Is the past linear? Is the past cyclical? Or neither?
History is doomed to repeat itself, we hear it all the time. Society seems to repeat its own missteps.
But are we, as individuals, doomed to repeat ourselves? Are we on a linear path in our own history- continually moving forward, closing doors on our past as we travel through time. Or are we on multiple cycles, where moments of our past resurface and manifest themselves in their full glory as we age.
I am famous for procrastinating. I excel at starting a project and putting it on a shelf. If you ask me what I do for a living, well that depends on what month it is or which pot on my stove of activities is starting to boil over.
Are we meant to be this one thing in life, this one activity or career that defines us? Or are we meant to continually revisit our past lives and our past beings and then make them better at a time in our lives when we are ready to embrace some part of our selves we placed on a shelf many years ago, for whatever reason.
About 6 years ago, I was bartending at a small restaurant on the Outer Banks. The town population in the winter was about 300 people or so and we would close the restaurant at 8 p.m. and be done for the night. One of our cooks was in his mid 50s and the most intelligent man I have ever met- but no one would give him a second glance if they passed him on the street. Our waitresses called him sticky-whistle tooth and you really didn’t want him cooking your food. We would all sit around the bar, have a few drinks and he would take the conversation to places I could hardly wrap my brain around. He could talk to the political situations in Palestine and switch to quantum physics without missing a breathe. Truly amazing. He made a conscious decision at some point in his life to not participate in the circus. He worked under the table, traveled onto the next location when he felt the need and was a life-long learner. He exposed me to books and music that shaped my perspective on the world and was an underlying reason I returned to university at age 30. Sitting at that bar in the middle of nowhere with such enlightening conversation made me realize, there is more out there. And I’m being lazy in not finding it and seeking this knowledge for myself.
He exposed me to Ani Difranco, Utah Phillips, Orwell, Huxley, Rand and a host of others. I’ve engaged with this art and felt compelled to move the world, wanted to right the injustices that saturate the fabrics of our society, wanted to retreat to or create the utopia spoken of in atlas shrugged. I’ve been moved by this music and literature to do and to seek.
In my more recent life, I’ve placed many of those intentions, many of those projects in a box, locked away while I searched to embrace the traditional roles in society. Put that person that ignited the passions in the closet in order to make a living, to support my projects with the money some of them need to come to life. And while I have no regrets- every step and misstep in this world serves a purpose and teaches a valuable lesson- I am starting to really see why the day cook said screw it and stepped off the hamster wheel.
I’m listening to an Ani Difranco concert and that past flame is firing up again just listening to her lyrics. Seven years ago, on my last trip to Quartzsite, I started dabbling in jewelry making, beading and leather craft. I loved all the stones and crystals I found hiding at the swap meets. I saw this amazing alternative life and economic system and thought, wow. This is something else. I made some plans to learn lapidary arts and start a small business as a gemstone and crystal wholesaler. I made plans to travel to distant lands and visit crystal mines and gather stories- and stones. And while I brainstormed and daydreamed a little, complete with an airstream, a dog, a map to mineral mines and the open road, I put that project on a shelf. And I did some fabulous things. I pursued my passions for documentary photography in an academic setting, traveled the world and learned some absolutely amazing things about myself, my talents and what I am capable of doing. And I met some dear friends along the way.
And now, sitting here in a motor-home in the desert, listening to Ani, I feel as if the past circles of the last 7 years of my life are converging. I see that my artistic passions, for photography, for writing and for storytelling are merging together and making room for the new passions that have yet to fully manifest but are growing each day.
So, I guess this slightly narcissistic rambling into my past is to just share with you my belief that our past endeavors, placed on hold for whatever reason, are not lost or forgotten. They are just waiting for the right time to re-emerge. These passions and projects lay just beneath the surface waiting for the time when we are prepared to build what we began years ago.
And if you decide to shift gears, decide to pick up that project, dust it off and become one with it, decide to pick up that trade and do something else and someone asks, “well, i thought you were going to be a ________ or I thought you were doing ______.” Well, just tell them that there’s no need to define yourself by yesterday or tomorrow. I am this person today and what I become tomorrow, well, I may not know it if you ask me now, but I’m sure it will fabulous, none the less. And when your friends look at you and question your sanity, your response may be, “no, I’m not crazy for wanting to live my life this way- are you crazy for never stepping off your wheel to question your path?”
And if you need a little musical inspiration- something to make you feel like, yea- I’m gonna do this and just be f****** fabulous about it, put on some Ani and listen closely. Her record label isn’t called “Righteous Babe” for nothing.