Friday, June 21, 2013

(A parable of melancholy and nostalgia)

A while ago, past year or so of college I had a good friend of mine (isn't it strange you're always the catalyst?) lend me a copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac, (who I've mentioned more than a few times - clearly it had an effect) to read while I was traveling and such for my brother's wedding. Being that the book itself is about traveling, I naturally found it to have quite a great deal of resonance as I was essentially born traveling.

From a young age I was privileged enough to travel far and often on a variety of family vacations, and ever since I was entrusted the wonderful and gracious 1997 Honda CR-V (that I will never stop driving so long as she lives) I've been perpetually ensnared by road-trips, long drives, and whatever other locations I can travel to. The extent of this traveling throughout my life has given me a few advantages, being able to pack up in less than 5 minutes for a month-long trip amongst other things - and this is something in itself I think - that I know that I am perfectly capable of surviving with a certain number of items no bigger than my backpack - which begs the question, why do I have anything else?

It's difficult for me to establish a place that is "home". It's been a difficult thing to even put my finger on, as the concept has only recently departed from the physical things - I still have the house where I grew up in Fort Wayne, my parents are always welcoming, and I have my a house of my own in Muncie that is full of the most supportive friends I'll probably meet. But it is not a rare occurrence for me to have a sense of restlessness a burning in my feet that makes me mad with thoughts of "where can I go? Where have I not been in awhile?" and begin to pace around the house, looking for things to get into or start packing for whatever destination I've decided at that moment.

This restlessness confuses me further, as it is not always my "native" house where I grew up that I feel this - it's simply the most common place I feel it. I've felt the same way in just about every other place I've ever been - there's always that restless feeling to get moving a day or so before I initially planned on leaving.

In the first two years of my college living I essentially lived at home and drove to Ball State from Fort Wayne for the week, and returned every Friday only to head out on Monday. This was mostly because I didn't really establish a home in Muncie, I didn't have a place to call my own, and this made sense to feel restless all the time. In fact, my third year at Ball State was really the only one I enjoyed and didn't feel that deep pang of homesickness that was so prevalent in the previous years, rather, the opposite would happen in my Fort Wayne house, especially late at night when as the only college student in the house - I am awake and dying for a hamburger.

Now I could detract the whole thing down to simply missing my friends, who by now have become a second family to me, but I'm not comfortable with that diagnosis either. As the youngest of three, I was there to see my brother and sister leave for college, and then from their go out upon their own lives, and at the time of their departure it was dramatic, sad, etc. But after enough time people being "gone" was just something I got used to an accepted. Be it a few months, half a year or so, I would see my siblings again and even so I was perfectly fine living without them in the house, they still exist, and in this case I wouldn't say I "missed" them. The notion of "missing" hasn't really been something I've been familiar with, perhaps I'm more stoic or subtle with my emotions, but I cannot recall a day where I am not comforted by a momentary pang of nostalgia by the idea that I will see them again.

And even so, other than a few advantages that either "home" gives (Fort Wayne has better food, Muncie I'm my own adult in my own house) there really isn't one that is "better" than the other, and there really shouldn't be a good reason why when I end up at one I am almost immediately melancholy about the other. The only thing that I've found for certain is that I am completely comfortable and restless-free when I am "on the road" when I am traveling, crashing at someone's place, when I know I can leave soon.

I find this ties back into Kerouac. When I first finished the book, I was asked by the lender if I understood what Dean and Sal where looking for. I didn't know, I was too dazzled by the style of the book, the legend of it, the language, I was too enraptured by the performance to truly understand the meaning. To rectify this I got a copy of Kerouac's complete Road novels and proceeded to re-read On The Road while at home and while traveling to across the county to Colorado a number of times (something I found incredibly fitting).

I found on my second read-through I was annoyed. I was bored by the long impromptu jazz segments (I found them reminding me of Patrick Bateman on Huey Lewis...) and I was annoyed more and more by Dean's character. Along with this, I also watched the 2012 release of On the Road while I was here in Colorado (finding it well...a good try) essentially basking myself in the whole thing and trying to figure out indeed, what the two boys were looking for. I believe the answer is, they quite didn't know themselves. When you look at the story itself, it's quite sad, the whole thing is very melancholy and nostalgic, traveling to and from the same location trying to find something but instead finding it is not the same as when they left, a constant chasing of a memory.

I fear the resonance in On the Road strikes very close to the bone for me. Somewhere imparted in me (I  like to think genetically, as my father moved around very often, and my brother is well known for his numerous road-trips across the country) I am driven with the same instinct as Sal and Dean, in any degree of melancholy or nostalgia, I find that I must travel, I must look for the kicks.

In the trunk of my car there is an army survival manual, a sleeping bag, and a change of clothes. During the winter months I have a blanket, and usually a hatchet. I always keep a pack for backpacking all ready and loaded up with enough supplies to last me indefinitely, and my current shopping list always includes some other variety of camping tool that will allow me to be more and more independent of returning anywhere. It would appear that I am never quite settled. 

Staying here in Colorado and going on a variety of hikes through Telluride and Moab has lent me a few curious thoughts, one of which is even asked by my sister when passing me my pack while we were resting. "God that's heavy, why do you have so much stuff in this?" my answer being that I always like to be prepared. But prepared for what? In Muncie, Fort Wayne, Vail, or otherwise I am always in some way prepared to get up and move with the drop of a hat, it would appear that while I call these places my home, I am never really moved into them. I wonder then, if I ever really will be.

The most nostalgic I get about things in the past (as I have an ever decreasing memory) are rooted in moments and locations, not necessarily through people - walking around killing time in Bloomington because I didn't want to return home - wandering the desert before the sun rises in Moab, collecting bullet casings in the sand - things that I am going to bastardize and say "kicks". In this instance, it is rare for me to again, miss people like I miss places and moments.

And while I do have a degree of excitement to return to Muncie and get my teeth back into my new house, and the new experiences I plan to create with that - I am more than sidetracked with the looming idea of grad school and the city of Boulder, Colorado where my most excited hope is that complete and utter "new start" where I will - in a way - abandon the current idea of friends, home, and places I know well for a completely new set. I am more distracted by the idea of leaving and skipping past the melancholy I know I'll feel at the end of this next year, and traveling now quickly to somewhere else new, somewhere else where I will inevitably momentarily stay.

Not only am I hopelessly clueless as to where I will end up, I am vehemently opposed to establishing anything that ties me to any certainty.

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