Still mostly asleep in the liminal dawn, I first hear the wind as it pours over the ridge, shaking the trees and wrapping the house in white, blowing fog. The sound drifts across the surface of my awareness, and then I’m just awake enough to feel something coming up from dreamtime and resolving into thought. An image appears in my mind’s eye of long crystals, growing in a lattice and piled like tinker toys. I know better than to concentrate too hard on the shapes—it’s better to focus somewhere else and let the meaning unfold in my peripheral vision.
The message that the image carries comes in the form of a question: if I allow myself to consider, just for a moment, that everything in my life so far—whatever has happened, regardless of my plans and desires, and however it's gone—has prepared me for something, what would that something be?
An anthropologist studying an unfamiliar species would look at the evidence of its behavior in the wild, and infer from that its particular patterns, motivations and personality. I’ve spent so much time looking elsewhere for the answer to who I am that it never quite occurred to me to put more weight on what I’ve already done, and who I have been, probably because for as long as I can remember, most of what has pushed me forward has been fear.
First of all, I felt the fear of not being free. For me, this is the fear of not being able to act when the time is right. In the present it’s more often that I’m wishing that I knew what to do, but this fear has been enough to compel me to secure the future option. This is why I started working at eight years old. This is why I didn’t stick around to become a professor of geography. This is why I saved my shipyard money—so that I’d have the grease when I needed it.
My second major fear has been the fear of being alone. It’s fair to say that I still fear being alone when I’m old, and I still want desperately for company, for touch, for sex, and for love, but I feel no terror at passing the day or night, a week or even a month by myself. I’ve got plenty to do, alone or otherwise, and I know now that I won’t just disappear.
Another persistent fear is of being surprised with sudden rejection. The fear that someone—especially a woman—will turn to me, furious, and say No. Wrong. Not that. Not you. This fear is of misunderstanding, and of being misunderstood—and of the shame of being rejected—of a fellow man’s disdain, and of the heat of a woman’s implacable anger. That last part of this fear comes from my sister’s violent rage. The other parts, I do not yet know the source of.
It’s the fear of thinking that I was on the right track, that we had an understanding—but then instead, that I had it wrong, that I made a mistake, that I was inappropriate, or selfish, or inconsiderate. This is the fear of fucking it up—the fear of being a bad man. This part of me fears the price of speaking, and ignores the cost of not speaking.
Most of all, I’ve lived with the fear of not knowing my purpose. I’ve felt dejected and ashamed for not feeling more passion, as I imagined those blessed with clear vision must have. I resented not knowing, as I felt of course that if I only knew that I would be pulled towards that goal, perhaps with less effort on my own part. I even tried constructing goals for myself in the hope that by way of my dedication, they would become what felt like purpose, and in what often feels like my greatest failing, I tried to become a husband and a father, hoping that that would become something—and even those commitments did not satisfy.
I’ve tried all sorts of costumes, and taken so many detours.
This assemblage of slim prisms is slowly pulsating, their subtle starlight pink and coral blue glowing against the black of deep space.
And yet the reality is that I just recently spent three months almost buying a house. I say almost because I had the contract signed and got to within a week of closing before I finally realized that the house wasn’t for me, and that the place where the house is wasn’t for me. I cancelled the deal when I realized that I’d been going the wrong way, driving out there all the time. I’d been going towards a story about myself, and away from how I actually felt.
The trials of trying to decide, and then of extricating myself from the purchase, those are serving me well. I feel myself more than ever, more confident, more clear. I feel more like me, and in more specific ways. With certain inclinations, and preferences—and with limitations. With direction.
I’ve run experiments on myself my entire life, trying things on to see what might fit as me—and now it’s time to know. I can observe myself in the wild. Everything that I’ve done in my life so far has prepared me for something. This shape arranging itself as I wake is the shape of my Self solidifying, taking on more structure, becoming more real.
Of course, as much as I wished that it would, I knew all along that this heat couldn’t come from some outside source—but from where?
From this feeling. Feeling myself is the sun-fired furnace that burns hot enough to push me forwards, and my purpose is not some singular grail. Purpose is moving, the never-ending search, the being and doing along the way—as guided by that crystallized template of my still-waking soul.
Looking at the image that emerged, this realization that my past has prepared me to be me right now feels like being driven forwards. It feels like being at the tip of the spear, with the weight of all of my history and my story behind me. The massive and passionate, ceaseless thrust of the star drive, pushing the light-ship forwards across the ether as in the sci-fi epics of my youth. All that empty space is full of stories that I can never forget.
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