Essay 1: Something big or little that has influenced you.
At 19, with a cooler full of sandwiches, I drove across the country to start a new life. I was done with mine, and if I stayed any longer, that would be a reality. The year leading up to this moment had been a difficult for me. I was struggling with accepting certain realities about myself that I was denied from my parents. They were disappointed that their son was gay, and I was disappointed in myself for allowing them to find out. I needed my sanity more than I needed the space between us.
Before I could even cross the state line, I was already halfway through my sandwich stock. I remained full for the rest of my trip; mostly on feelings that outlasted the drive. For the next thirteen hours on my first day, as I passed small Iowa town after unmemorable Midwestern city, I’d color the road with a wild imagination that changed as frequently as the songs that played through my car speakers.
Scenes of grandeur, hollowing despair, overwhelming happiness. I was experiencing an intense feeling of connectedness with myself that I could hardly put to words. As I drove away from all that was familiar, I was in some sort of state of hypersensitive awareness. I was leaving behind the shell of the person I was before, replacing the missing pieces along the ride. In a hotel room in Montana, I broke down. For the next several hours, until I fell asleep, I cried in fear that I was making the wrong decision. Was I running away from myself, or running to myself? (A question that would go unanswered for quite some time.)
Whatever I was running from or to, I sure as hell wasn’t going back. Not now, at least. I was in fucking Montana for Christ’s sake! On the next day of driving, I reflected back to everything I thought I was just a few days before I left. I used to have this feeling that I was never really in the moment, rather living a few seconds ahead or behind the time. Now, away from the place I once called home, it was like glasses. For the first time, I was here, in the present, and I could see.
Out of my regular environment, my mind was working in ways that I wasn’t used to. I was meeting myself for the first time in a moment of clarity that I’ll never forget. It sounds silly upon reflection; after all, it was just a drive out west. For most people, getting from one place to another is more of a burden than it is a journey. For me, it was quite the opposite. On the road, I was alive. For the first time, ironically as I claimed not one territory, I was home.
Years passed, and I subsequently moved myself around the country a few more times before landing in Chicago to finish my degree. With every creative assignment I’d take on, I’d try to return to that crazed state of hypersensitivity. Everything I felt then was so authentic and meditative, I owed my transformation to the pavement. In transit, en route, I came to appreciate my own mind. I stopped trying to make sense of its complexity and began reveling in its process. Today, I find inspiration in the journey. Exploring the unknown, seeking refuge in my conscious.