Well, this Landmark has taken a lot longer to write than I thought it would. I’ve had a bit of a hard time settling on exactly what to write about. Heh. 1000 posts, almost 1 year registered, almost 18 years of living, graduating high school, leaving behind my family and friends (and Hatrack!) for 6 months to live in the wilderness … somewhere in there, a Landmark should exist. Eventually, after many failed attempts at writing this, I got to thinking about exactly what a Landmark is, to me at least. It’s something I want to be able to look back on as a turning point. If I’m just going in a straight line, there is no need for landmarks. But if, like now, I reach a point where I’m turning, I want to mark the land, so I can look back and think, “That is where I was, that is what happened, and this is where I am”. From there, the path was much clearer, but was still something missing. Something that needed to be resolved. I knew vaguely what it was, or at least what I needed to do to resolve it. And finally, I went out and obtained that dangable resolution. So here I go, attempting for the final time, my Landmark.
Some of you may remember my “Another Teenage Angst Thread” thread from a few months ago. For those of you who don’t, the title pretty much tells it all. To make a long story short, my best friend was a girl, I liked my best friend as more than just a best friend, I told her this, she shot me down. Right before I deleted the thread, I believe I updated about how she changed her mind and we became a couple. I remember asking her, when we had decided to become a couple, “What do we do now?”. She said, “Go with the flow”. Those words are what spurred the turning point which makes up this Landmark. Our relationship as a couple lasted 3 or 4 weeks. It ended when she said that she couldn’t put in the effort required to be anything more than a friend. I was quite displeased by this rather abrupt ending to what I considered and still consider one of the happier times in my recent memory. In fact, I will go ahead and call it the happiest I’d been in a very long time. So, this happiness that I was really enjoying was torn away from me. Why? Because that’s the way it flowed. No, of course nothing could have been different. You can’t change the direction of the flow. It’s pointless to struggle against it, it requires too much effort.
Sunday night I had dinner with that girl who’s had such influence over my life these past few months. We talked about life and how it flows. How we flow. We painted a picture of life being a river that we float down. As you float, you will form relationships with people because the flow brings you together. Sometimes it’s a gradual process, sometimes its bing bada boom, you’re flowing along together having a great time. Then the flow starts to pull you in different directions. Again, sometimes it’s a slow process that you barely notice, but sometimes it’s a violent separation where both of you get hurt. But regardless, it is inevitable. The flow brings you together, the flow tears you apart. The analogy can go deeper too. There are some rocky times and some peaceful times. Sometimes you’ll put your feet down and find that you are in over your head. There are times when other people are making waves when you are trying to relax, and times when you are the one partying, splashing around in the shallow water. Some people just sit back and wallow in the misery of it, some people struggle against it. We painted this picture, and I told her how much I hated it. She looked at me, and her look gave me all the resolution I needed.
Our conversation pinpointed the cause for the strife I have been going through these past few years. It pinpointed my struggling. All my life, I have struggled against “the flow”. Quite a few of my almost-Landmarks told stories of some of the more interesting instances in which I rebelled against this force controlling my life. I won’t regale you with any here. I’m not looking to make this a super long post. The point is, much of my unhappiness, my world-weariness can be attributed to struggling against the flow. And I am sick of it. There are three things which effectively summarize my dissatisfaction with “the flow”: Relationships, promises, and the future. I cannot abide the inevitability of the ending of friendships, I cannot abide the bastardization of the concept of a promise, and I cannot abide the inescapable nature of “reality”. But let me tell you, all this not abiding is exhausting. It’s a lot of work to be constantly struggling to maintain friendships, keep promises, and escape what everyone tells me is reality. Frankly, I’m tired. So I have decided. I’m through with “flowing”. The flow has screwed me over one too many times. No more will I try to keep up or slow down for the sake of others. No more will I try to stand firm in the midst of raging waters. No more will I try to bend the flow to the path I want. I’m done with that. Now, this is not a hopeless realization. This is not me giving up.
This is me getting out of the water. This is me saying "Screw you" to the flow, and freeing myself from it's clutches. This is me striking out on my own. This is me leaving.
The hardest part in this resolution is also the first and most important part. It’s the part that made my dinner with the girl, who still continues to be my best friend, so painful at times. By getting out of the water, forsaking the flow, I am letting all my fast-flowing friends pass me by. Possibly some will join me outside the flow. If I could choose, that would be my choice, but I know that I can’t. Maybe some will struggle against the flow to stay near me for a while. They will inevitably get swept past me, or I will move away from them. Likely they will forget me except as a memory, perhaps awoken every once in a great while by a glance from a distance. That is what I think will happen, and however much it pains me to say it, I also think it is a good thing. Whatever happens, before I begin to put in an effort to maintain friendships, I first must be assured of maintaining my own sovereignty.
Perhaps less difficult, though not necessarily, is the decision to maintain my concept of a promise. To many people I have asked, a promise boils down to nothing more than “I’ll try harder than normal”. If the right circumstances arise, the promise goes out the window without a shred of guilt. Or perhaps there is guilt, just not enough to motivate the person to keep their word. I find that repulsive. When I promise something, for me it ceases to become about the particular situation or circumstance at all. Instead, it transcends all of that and becomes an entity of itself, more motivating than any circumstance, no exceptions. I realize that this may seem foolhardy, but only if you throw promises around like pennies. To me, a promise is something sacred. A promise is not something to be entered into spontaneously or irrationally. If I know that I will potentially not be able to keep a promise, I don’t promise. I certainly wish everyone were like this, but it has come to my attention rather harshly that this is not the case. In the flow, a promise means nothing. Even if it is said with the best intentions, when you give your life over to a fickle flow, there is no way to keep your word. It saddens me. But what would sadden me even more would be for me to join in the bastardization of this concept. I will not do it. I refuse. Others can feel free, but as for me, I will keep my word, regardless of the circumstances.
The last applicable aspect of my decision to get out of the flow is also the reason for the “Farewell” part of the title. As I mentioned, I just graduated high school. The flow would take me to college and then out in to the work force. I would have a family, work my job, live my life, go with the flow. When graduation started getting nearer and deciding exactly what to do with my future began to be a more pressing concern, I started becoming more and more despondent. The struggle was getting harder and harder and also more obviously futile. This is reality we’re talking about here. The real world. There is no escaping it. I refused to accept that and tried to find a way out. This way out became more than just a vacation, but also now the catalyst I am using to break myself from the flow. I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is a 6 month, 2,175 mile journey. I will be alone for much of the way, relying on myself and myself alone to quite literally survive. When I return (if I return), I will likely still go into college, but not as a part of the flow. If I do it, it will be because it is my choice, and I will have the flow neither pushing me forward nor holding me back.
This trip means farewells to many things, not the least of which is Hatrack. I leave in less than a week and writing this Landmark has already taken up enough of my time, so I’m afraid this is goodbye. Hopefully not for good, but no promises . Hatrack has been such a boon to me, providing me with wise counsel and priceless entertainment for the past tumultuous year. I owe you all a debt which can never be repaid. Wish me luck on both my physical and allegorical journey. Again, thank you all. In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like les than half of you half as well as you deserve … I regret to announce that … this is the end. I am going. I am leaving now. Goodbye.”
Posts: 2826 | Registered: Jul 2005
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quote:This is me getting out of the water. This is me saying "Screw you" to the flow, and freeing myself from it's clutches. This is me striking out on my own. This is me leaving.
I really like that philosophy. I miss it in myself. I have always believed that high school graduates should do something before they start the real world. I normally think of religious missions, military, and peace corp. volunteers as a nice activity. They are away from it all but there is still enough structure to provide safety.
The hike you are talking about seems intense and dangerous. I am not sure I could recommend that for my son (when he gets older)--good luck to you tho.
I hope you keep a journal so that you can come back with a landmark. Be safe.
Posts: 2445 | Registered: Oct 2004
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(((Strangelove))) I'm a go with the flow person, but I'm married to a non-go with the flow person. While this would not seem like an ideal arrangement, I am very happy for the last year. I was pretty happy for the 2 years prior to that, and tolerant of the 5 years before that. I think of our 15.5 years together, I've been happier than sadder.
I think maybe one can choose which flow to be in. Perhaps the flow that is bothering you is the one where you start to get sucked into the flow of whoever you happen to be around.
But it's something I give a lot of thought to, how to have a healthy detachment from others without telling everyone to go jump in the lake.
Posts: 11012 | Registered: Apr 2003
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It's been weird, watching you evolve as a person over the time you've been posting here - you more than anyone, since in a lot of ways you remind me of me five years ago. I'm glad you were here to contribute what you have, and beyond that - good luck.
Posts: 4313 | Registered: Sep 2004
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I'm envious. I wish I'd been smart enough to do something like this (which, by the way, I've always wanted to do) before rushing off to college. I want to hear all about it when you get back.
Posts: 5454 | Registered: Apr 2005
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I really admire you for recognizing this about yourself so young (as if I am so much older, but at 18, I would have loved the opportunity to pursue my own path).
Posts: 484 | Registered: Feb 2006
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Good luck, Strangelove - I envy you your journey. I think that adventures like this should almost be mandatory for someone leaving Highschool... tho that would then make the adventure part of the stream, neh?
Posts: 2244 | Registered: Nov 1998
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Dang, I missed this. I guess you're gone by now. Well, good luck.
Too bad I don't know what you look like. I suppose I'll have to resort to asking all the teenage guys I meet if they're sometimes known as 'Dr Strangelove'. Should start some interesting conversations at least.
Posts: 2142 | Registered: Aug 2000
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I commend you on your courage. Ordinary, fearful people don't up and decide to change their lives, and even fewer decide to go on a soulsearching trek through the wilderness.
I wish I was posessed of that kind of fortitude.
God bless, and good luck with your trek. I echo others who've said to keep a journal, and possibly a photodiary of your time. Share what you learn with us when you get back.
Posts: 21748 | Registered: Nov 2004
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I haven't been here that long, and I haven't seen you 'evolve' as a person or anything, but I do wish you luck.
You have more determination than I, being quite content to go to college when I get out of highschool... And in the meantime, beefing up my application so I can get a scholarship. Yep, that's me. Party party party, all the time.
But good luck.
(And I third the keeping a journel thing... I find that it's the trail of breadcrumbs leading you to your previous landmarks)
Posts: 438 | Registered: May 2006
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