Originally, this column was meant to be a secondary catchall space for arts, entertainment and feature stories. But it has evolved into something more, where I’ll rotate between subject matter from around Southern Appalachia and around my mind. Writing has always been my outlet. If I got my thoughts on paper, they could leave my mind — my frustrations and curiosities could be put to rest.
It was a long distance relationship. She’s in Upstate New York. I’m in Waynesville. 852 miles apart. Not easy by any stretch, but worth it completely. We’d text, talk, Skype and see each other every month and a half or so. But, life’s priorities and emotional stresses seeped into the fragile foundation of “us.” We held steady for a while, months actually, till finally being apart and in our own worlds became too much.
And then I got the phone call.
She wanted a break, time to get back to herself and her daily routine. Perhaps I needed to do the same thing, perhaps this would be for the best. Who knows? But what did remain was a large void in my existence, one that was filled with the greatest love and admiration for her. Breakups never get easier, at least for me, but this one definitely stings the deepest.
You see, for years I gave up dating. I was tired of all the energy and effort put forth only to have to fall flat and find yourself back at square one. I was tired of finally being excited about someone incredible at the center of my world, only for them to vanish and never be heard from again. I was tired of being tired, emotionally.
It’s funny the thought process one goes through following a breakup. You avoid places and things that remind you of them. You avoid going home, staying out and about to keep yourself distracted from your own thoughts. You turn to old friends who always will catch you when you fall. You also start to think about all the other past breakups that litter the side of the path on your journey through life.
I remember the first one. Seventh grade. We had dated a week, which was like a decade in middle school relationship years. I knew I liked girls, but I didn’t realize how much they could knock you off your feet when they walk out of your life.
In high school I ended up dating a great girl for almost three years. I was 18 years old and graduating and figured she and I would be together forever doing the whole John Mellencamp “Jack and Diane” thing — sitting on the tailgate at some Tasty Freeze with the same friends in the same town holding the same hand “until death do us part.” Nope. Come Thanksgiving (or “Breaksgiving”) of my freshman year, she was long gone.
My 20s haven’t faired much better. Sure, there definitely were some promising contenders. There were girls that lasted a week, a month, a year. There were girls whose families I spent Christmas with, girls I traveled with, camped with, shared my most intimate dreams and fears with, and kissed when the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. But, sooner or later, they disappeared like old-time baseball players into Iowa cornfields.
I’ll be turning 30 in less than four months. I find myself as alone these days as I’ve ever felt in my existence. And maybe that’s a good thing. You never truly know yourself or what you’re capable of until all of the layers of your soul are completely peeled away, and more times than not those layers are exposed in the darkest of times.
Life is about perseverance and triumph. For each time you’re knocked down, what matters most is how you get up and react. Do you give up, shut the lights off and head home? No. You keep your head up, push forward and always stay optimistic for what tomorrow will bring.
As they say, “the darkest hour is always just before the dawn.”
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Bluegrass group The Darren Nicholson Band will perform at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville.
2 The Harvest Festival will be held Oct. 17-19 at the Stecoah Valley Center in Robbinsville.
3 Newgrass act Strung Like A Horse will perform at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.
4 The 18th annual Pumpkin Fest will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at the East Franklin Shopping Center and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in downtown Franklin.
5 A one-year anniversary celebration will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18 at Innovation Brewing in Sylva.