The lights from the city are glowing off to my left as my car glides through the tos and fros of this six-lane artery. This is usually when I wait in ambivalence for the drive to be over. But tonight I feel prickles of nostalgia come over me in the peace brought by the darkness and the staccato beats of the white dotted lines ticking by.
I’ve lived my entire adult life in this state, never quite feeling at home in my mind, but somehow making one of it. I’ve talked endlessly about my native state with stubborn loyalty and complained about the politics and softness of the culture here. Yet, now that I am faced with leaving, suddenly all the good things I will miss surface.
I will miss the warmth of the sunshine, which never seems daunted by winter rains for long.
I will miss the frothy beaches set against rocky crags.
I will miss year-round biking though oak flanked clay single-track trails.
I will rivers flowing over granite and fields of wine grapes tucked in blankets of mustard flowers.
But most of all, I will miss the pockets of friends I have scattered throughout different cities I have lived here. The ones I explored the mountains with. The ones I worked with. The ones I ran with. The ones I prayed with. The ones I sat in church with. The ones I traveled with. The ones I lived next to. The ones who I stayed up late dreaming about this very move with.
Suddenly my future seems like a blank page without them to help me write my stories. And yet I know there will others who will take up the pen.
But for now, I can’t help but feel a loss at leaving this state.
I probably could have found justifications for not being happy if I had wanted to. Parents who were divorced when I was young. Some pretty messy heartbreaks. Some of those insolvable family tensions.
But to me happiness was always a given. Those things were just bumps in the road of a pretty great life.
It’s only relatively recently that mentality has taken more convincing. Somewhere along the line, those things I thought I always would have never came. Those things I took for granted went away. But most disconcertingly, the faith I had securely renewed began taking a beating. It’s like someone began pushing back my fingers one by one from the grip I had on it.
And so my soul slid into this melancholy. I feel like I have been fighting off the black tar of self pity. Sometimes I let it linger before shaking it. Sometimes I reel back from it, but it still crouches in a corner of my mind. It brings a numbing lethargy.
Still, there are these moments of reprieve.
I am sitting beside a fire in the mountains of a far off place. The flames lap at the cold air. A friend stands at a make-shift table nearby, pouring me a glass of wine. We swing between goofy and thoughtful. In this moment, I am happy, I think.
Later, I lay in a tent with the doughy material of my sleeping bag pulled in around my face. Our words float up around us as we lay there, shrinking from the bite of the cold. This is nice, I think.
In the days after, I hold to the handlebars of my bike, letting it glide on the ups and downs and sways of a powdery trail. The movement feels exhilarating, refreshing.
Tonight, I am sitting in a wooden pew, letting the mellow sounds of blues wash over me. I tilt my head back on my seat and watch as the singer’s hands weave up the stem of his guitar. Something about his voice, his music, is like a balm to those parts of me that have felt a bit tender.
Sitting here, I don’t want to go back to the dim light of my present outlook. I want to bathe in the respite that moments like this bring. They are like bread crumbs God has doled out in the midst of a season of bare cupboards.
Some say happiness is based on events. It is joy you should seek, which doesn’t come on the tides of circumstance.
To me, they have always felt like the same thing. Because I knew how to be happy about the good things that often come side-by-side with the bad. I hope this deviation from my norm is a momentary detour back to a road I’ve paved.
In the meantime, I relish these reprieves.