close to my age (he seemed to be in his thirties, which, to say now we are the same age is still going to take some getting used to), turned onto Whitney Avenue a block ahead of me. I knew that royal blue shirt with the yellow accent stripes. It was a Boston Marathon shirt. Without a thought, my legs began to pump harder, my breaths shortened up. I began to make up ground and keep pace with the man. He was a formidable challenge. I thought, being the young, I mean younger-looking man, I would catch him within a quarter mile. But that quarter mile turned into a mile. By a mile and a half, at the start of a steady incline, the competitive edge kicked into fifth gear. Soon, he was nowhere in sight. And as the sun set, and I walked into the light panting with pride, the last rays of lighted highlighted the fact that, at least for today, the greatest journey was taken out doors, because a man turned onto Whitney Avenue ahead of me.
So, with mere minutes until I turn thirty, I do not have my nugget of truth. I know some things have changed, love has come and gone, failure has been more frequent than success, and yet, I’m still rocking out to rebellious rock anthems. What I do know is that I am nowhere near the twenty-year-old kid from Kingston, New Hampshire. I am something greater, and will continue to be something greater.
Wait, was that the nugget!?