For the month of June, we asked all of our writers to include a video in their post.
“Tell me about your perfect living situation,” said Drew, “Where would you like to be in ten years?”
We were eating breakfast at a bustling coffee shop in Grand Rapids. Silverware clinked against plates, steam rose from piles of eggs and mugs of coffee, tired-eyed people laughed and chatted with each other as the morning carried on. It was the first opportunity for Drew and I to connect face-to-face in a year. Married, with one little chattering kid and another one on the way, Drew had his hands full. Finding moments like these was rare, and with time they will only become increasingly more rare.
I didn’t have to think. “A remote house, somewhere in the backwoods of Wisconsin. Wooden walls full of books, comfy chairs, and no TV. Not huge, but enough space for friends and family to come over and stay as long as they want or need. A little sheltie running around. Oh, and a decked-out kitchen. With copper pots and pans.”
I have imagined the place often. I created it for the quiet and stayed for of the solitude.
“Huh. Interesting,” said Drew.
Drew was slouched in his chair with his hands were clasped in his lap, regarding me almost tiredly. There was a disappointed kind of surprise on his face. No smile or wide eyes—just a slight furrow in his brows.
“You just didn’t mention anything about a wife and kids. That’s not like you.”
“Huh.” I sat still for a moment, staring at my food. I was surprised, too. The kind of surprise that slows the beat of your heart. “I guess I don’t see them there anymore.”
“That’s not like you.”
“Do you still want a wife and kids?”
I’m uncertain when this change in expectations occurred. Was it when I moved to Seattle? Was it when I got a desk job? When my siblings sent me videos of my nieces and nephews? When another relationship ended? When Drew announced his second kid, or when Will H. announced his engagement? When I sat down to write, again, and the words didn’t come?
I suppose the answer is simply: “all of it.” The ceaseless barrage of adulthood, like a long Michigan winter. It doesn’t really matter how often we are told that life takes unexpected turns; there is something to be said for the experience. To see that for many, the unexpected turns aren’t turns at all, but an unexpected normalcy. To look down at your hands and see that they’ve produced no great works, just okay ones—little blog posts. To look out your window in April and see that the roads are slick with last night’s snow, again. I am twenty-six, but I see a life laid out before me that is unbearably plain, and the unshakable feeling that these will not be the last of my defeated expectations.
Somehow, Drew could see all of this written on my face. Three years since graduation hadn’t dimmed his understanding of my moods. Whether written plainly on my face or not, he can read the thoughts behind my eyes as plainly as you are reading them right now.
“You’re still young, Will.”
“I don’t feel young.”
“I wish you saw yourself the way that I see you.”
I cried when I left him because it felt like I was leaving behind yet another home. We would go back to infrequent calls and scattered text messages. I was not just leaving behind a friend, but someone who loves the parts of me I don’t.
Sometimes adulthood just feels like a dawn of frequent partings. And always, always in these moments when life seems to careen forward, carelessly leaving memories behind, John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” runs through my mind. I heard it first on a playlist that my sister made for my dad, as she does every Father’s Day. Maybe it is because I first heard it in the context of my family that its melody has become woven so deeply in the fabric of my thoughts.
Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?
But more so than those lyrics, it’s the words of John’s father that I dwell on the longest. As the song approaches its end, John Mayer twists the lyrics we were familiar with from the beginning as naturally as a long conversation running its course. The first time I heard them, I wondered if they could ever possibly be true.
Had a talk with my old man
Said, “Help me understand”
He said, “Turn sixty-eight
“Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train”
First, I thought John’s old man was just saying that the passage of time was a good thing—don’t stop this train, enjoy the ride, look at the scenery, ignore the fact that it’s not going to stop.
Now, I read something else entirely in the lyrics: you don’t know what the future holds.