This is mostly about me. Or you. I have no way of knowing.
Parts of this piece have been recycled from older writing I did, but the sentiment is more than relevant. Four years ago I left a job I held for twenty-nine years. Two years later another college I loved to work at for the same three decades shut down completely. Change was necessary, reinvention. But I’m turning sixty-two in July, and I realize I’m still trying to move forward with way too much baggage—there is the occupation itself, which can be restricting, there’s the people I’ve known both professionally and personally, some of whom I love dearly and some of whom can go to hell. It’s been hard trying to break away, and I find myself still stuck in second gear trying to recover and move on.
My high school prom theme was “Breakaway” by Art Garfunkel. I remember that a lot of friends found it cynical, and maybe a bit uncool for the times. We had just snuck past disco and Manilow, so we were really hoping for something edgy, but we ended up with a non-Simon Garfunkel. In fact I might have been the only one who couldn’t get the song out of my head, not in a “tune won’t go away” fashion, but the sentiment. It captured exactly what I was feeling at the time.
And I am again.
I watch the distant lights on the runway, Disappear into the evening sky
Everyone was thinking about partying at the beach and my mind was already out of there, gone. I was always a bit strange; while I had very close friends, I never completely felt like I fit in, and that remained throughout my misplaced career.
Truly. I am the one who thinks when I’m in any crowd that I should be somewhere else. Any song or poem or movie or work of art or conversation which steers toward distant places and beyond the horizon instantly attach themselves to my psyche.
I always—I mean always–feel time like drips of water on the back of my neck.
It’s not the sun you’re trying to find; Something else is on your mind. You need a little space and time to break away
I took a gap year. It wasn’t called a gap year back then; it was called the not-go-to-college-for-a-year year. I just figured sometime during those twelve months before I headed to the hills of western New York for college, something amazing would fall in my lap. I kept thinking if I kept looking around, I’d find something that would have changed everything. So I looked around. Nothing changed.
Same thing happened this time, these past four years. Same damn thing, only this time it comes with other people’s misunderstandings and judgements. And I’m tired. I’m really mentally tired. I had mistaken this tiredness for depression. It’s not. It’s mental exhaustion from restlessness and frustration.
I feel like the guy who caught the under-regulation size fish, so he threw it back, but everyone thought he fried the fucker up and ate it. Which pushes a mind like mine further into other places, and you come to realize you cannot, as was pointed out to me, keep trying the same thing hoping to reach different results.
Maybe I am insane. Or maybe I went missing forty years ago and I’m still searching rivers looking for myself, wondering if I’d even recognize myself anymore.
You ever feel like you’re just one thought away from exactly what you want to say? I’m like that all the time; even when I’m writing; maybe especially when I’m writing. Like I am onto something but can’t quite put my finger on it.
Break away, fly across your ocean. Break away, time has come for you. Break away, fly across your ocean. Break away, time has come…
New York. Arizona. Mexico. New England. Pennsylvania. Virginia. A bunch of foreign lands.
…and I’m back. Got that job teaching at the local college none of us ever wanted to attend to begin with. I broke away several dozen times through the years since then to places all over the world, but I kept coming back.
Most of us when we’re young maintain a sense of standing on some edge, the sense of leaning forward and jumping off, the sense of possibility and hope. We are dying to break away from complacency, from predictability and lack of passion. I’m almost sixty-two years old and I still don’t feel like I’ve done it, so I keep thinking it is time for me…
To awaken in another country. Greet the morning under foreign skies
What I know I am best at is the actual act of simply looking around, as if somewhere back in 1960 God said, “Hey I’m just going to drop you off here for a while so you can check everything out” and simply not sitting around would be my measure of success. Well, I certainly haven’t sat around. Until lately.
That must change.
Not long ago I was on the pier at the oceanfront. It was foggy and I couldn’t see beyond where the surf was breaking. I stared at the fog for quite some time, the mist, and how it beautifully shrouded the fishermen on the pier, the workers setting up for an event on the beach, the sculptures up and down the boardwalk. I watched a young boy try and bait his hook, and I talked to an old man about how the selection of fish has changed through the decades. I watched a lone surfer let lesser waves roll by. At some point I thought about what it was like a bit further out to sea. I could clearly see that it was brighter beyond the fog and I knew that out on the horizon the sun was inevitably pushing through, we just couldn’t see it.
I turned and watched walkers and joggers pause at the rail waiting for the sun to come through and I turned back and had this overwhelming desire to borrow the man’s surfboard and push out beyond the fog and go looking for the sun. I thought how cool it must be for the fishing boats already out past the shelf searching the deep waters to be able to feel the sun on their faces, pulling in their catch while gulls dive nearby, and back on shore people wait for that morning light to come to them instead of headed out there to find it. There’s more than one way of pursuit, I’ve heard.
“There’s more than one way of growing old.”
And, of course, like some trite metaphor just waiting to pounce, I stood at the end of the pier and realized:
It’s not the sun I’m trying to find, it’s something else that’s on my mind. I just need a little space and time to breakaway.