When I was a young man I was very interested in making my way in the world. There was something adventurous about learning how to succeed as an adult. Childhood felt a little pre-constructed, plopped as you are into your parents’ full lives and then sent to schools with their uniformity of ambition. Adulthood had no such boundaries, it seemed to me. You could live in any city, pursue any career, be with whom you pleased. Treacherous as it could be, the world outside my window was a place of infinite roads leading to infinite destinations inviting to be explored. I could feel the explorer’s curiosity within me, a hunger that is itself satisfying. And yet sometimes I would look out that very window, at those very roads, those very cities and people, and think, “None of it means anything. There is nothing to explore. Every road leads to the same nothing in a different shape.” I was bitter about what I saw then, feeling betrayed by the world and its siren song of adventure. I also didn’t know what to trust. The explorer was happy but naïve. What had he been so excited about? What fantasy of meaning had gotten hold of him?
It reminded me of what happened sometimes when I reread a story I was writing. The scene that had felt so alive the day before seemed dead to me today. I was split in two. The writer of yesterday had been a happy explorer, but the writer of today had reached a destination where all roads ended nowhere. So I would wallow for a time in a directionless despair, drifting on my back, cast about by waves and currents. I didn’t care where we were going.
It was peaceful in a way, peaceful enough that by and by I was lulled into a kind of sleep. I could see the sky overhead and feel the water beneath me, but my mind had gone still, and into that stillness arrived a thought. It was an interesting thought, but I was suspicious. “What do you want of me?” I asked it. Nothing, it said. “Good,” I replied. Just be with me, it said. Let’s talk.
This seemed easy enough. I loved conversation. Conversations were like journeys themselves, but I didn’t need to look out my window to learn where I was going. I looked no further than my partner’s eyes, even a partner in my mind. Now I could see what I’d been looking for, and though I could feel myself up and moving again, I made sure to keep my eyes off the road, lest I lose track of where I was headed.
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Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.You can find William at: williamkenower.com