Ah. Hometown living...
Anyone who ends up making their their living in their home town most likely asks themselves at some point, "how in the world did I end up here?" Even though that person could be doing groundbreaking work, and making a life more wholesome and rewarding than anywhere else they've lived, sometimes, that sense of abject failure can't be shaken off. I never left my hometown.
The funny thing, is I'm not a failure. When I stop and think about it, I'm completely the opposite. I've lived a million more lives than most I know. Who in the hell can turn on a dime and shift from a listing life of teacher/metal-head/poet to running a family empire in a few short years, and who now sits in a position where my decisions affect more than 280 employees and their families? Who in the hell just walks onto a college swim team after being recruited for track, which was clearly the stronger sport? Who in the hell survives crossing over, time after time being stung by yellow jackets? Who in the hell can walk into dangerous places, and be liked by its countrymen?
People often say, "you're impressive," but for me, it's just another story, another notch on the board game I'm still trying to come to terms with. Meh, "I've seen tougher scrapes" I think, but sometimes, my damn hometown has the sneakiest ways of suggesting that no matter how many groundbreaking things I accomplish, no matter how I reinvent myself, no matter how many lives I've borrowed, I'm a failure because well, I'm still here when my friends come back into town for Thanksgiving. We meet up at the local, which didn't exist when we were young, and they say things like, "so, how's old Wads-tucky treating you, man?"
Tonight my boys got blasted with some of my old band recordings after they couldn't believe me that I used to shred away on guitar. My younger one just stood there and stared at me while the other ran back and forth and said every so often, "wow." I don't think it was because they liked the music. It was because they were listening to a ghost of me. "How did you learn to play that fast," one kept saying, and I told him it was just practice...but what I really wanted to say was, "it depended on how lost I wanted to be at that moment."
Liminal space was always sort of a familiar cousin to me.
It was all about playing as fast a possible, pushing odd time signatures, altered tunings and chords that sounded how I was feeling inside. Beautiful wreckage most likely. I usually ended up writing most of the material for my bands, and I remember how I used to feel so far away when I was composing - even though I was here. In Ohio. My poetry has been, and remains, the same way. I didn't really care what was popular at the time when I was studying. Still don't. I was just an angry kid-turned-adult who was trying to figure out his own journey with mental wellness. I often wrote to shock people, because I was still shocked at the misdiagnosis that was prescribed to me in my formative years. The same one that has followed me into my early 40's.
Back in the mid 90's, Prozac was tossed out like candy at a parade. I have no idea what that stuff did to my yet developing mind. I'm still angry about it. And today, the parade still exists, but instead of candy, waving hands on the floats themselves promise that if you partake in "wellness," you'll be able to ascend the very float itself and be "one of us."
I'll keep digging in the loam.
When I come across an old acquaintance in town, I often wonder if they were scared of me back in high school, or if perhaps they had no idea who I was because I was wrapped up in self-exploration, pushing the boundaries of "me." I've come to realize that nothing is more frightening to another person, or doctor for that matter, than one who is comfortable leaning into their edges. These days, I wonder if I owe them some sort of quasi-apology, like, "hey, I always thought you were cool, I just didn't know how I could make myself relatable to you." Or, "you know I used to hate you because it seemed things came so easy for you." Or better yet, "I know neither of us had a fucking grip on who we were, we were just scared and full of hormones. It's okay. Live."
None of this is to say that I'm not a likeable guy. I have TONS of friends who would would come running if I even picked up my phone, and people at work call me "Mr. Wadsworth" all the time. I know tons of people, and I move about the social strata like a puma. But, when you get me in private or in one-on-one conversation, you'll find I still prefer having bits of cinder float about the aura of my persona. Whether it gives me an edge or just makes me a fool, I don't really care, even more so the older I grow. I am who I am. Be prepared to hear something.
Living amongst the trees has somehow softened me though. I used to be a quiet kid until I realized that bombastic juvenilia made people laugh. But that only goes so far as to protect myself. The forest has reminded me that I am nothing but mud in motion, a network or mycelia waiting to be reclaimed. And so, this, and all of what you've just read, is where I come from when I guide walks.
I've noticed that I'm delving into that territory again where friends and coworkers probably think I've gone off the rails, yet again. But, I've really found the next mile-marker in my progression forward. There's nothing insane about being in the woods. Safest place on earth. There's also nothing insane about helping people remember their roots. Which, could be a thought or a song, or even a taste, having been imprinted upon them as a young child.
A home, wrestled with, and carried inside us all of our lives.