I was born at 10:05 AM on September 9th, exactly twenty-six years ago.
If you were to ask me how my life came into being, I’d tell you the story about how my mom was friends with a singer in my father’s band. I’d tell you that my dad has a thing for redheads.
As far as I know, the rest is history.
At the time of my birth, my parents were learning what it meant to strive toward a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. They got a good deal on a house, swaddled my bum multiple times a day, and drank cheap beer in between diaper changes.
I was, in effect, the kind of existential realization that aligns priorities in the world, the same way that most first-born children situate their parents’ lives into a respectable composure.
Age Is but a Number
Twenty-six years in the making is no such feat that falls out of the ordinary. I’ve been old enough to drink alcohol in the States for a good while now, I’ve been eligible for the draft for even longer, and turning thirty seems to be about the only age-related milestone ahead of me.
It’s not exactly the most glamorous age, just somewhere lost in the fray between the vanity of my early-twenties and the consequence of my early-thirties.
Though, I will say that because I eat my vegetables, and because I ride my bicycle from time to time, I have a pretty good shot at living the amount of years I’ve lived so far, at least three times over.
I feel that in that, there’s immense cause for reflection.
If you were to ask me why, from the day my parents gave birth to me up until this very present moment, I’ve lived the particular life I’ve lived, I’d give my most wholesome and honest answer.
I really don’t know.
Man's Place in Time
With every day that I grow older, I find that I’m accumulating a deeper fascination and more regal appreciation for history.
Events that took place before my lifetime have not only had some kind of effect in shaping the environment I’ve been given, they also lead to some semblance of an idea where mankind is heading as a whole. The whole inertia of a hundred billion stars shapes the universe into what it is today.
And within this there’s an even greater detail to our yesterdays.
Arguably, the most important aspect of historical events is the window they provide, through which we can look, to shape our imaginations in what it must have been like to live in another time, another place, and in another body.
We can realistically imagine the life of an American revolutionary in 1770 AD, or the life of a Teutonic knight in 1190 AD, or even the life of a Chinese peasant in 540 AD.
What, you might ask, does this say about our current place in time, or where we are going in the future?
Perhaps, that our dramas are not as serious as we make them out to be. Perhaps too, that we’ve got a celestial mandate to make this lifetime truly count.
The paths are many, but the road to fulfillment is singularly your own.
So how do we know which path to choose that will bring us the greatest sense of fulfillment? Trial and error, I suppose.
Our modern human lifestyle is assuredly the most self-directive we have ever known, with innumerable paths of feasibility opening new doorways every day. Computer technology, especially since the invention of smart phones, has revolutionized the way we conduct our life choices.
The new-fashioned ability to easily change our life path with the touch of our fingertips is a testament to entering some kind of new adolescent technological hierarchy.
But we still stumble and falter. We live in a day and age that is wrought with envy. We covet details in the lives of others, and find small resentments in our own. All of this insatiability is usually brought on by the tiny blue screens we spend so much time looking into.
I’m no stranger to this, and I’m saying: “Don’t proliferate envy in me, because I too make others enviable.”
Where Am I Now?
I was originally going to title this article, “Stuck in Ohiopyle” but have since decided to change my tone. I felt instead that this article was meant to be more about humbly approaching my thoughts on age, and the prospects of setting a life path.
So where have I been lately? In all probability, it’s unlikely you’ve heard of it.
Ohiopyle is a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania, known for its white water rafting on the Youghiogheny River, and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail that passes through town. It is absolutely packed with opportunities for adventure, whether it be rafting, biking, hiking, rock climbing, or getting in touch with nature.
It’s a busy town in the summer, and virtually lifeless in the winter.
250-some years ago, George Washington also passed through modern day Ohiopyle. The timing of that event was just before he engaged in a skirmish which would inevitably spark the beginning of the French & Indian war.
We came to Ohiopyle with much more civil intentions.
A few months ago, Heather found a job listing in Ohiopyle after perusing CoolWorks.com. She moved here within the month, and I was not long to follow after.
Questions of Importance
Despite the casual quietude that Ohiopyle has fallen into since passing Labor Day Weekend, my thoughts have remained loud and disjunctive—like a flea hopping from idea to idea.
I’ve been learning to find appreciation with where I’m at, but I’ve also been weathering the storms when envy and dread come to play. There’s certain kind of fear in getting older. There’s a fear in failing to reach personal “success.”
You see, the funny thing about small towns is that your mind gets to working when it can’t find the physical amusements it craves. If you’re not right with yourself, you’re destined to be exposed in the analysis of your thoughts.
Yes, we’ve got rafting and biking, a pub with multiple beers on tap, and a small market with locally grown foods. There’s trees ideal to set up hammocks in between, waterfalls scattered through the highlands, and sleepy neighboring towns that were once rife with historical value.
But how do you get right with yourself?
This town has enough to stay reasonably content in. I’m not starving. I’ve got good books to read. There’s a social crowd interested in engaging topics.
But still, my heart is finding difficulty in articulating that it just somehow feels “off.”
To Want or Not to Want
So here I am, twenty-six and living in a small town, nearing the age of my parents when they gave birth to me. I can’t help but wonder if I should be preparing for the same: buying a house, getting a corporate job, drinking cheaper beer in an effort to put more in the savings fund.
I’ve always wanted a daughter too. I’ve got a name picked out and everything.
But another part of me pulls at the insistence of continuing to travel. There’s a great big world out there—social media reminds me of it—and I can’t help but feel the nagging determination to see as much of it as possible.
And with that, there’s a particular kind of division between these two wants. They are, in effect, diametrically opposed (if I may turn my drama into geometry). One half suggests accumulating wealth by settling down and preparing for a family, the other path warrants a kind of free-handed impulsiveness.
The middle road, where I can still travel while maintaining the full-responsibility of preparing to raise a child is seemingly much more difficult. Such a path necessitates either landing a job with remote privileges, or inventing something of value. Though, it’s hard to say what bestows worthwhile ideas.
And still, I continue to jostle with the ability to relax in the right here and right now, in this tiny town in southern Pennsylvania, with winter impending, and the slow tick of days growing older by the minute.
What is a Reputation?
CEOs with the wealth to fly anywhere in the world, celebrities who have managed to make themselves relevant—I’ve begun to understand the allure of fame and fortune.
Most of us crave power.
We want to buy ourselves a little more freedom. We want to be acknowledged with the ability to make an impact in our own mode of being. We are narcissistic.
This snake in the garden has been around since the dawn of humankind’s capacity for mythology. We are instructed by its impulses, and duly weary of its venom. We are made by it, and we break by it, all in the temptation to eat of its propositions.
The fortuitous developments that must befall a man in order to reach significant influence through fame and fortune is beyond my realm of understanding. All I can attest to is that I’m persuaded by the desire for power too.
There’s not much valor for a man born into money unless, I suppose, his cause is noble with it. But those who come from mediocrity and turn the rules of the game to their advantage…well, those kind of people are fit for royal privileges.
There’s a fire behind my eyes that matches this sort of treasured potential.
I’ve just never quite known how to let it out.
Cacophony and Silence
Writing has always seemed to have some kind of restorative capability. It’s like using the order of logic to shackle together multitudes of faeries all berating and dancing around the individual self.
The way I see it, even if my body and mind begin to fail in their various components, as long as I can write and find expression through prose, my life will still have meaning to ascertain.
Even bipolar tendencies find their place in language.
Sometimes my heart is a songbird. At other times, it’s a fire-breathing wyvern.
Sometimes I set up a hammock and read, finding contentment in the gentle breeze and the whiz and whir of a dragonfly darting overhead.
Sometimes I feel dread in the thoughts that I don’t have the ability to fly to any country I want, that I don’t drive a souped up sports car, and that I’m no longer covered under my parents’ health insurance.
Wonder How Wonderful
I wonder how wonderful it must feel to not want at all, to feel wholly fulfilled in presently available things, to feel the invisible guest quietly calling, to not miss the past or dread the future, to befriend each and every new day.
Is that what the zen mind is like?
I can feel that voice calling from beyond the watery veil, they’re like drowned words sputtering up from beneath the fount of my distress.
Why does it feel so difficult to remain relevant in this tiny town in southern Pennsylvania?
Why do I feel the need to remain relevant at all?
The expected outcomes of all this rumination comes in two forms. Either I’ll find appeasement in having next to nothing, meaning: few clothes, limited insurances, and no grandiose desires. Or I’ll find a way to make it big, fully ejecting myself from the contemptible rotation of 40-hour work weeks, meaning: easily affordable travel, bolstering savings accounts, and probably owning something that drives fast.
Although, the realistic truth usually falls somewhere in the vague in between.
By next spring, we’ll be starting our training to become bike tour guides. We’ll likely start out guiding on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP trail), but it’s an exciting prospect, to say the least. The pay is a little nicer than our current retail jobs too.
By the looks of it, we’ll be hunkering down for the Ohiopyle winter. Rent is cheap and we’ve both got guaranteed jobs. We’ll be making up part of that small population under fifty people as we save money and prepare for our spring guide training.
The two poles of my being will be partly dreading, and partly welcoming the cold weather in Ohiopyle.
It may not have Taiwanese temples, or Scottish castles, Egyptian pyramids, or Mexican megaliths, but I imagine there’s a certain kind of peace only available to those who live in small towns while plump snowflakes fall outside the frosted windows.
It will be the twenty-sixth year I’ve seen them.