I started jotting down the list after finding one of my friends I grew up with and realizing how thankful I was that I didn’t turn into ‘that guy’.
It was always the experiences of life that interested me more than the lessons of the classroom. I never finished college because it felt like a cancerous extension of high school with the same abundance of nervous twittering over who was wearing what and where was everybody going on Friday night.
So, while everyone I knew was busy working on obtaining their degrees, I was hanging out with drag queens, hitchhiking through Florida, and selling fake Salvador Dali prints to pay for it all. But I will admit that one of my three regrets in this life was not having continued my education.
That feeling was reversed last year when I returned to school and began working on my novel.
One thing about not being in school with my friends; I never read the ‘classics’ of literature. Instead I ran the streets of the French Quarter with mutilated copies of Howl and Queer shoved into the pockets of my lime green trench coat.
In one espresso filled afternoon I devoured Junkie before hopping on the street car to Lee Circle in hopes of finding the old haunts of drug dealers that Burroughs had hung around with.
Were my ventures into the spiraling world of addiction rooted in my fascination of the bohemian lifestyle? Did my choice of reading material make it all the more acceptable to venture into the darkness?
This summer has been my chance to catch up on those great literary works. My foray into words that I had not been exposed to began with Catcher in the Rye.
As I poured through the story I felt a connection with Holden, the boy without direction, opposed to learning, his desire to escape to Colorado not unlike the adventure I took through Florida. We were both people wandering though life without purpose.
But I can’t be that person anymore, so I have decided to reconstruct myself, to take off my blindfold and find out what kind of a guy I’ve turned out to be.
A lot of things I’ve already started. In the next year I will finish my classes and get my certificate in creative writing. I also hope to find a publisher for my novel and plan on submitting some of the short stories I’ve been working on.
I’m thinking about taking singing lessons. I used to belong to the school choir long before every kid in America thought their fortunes could be made by warbling their voice box on television. I endured endless days of torture because I was the only boy in the all girl ensemble, but I loved creating sounds, like magic, out of thin air.
Of course I could just pop in a CD while driving and belt out a few tunes, but I do that now and feel like with a little coaching I could really get those notes to last.
Driving is on the opposite end of the joy spectrum for me so I’m going to control my road rage by making mean people laugh. I have a monkey hand puppet that I entertain other drivers with and occasionally wear a red clown nose while driving on the interstate.
I go to the gym regularly and enjoy running. During my time of chemical abuse I really allowed myself to fall apart. I was probably the only overweight meth addict in America. But I’ve dropped over thirty pounds and hope to have a set of six pack abs by the time I’m fifty.
Vanity? Absolutely! But it was either that or adoption and I’m still a little self centered to share my home with too many creatures that can walk upright. (Unless it’s a little monkey that I could dress up in a tuxedo and teach to ride a bike.)
Physical activity is going to be my friend in the upcoming year. I’m thinking about running a race but the summer heat keeps me from being one hundred percent committed to that idea. There will also be white water rafting, scuba diving and a jump out of an airplane before the end of next summer.
As much as I need to experience life, I will take some time away from the world. Maybe I’ll spend a weekend in complete silence at a monastery baking bread with the monks early in the morning. Then at night I'll sit at my small desk and record my thoughts in a leather bound journal (PETA be damned) with a black quill dipped in real ink.
There are places I’ve only read about that I want to visit. This fall I will walk to the top of a volcano and in the spring I will sleep in a teepee under the Northern Lights. My real dream is to stand in the Peruvian desert amongst the huge glyphs on the Nazca Plain.
But it’s in my own backyard that I want to have the most satisfying moments. I have an amazing green thumb that I inherited from my father. Next month I will be planting my vegetable garden with winter lettuces and early next year will bloom with pollinator bushes and a beehive.
So that was my list, and as I sat there looking at my plans for the next year I jotted down one final goal:
Join a cause that’s worth dying for.
Then I went into the living room and sat down to finish reading Catcher in the Rye. I turned to page 188 just as the television came on. There on the screen was Will Smith, talking to Stockard Channing in the movie Six Degrees of Separation about – Catcher in the Rye. Strange, right? It get’s weirder.
In the middle of the page I read:
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
Synchronicity in action my friends. My final goal repeated in the book that started me down a fresh path of exploration. So is that what I’m supposed to be searching for? The meaning of maturity?
I woke up the next morning with my reconstruction plan churning in my head. I drove to work with my furry monkey hand puppet and clown nose ready for action. Singing at the top of my lungs to Bohemian Rhapsody, I was filled with purpose and direction. What would I read next and where would it lead me?
I pulled up to the car in front of me and there was the sticker on its bumper:
“Not all those who wander are lost.”