I was told I should insert myself in more of my writing. The funny thing is, I do. I just don’t usually share that stuff publicly.
With the New Year being here, I know that means new opportunities and new challenges. One that I want to test out is where I’ll begin today. Today, I sit to write about things I have learned from others, and inserting myself in the story, while also speaking to others, about others.
If that make sense to you, then I guess here goes nothing:
I’m driving down the highway to a house out in the boondocks where I am dog-sitting for a retired couple who are away visiting their children and grandchildren. I have my gold Ray Bans on because it’s the Sunshine State, of course, but where the road splits into a Y—there is a wall of fog.
Is, for whatever fucking reason, the first thing the voice in my head says. Like rose-colored glasses, but altering my world instead in a brown-vintage looking way. Like the wheels of my Jeep had rolled into the opening scene of grandpa’s favorite Western.
I’m looking, now, at the definition of murk (n.) darkness or thick mist that makes it difficult to see.
Murk is not an adjective because murk is not a color, obviously, but let’s just all agree to roll with this ideology of murk-colored glasses, okay? It is a light-brown hue, sepia-tone; it is thick and it does make it difficult to see—the smudges on your dirty windshield don’t help much either.
I may as well have rolled into the opening scene of grandpa’s favorite Western because this road takes me to Green Cove Springs, Florida, where I, then, take another road that sports a wooden box that seems to be an old outhouse, or something. Reach the outhouse-thing, take a right, and I have a little under a mile of gravel road, bouncing up and down until I reach the driveway of the couple’s ranch-style home.
In the midst of the fog, I wonder why my head immediately went to “murk-colored glasses” instead of something prettier, or, you know, actually a color. Tell me you’re a glass-half-empty type of person without telling me you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, I think to myself and smirk a bit.
But I stop—
Sure, I am a self-proclaimed “realist,” that self-proclaimed “optimists” like to call pessimistic, but that is not the point. The point is, no, my head didn’t go to “bronze-colored,” “gold-encrusted,” or “pixie-dust-colored glasses,” but that’s not because it wasn’t beautiful. It was beautiful in where it took me:
I think about the old journalist from my first job out of college who was talking shit about me, to me, because he didn’t understand the concept of a group-chat. I cried hysterically for about 30 minutes on the phone with my father whose response was, basically, fuck that guy and another 30 minutes with my mother whose response was, basically, it’s all going to be fine.
I can’t remember this man’s name right now, so I guess, both of my parents were right. Fuck that guy because how do you forget one of two co-worker’s names after only nine months of quitting the job? And, it’s all going to be fine because, now, I don’t even enter the premises of Bedford, Indiana, anymore.
It was my second week of my first job out of college and I was already dreading the third week. Driving through the fog now, though, I remember what I learned about that co-worker who probably had no idea he’d made me cry. He was 64 and couldn’t wait to retire but, also, had no money, wife, or children to retire to—journalism.
He volunteered, and sometimes made extra cash, at the local history museum. He went on and on about family lineage and a certain book I needed to go look at in the museum; I never went.
He called himself the local beat reporter, but he spent a lot of time, and was oddly obsessed with writing the obituaries. He was soft-spoken and witty; a lot of reporters are. I’ve remembered his name now. I felt bad for him.
I feel bad for him now. Knowing, he’ll never leave, he can’t.
I wonder what would be going through my uncle Jerome’s head if he were in the car with me. He’d probably have his cowboy hat on and request I play Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker. He cracks me up—but I also know he’d be having his own thoughts on the scenery and the era it felt like we were driving into. Who would he think about from his childhood growing up black in America? What do things look like through his lenses?
I think about my elementary school arch-nemesis who got me called to the counselor’s office for bullying because I told her I didn’t think she was a good singer. We were also in a group together to create a diorama of the inside of a plant—this was 5th grade, but I remember it, now, like it was yesterday. My nemesis’ family had leftover seaweed from Japanese cooking and she’d offered to bring that for our cell wall.
Well, the day we presented our project was the same day she got hungry and ate our cell wall off the diorama. In typical goodie-two-shoes- -who-wanted-an-A+ fashion, I told the teacher—pissed, then.
I think about the day in high school my best friend told me she—my nemesis—tried to kill herself. Like any elementary school rivalry, we’d remained relatively unfriendly. Not going out of our way to speak to one another, but not going out of our way to start anything either. I wondered what had triggered her into wanting to take her own life. She lived, and I watched through a screen as she tried to piece her life together after that.
She has figured it out now, I think. I really hope that she has.
I think about my little brother who is going through his own battles in his own Ray Bans. I watch as he tries to navigate his life in an entirely different way than I did when I was 19-years-old. I insert my opinion a lot when he doesn’t ask for it, and he does the same to me. We disagree on most things, but love each other for the waves of similarities we share.
The last time I saw him in person resulted in a screaming match. One that ended with me pissed at the world and him not even realizing I was actually angry.
“I was just messing with you,” he texted in response to my short novel.
That is the difference between “murk-colored glasses” and “rose-colored glasses,” I’ve learned. Perspective.
Which lenses you choose to look through is entirely up to you, but one reveals a lot more than the other.
What I attempt to say here, is this: I think that a lot of life is tossed up to perspective; which lenses you choose to look through on any given day, what you choose to remember and who you choose to learn from. As I wrap up these words about one, little thought I had during a drive down a Florida highway, I can’t help but wonder if any of this will make sense to anyone other than me. I suppose, that was always my fear in sharing the work where I have “inserted myself.” How do I explain it to people if they don’t get it? Or, will everyone think I am crazy?
I think there is a reason this thought came to me on the day I sat to write my first post for the new year. Perspective. What mine is, belongs to me and what yours is, belongs to you—but why not share them with one another? There is so much to be said and so much to be learned.