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art theplaceI cracked the foamy Sam Adams Boston Lager and relaxed into my seat. Christmas Eve. Red-eye flight. Charlotte to Burlington, Vermont. All in an effort to be in the living room of my parent’s farmhouse in the morning to watch my year-and-a-half old niece open her mountain of gifts.

The holidays. What can you say about them? These days, I find my “vacation” time away from the newsroom is more out of family obligation than actually “getting away from it all.” This isn’t to say I don’t look forward to spending time with my family, I do, but there’s a growing need within me to actually unplug and try to find some mental stability away from the unknown and chaotic jungle that is journalism.

The ole trek down to Charlotte from Waynesville. Depending on traffic, a good haul down I-40, I-26 and U.S. 64. I’ve done it so many times the drive is almost subconscious at this point. Winter holidays. Weddings. Fourth of July. Whatever it takes to make it work, I’ll figure it out.

Lately, I find myself wrestling with this idea of “family.” What does it really mean? And how it shifts and evolves as the seasons pass, the years sliding off the calendar and into the garbage can with the slightest breeze. 

Now, let me put it out there in the clear. I adore my family. Deeply. But, I’ve been on the run for a long time, with no intentions of ever turning back. While hometown friends and family move through the usual channels of a post-high school reality, I run for the hills. 

This isn’t out of fear of being pinned down. Quite the opposite. It’s out of passion and being able to meander into the depths of the world around me. I didn’t look at high school or college graduation as a finish line, nor did I when I got my first newspaper gig or promotion or actually lived in a town longer than a year (next August will be four years in Haywood County). 

Legendary banjoist Marc Pruett (of Balsam Range) once pulled me aside and said, “Son, you’re not done paying your dues until you’re dead and cold in the ground.” His words have ricocheted around my mind ever since then. I agree with him, which is why I press ahead, full-throttle, each morning I awake into the unknown day. 

We are all mortal, and we tend to forget that, too. I’m not saying you should dwell on your own demise. Of course not. I’m saying you never lose sight of the fact that the moment you were birthed and flipped over into life, the sands of time, and of your destiny, were also flipped — grains slowly falling down, seconds ticking away. 

So, where does that leave me? Well, a 30-year-old who is a freewheelin’ circle peg unable to fit into the 9-to-5 rat race that is the square hole. Journalism — the only ticket out of a normal life, for me at least.

I use written word as a vehicle to wander, to provoke and discover. Childlike wonder has never left my side, so I pick it up and run with it, often. I’ve also used my fingertips across the keyboard as an utter defiance of all that resides back in my hometown.

The people way up yonder in Upstate New York are captivating, as are most groups of folks who live in a bad weather prone region tucked away from the bustle of city traffic jams and dirty tap water. That is my base, the foundation I launched from. And I’m proud of it, all of it. But, I must keep moving. Always keep moving. See and do the impossible. Be part of the present. Never rely on the past or its dusty victories. Learn from it all, but never point to it as the “be all, end all.”

Which brings me back to here, and now. At the airport. Awaiting my ride. Awaiting a cold beer wherever the neon beer signs buzz brightly and the faces remember who you were before you ever decided to set foot outside the town limits. 

I’m looking forward to sitting in my parents’ living room, next to a warm stove burning wood my father chopped last summer, a few feet away from a rollicking toddler eager to see just what Santa left her under the large pine tree situated in the corner of a house filled with not only love, but memories and promise for an ever-better tomorrow. 

I’ll never stop running. It’s part of my nature. Run. Run far. Run fast. Always chase after whatever your heart desires. You’ll never know all the answers until you’re too old to physically and emotionally do anything about it. Might as well pursue the madness you know resides somewhere in the ocean of secrets that’s your heart and soul. 

Life. It shifts and evolves as the seasons pass, the years sliding off the calendar and into the garbage can with the slightest breeze. Grab a cold one, and a seat, and hold on for dear life, for it’ll be the wildest, most magnificent ride you could ever imagine.

 

Hot picks

1 Mad Batter Food & Film (Sylva) will host a New Year’s Eve Party with Porch 40 (rock/funk) at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 31.

2 Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will have a New Year’s Eve Party with Ol’ Dirty Bathtub (Americana/bluegrass) at 8 p.m. Dec. 31.

3 The Rendezvous at the Maggie Valley Inn will have a New Year’s Eve Party with Stone Crazy Band (rock/pop) at 9 p.m. Dec. 31. 

4 Water’n Hole Bar & Grill (Waynesville) will have a New Year’s Eve Party with The Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) at 9 p.m. Dec. 31.

5 A New Year’s Eve Masquerade Party will be held from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, at The Imperial in Canton.

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