Looking Back (and Traveling)

March 2014

There is a lyric by Steven Wilson that’s been on my mind a lot lately: “Strange how you never become / The person you see when you’re young.” As I creep further into my fourth decade, I suppose it’s not unexpected to find myself looking back. When I was younger, my passion was writing. I was not only going to be a writer, but a great writer. I wanted to rival William Faulkner, with Cormac McCarthy revealing that great writing could still exist in this digital age. While an undergraduate, I drafted out two novels and a short story collection. Stories and poems of mine started appearing in small journals and anthologies.

In grad school, I shifted to mostly writing poetry, as poems can be quicker to draft than a story or certainly a novel. A decade later my first poetry collection was published, with my second and third following a few years later. I have a fourth collection in draft form and a fifth researched but never written. Only thing is, I rarely write any more and can’t imagine finishing any of these unfinished collections. I’ve become an academic and a scholar, the demon-driven writer in me driven down. Or maybe the demon has just changed focus from writing to traveling.

One thing that drives my traveling is time—I want to see as much as I can in the time I have. This is founded somewhat in experience. I never expected to lose both of my parents before I turned forty and have this nagging little voice that likes to remind me now and again that the men in my family tend to not make it far past sixty, if they make it to sixty at all. It’s not a contest or a race; I just try not to pass up an opportunity to see something I haven’t seen before (or find something new in a familiar land).

So this finds me getting ready to depart on another expedition—seven countries in ten weeks. Every time I embark on a longer trip, I tell myself it will be the last—I’m getting too old for it and would prefer shorter outings. Yet, there’s another little nagging voice reminding me that life’s short and unpredictable in many ways. Besides, the person you become may be more interesting than the one you imagine when you’re young.


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