Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Few Thoughts For The New Year

I like the attitude so far in 2010, even if the news is still littered with images of smoke and wreckage, downtrodden and angry and opposed.

In the first few minutes of the new year, I watch my friends play a set of new and old songs with old friends and new acquaintances gathered around - in the same old setting, in a context we've never known.

I put my hand on a familiar shoulder at the bar and my buddy and his girlfriend turn around, give me big hugs. He tells me that he feels good about this year - there was a solid idea of what 2009 would bring, but he has no clue about 2010 and that's exciting to him. He says that the next ten years will add an enormous weight to the chains of history. I think he's right.

All around the club people are cursing the last year, though they are thankful to be climbing out. Someone is moving to London, someone is kicking coke and heading to art school, someone is unemployed and spending their days working on their dreams. It is clear that there are a lot of good particles in the construct of a rough time.

A year ago today I was driving across the expansive western plains of Texas, taking the southern route to avoid ice and snow on my way to New York. There are other days that are like the ones I've spent between Las Cruces and Austin, where despite the progress you know you've made, the landscape through the windshield looks the same, days where the light seems to fade over the same heavy chrome clouds and the same pale shrubs from which it rose. No matter how much blurs by through the hours and hours, it is difficult to see the tangible accomplishment. There were lots of those days in the last year - and that's okay.

Reaching back through the crumbs of last year, I recall that my goal upon entering was simply to get through it, to keep the tank filled as the miles and miles slid beneath. There was negativity all around - uncertainty, fear. Many were afraid of what was coming and didn't want to pull back that curtain and see, or had taken a look and made the decision not to make changes to face it, just to forge ahead with their heads down to the storm. None of it was right or wrong. I couldn't recall a time when I had to face something that wasn't a repetition of history, where we couldn't be briefed beforehand by our older brothers and sisters.

So much that is happening right now is unprecedented - our culture is being processed at light speed, our personal relationships are being carved out across oceans where there are new continents forming of floating plastic refuse. Maybe we're starting to get used to it though, learning to roll with the punches, to take them as they come, and maybe there is a hint of curiosity about what will happen. It is always just been one big experiment anyway.

Over the last year, I have experienced so much within myself that I have never encountered, and had little capacity to put into words. I have come to understand what people mean when they talk about anger, while simultaneously being humbled by the heavy hand of love. My previous concept of myself has been shattered. I look back from one vantage point and am so proud of all that happened, everything I saw and felt and thought, so much beauty through the experience. I look back from another place and I find myself fighting feelings of hatred and regret.

There was one thing that I knew for certain, though, as I charged across the great dry sea of western Texas, and that was the fact that I would end up back in Oakland as the year came to a close. I had been offered an opportunity on the East Coast that I was taking more out of the habit of ambition than from my own desire. I took it because I was confused with how to navigate the new landscape I was in, I was hurt by the past, and I was overwhelmed by the future's uncertainty. I took it because I needed to get away to be reminded that no matter what you do, you're always from the place you're from. And as I'm writing this now, I'm looking out my apartment window at the rooftops and backyards and the Oakland hills rising in the distance and I am still utterly confused and unsure of what is coming. The difference is, I feel great about the moment and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.