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This must be the place: The street heats the urgency of now, as you can see there’s no one around

So, probably like most of y’all out there, I’ve spent a lot of time during the continuing quarantine combing through the details of my life, physically and emotionally, whether I intended to or not. 

While some folks are using this time to literally clean their homes and such, I’m finding myself left in, and lost in, thought. Usually right before those thoughts becomes some sort of existential crisis, I’ll either lace up my running shoes or crack my first beer of the afternoon.

Sure, this solitude has been cathartic to peel back the layers of one’s self without distraction from the outside world. But, at the same time, it’s been quite the odyssey to look into the mirror and make sense of the eyes staring back of you.

Some of these wide-ranging thoughts and conclusions as of late are as follows: I’ve broken up with as many women as who have broken up with me; I’ve never owned a new car and have no desire to; my constant need to wander and stay in motion might be a subconscious urge to escape inevitable hard truths in my life; I can truthfully say I’ve been “in love” three times thus far. 

And so forth into the depths of the midnight hour with nothing really do in the morning but more thought over coffee instead of beer. Wake up and do it all over again — make breakfast, write, think, lunch, write, run, pop a beer, put on music, order takeout, think, stare out the window. 

Lately, my thoughts have been drifting over the mere fact that, at age 35, I’m currently equidistant from age 20 and 50. This notion popped into my mind while I was simply sitting in my apartment and gazing blankly out onto Russ Avenue in downtown Waynesville, the normally bustling road empty — no people, no cars, no nothing, just silence.

I mentioned that crossroads of age via text to a friend of mine in quarantine up in Lexington, Kentucky. She’s a truly cosmic soul, one I met through my musical travels last year in The Bluegrass State. She’s the kind of radiant persona you find yourself sitting with on the tailgate of your truck at a festival, deep in conversation about nothing and everything as the world slides by none the wiser.

She responded, “That’s crazy to think about. You’re probably more similar to who you’ll be at 50 than at 20. You should write a piece interviewing those two people. It’s a cool premise. Maybe time is nonlinear: you’re all three ages at once.” 

And I got to pondering about who I was at 20. Honestly, it was the true line in the sand of who I was and who I am. That summer of 2005 changed every single thing in my life. 

In a four-month period, my best childhood friend was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident at age 19 (May), I went on my first solo road trip to Bonnaroo and had the epiphany to become a writer (June), my college girlfriend who I thought I’d marry someday left me (July), and I jumped on a flight to Ireland for a semester abroad in Europe (August). 

Yeah, crazy, right? I knew even then that nothing would ever be the same after that summer. That time period set me on the trajectory that eventually led me to live and write in Western North Carolina. Here I sit in The Smoky Mountain News office, typing my weekly column, all steps previous resulting from the summer of 2005.

And yet, no regrets. Plenty of mistakes, sure. But, no regrets. There were definitely times where I could have been a better person. And there were times when I bit my tongue and walked away from a situation before it was set ablaze by the gasoline spewed from triggered mouths and things said in haste.

So, I’ve established the haphazard, yet bountiful, road to the here and now. But, where to from here, eh? Well, even if 50 is some 15 years down the road, it’ll probably be here in a blink of an eye if the speed and distance between 20 and 35 are any indication of just how quickly times flies, especially when you’re having fun.

On the most basic of levels, I do what I love for a living and I’m doing so in a place I’m happy to call home. Yes, there are other writing goals in mind, other books that I’d like to write and projects chased after. But, I can’t complain when I wake up and look forward to work. I still enjoy running every day. And I’ve surrounded myself with incredible people who I adore, friends and family near and far. 

Other than that, everything else is just details. Love remains elusive, but I’ve also never given up the hunt. Bring it on. As well, I still want to someday find and purchase that cabin in northern Maine, the closer to Rangeley the better. I still want to teach creative writing and journalism in a college setting. And I still want to come up with new dreams and goals to pursue. 

The crazy thing is: life keeps on going. Don’t forget that, more so in this current situation we all find ourselves in. Aside from the chaos and uncertainty of it all during “this,” there will also be a great awakening within many of us: we will finally see ourselves clearly in the mirror without noise or distraction, ready to run at the horizon of our wildest aspirations. And for that, I’m thankful.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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