Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/25/13: I've Never Seen Blue Like That Before

I am standing on the eighteenth green at Bandon Dunes next to Carol, a sweet-natured woman from London whose British accent makes the word "banana" sound so much more regal than the phallic-shaped piece of fruit that it is (she pronounces it "ba-nah-na", the second "a" sounding like the "o" in "top" or "shot"). If Carol can make the eight-foot putt in front of her, she will earn a certain amount of points that will help her win a certain game she's been playing with her friends that, after three days together, I still do not understand. Beyond the confusion and the celebration that may come with it, though, there's something much more personally significant about this putt:

It's the last one I will read as a caddie at Bandon Dunes.

On Friday, along with all seven of my belongings, I am leaving the southern coast of Oregon for good, heading north to Seattle, where I will pick up my father, who is upholding the Stoller family tradition and kindly flying out to make the drive back to Washington, D.C. alongside me. On my way out here, I was able to continue my pursuit of spending (quality) time in all 50 states (an airport layover, for example, does not count) by crossing Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho off my list. On the way back, we will be taking a different route. Washington, Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota are set to fall next; North Dakota may forever remain my white whale.

As much as I am looking forward to this shared cross-country journey, and as much as I miss Emily, I am struggling a bit with this whole experience coming to an end. I just can't seem to make sense of it yet -- where I've been, what I've done, where I'm going. Out of curiosity, I decided to open up "Zihuatanejo," the article I wrote in June about why I was choosing to come out here. It's funny to go back and read something you wrote, to see the "before" point of view while now possessing the knowledge of the "after." Reading the opening quote and then subsequently watching the actual YouTube clip of it is both bitter and sweet -- sweet in the sense that I made it through without ending up in a "catatonic stupor"; bitter in the sense that this journey is ending, that its conclusion is, in the most basic sense, certain. In too many ways, it feels as if it all went too quickly. The initial adjustment period to everything took much longer than I had hoped, the learning curve much steeper than anticipated. The social integration never did complete, and it was only until recently when I finally found any semblance of confidence as a caddie -- just as it was time to put away my white coveralls.

For so long, coming to Bandon was something I thought about doing, something I dreamed about, something that gave me hope when I'd seemingly exhausted my supply of it. And when I finally got the nerve to go through with it, I thought that it could be transformative, not only changing who I am but opening up a new set of opportunities that had previously been hidden by my fears and anxieties. If I could take that step, then surely the universe or whatever higher power that's out there would meet me halfway. Who knew what tomorrow could bring? The possibilities seemed boundless.

But now, it's over, and I'm not sure what I have to show for it, at least in terms of the tangible. Though I am grateful for all of my experiences here, for the growth I attained both as a writer and a person (they were substantial, and my guess is they'll continue surfacing in the future), with no job, no place to live, and nothing to do, I return to D.C. in arguably worse shape than when I left (and certainly with less muscle mass and down a waist size or two). What do I do now? What do I do next? You can never fully grasp the magnitude of the question, "What should I do with my life?" until you are actually forced to answer it.     

It's not as if, going in, I didn't know this "Now what?" conclusion was a possibility. Take the following excerpt from the blog post, which, after reading, I couldn't help shaking my head and laughing:

"I also realize I'm part idiot for doing something like this, for giving up a secure job in this unemployed world for something that will end in less than four months. And I have no idea what happens next. I don't know where this leads, and I acknowledge there's a strong possibility that I will meet the undesirable fate of Costanza -- living with my parents and hoarding a private bottle of ketchup."

Memo to the June 2013 version of myself: Thanks, bro...way to think it through.

Don't get me wrong...I don't regret doing what I did, not for a second. I own my decisions and actions in their totality, and I wouldn't take them back if given the chance. But that doesn't change the reality of what I'm now facing. What's even more frightening is that there's a feeling that I've already played my best card. For the last seven years, Bandon Dunes had always been my ace in the hole, my one big, life-altering solution. It was real, and it was great -- and now it's done. It's not ending with a bang or with a whimper; it's just...ending.

In search of clarity and inspiration, I decided to drive down to the beach after walking off the grass for the final time in an official capacity. I've never logically understood the attraction of staring at a big body of water (or mountains, for that matter), or how spending a few minutes doing so is supposed to make everything make sense. Yet here I am, my iPod in one hand, a Dairy Queen blizzard in the other. This is definitely a tradition I should've started earlier in this journey. I am now in an episode of "Dawson's Creek."

After a few minutes, though, nothing is snapping into focus; no light bulbs are lighting up and no new-found meanings are discovered. I can't seem to find the perfect song that parallels the mood or occasion, and all of the contemplative squinting -- a movie ocean-staring staple -- is giving me a headache. Still, I can't make myself go. Whether it's awe or the comforting reminder of just how small we are or simply its sheer beauty, there really is something about being next to the ocean, and the Pacific in particular. I've never seen blue like that before. I realize that my car is facing due west, and that turning it around means not only turning away from the view, but turning back into the real world -- a world full of uncertainty, a world I left behind nearly four months ago, and a world in which I'm currently unsure where I fit.

Thankfully, I know that I will have my father to help guide me along the way, and I know that Emily will be there when I arrive. But I don't know what happens after that, and that is at best unsettling. If nothing else, as I'm searching for that next step, hoping to keep my head above water, I can take comfort in the fact that, while Carol might have missed that final eight-footer, it wasn't because of the read.     

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?