I left Derynne’s this morning before her or the kids were up. Everything in my blood was curling towards the sea, and it was painful driving in the direction of the blue balm on the horizon with that only-in-the-morning-is-it-this-color sheen. Catalina was painted over in pink. It was hard to leave because that’s where my heart is, the people I love, and also where I surfed when surfing was more a part of my daily routine: Huntington Beach. It’s different in Laguna, where there are rocks and jags and cliff crags and I don’t know the tide or a single local break well enough to go by myself. These are excuses. But wistfulness will lead out of and lead you, some road map you follow though you don’t even know why or how.
On PCH I turned the volume up on my iPod and had to laugh. It was me. Literally, shuffle had pulled up a track of myself. In 2010, a month before I quit my old career and moved to the beach in Maryland to sit in the whimsy open-endedness of what next, I took a road trip to Vermont in a car load of four other people so I could speak at this big conference on staying clean and sober as a young person. We drove all night and in the morning found out the bridge was out at Lake Champlain. Sleepless and panicked I had a melt down and hours later was shaking my head in wonder that I, crazy ass me, was going to speak to all these kids? Periodically, it will come on shuffle, but because of the way it was recorded it will just play three or five minutes of the talk instead of the whole hour.
This morning the part was me talking about the fact that I had just quit my career and was in full surrender to the world, life, God, the Muses, the power, the mystery, whatever you or I choose to call it from day to day hour to hour. Was literally with my hands up and arms wide in “What next? Take it all…” as in take all of my ideas, every last one, and may I be still enough to feel it when you move my heart. And there came the head shake, the great irony: the birdseye view. Four years later, I live an entire coast away, have the tiny writer’s studio by the sea I always could see in my heart’s eye, am a grad student at an Institution I have been stalking ever since I first learned of Joseph Campbell on PBS in 1998. I told Derynne about it last night: one morning I woke up. That’s what happened, I woke up and was driving to my cousin Erin’s in Baltimore one morning, with the windows down listening to the trees. And suddenly I realized I was on the wrong highway, hadn’t been paying attention, and at once, that I was heading in the wrong direction in my life. In that single instant, I knew. Didn’t decide, just knew as if a light had come on. I am going to California. It took working two restaurant jobs all winter long but in August the following year I did it. I got in the car with no final destination, no plan. I just drove…said, here I go, take it all…
Follow your bliss, Campbell said. Even when it feels dead, or is shadowed by the reality you have to hold opposite of it: the all the time present scholastic responsibilities, the tension of that, of living on an intern’s paycheck and student loans, of being far away from family and friends, of not knowing anymore your own definition of home, of being willing to just hold that. It’s easy to forget that from the big picture, it all somehow makes better sense.
Which is why I had to laugh some more, shake my head. The song that played after me on the iPod? It was the same one that a group of dudes on bikes were playing out of a boombox in a basket my very first night here in California. With Wallace in Newport Beach, riding bikes to eat sushi.
I don’t know where I’m headed. That happens so much more than I want. But sometimes I get reminded to be willing to trust that I’m on my way.