Just a Tad Too Comfortable for Old Jonnie Boy
I remember it like it was just over fifteen years ago, me preparing to graduate high school, ready to fly the coop and get started on the grand adventure of college. Then, for about four and a half years, I remember not really adventuring, longing to finally be free from the responsibility, out in the world with no history essays to write, no language courses to take, all those goddamn verb conjugations tossed away like goodbye party confetti. Then, I remember a brief and lonely ramble to Memphis, graduate school, spending another several years creatively writing myself into another degree, wondering exactly when it was I was going to get down to some real living, the big adventure of life.
I left Memphis in 2005, a bit of a broken man, recently bachelor-ed, recently master’s accredited, consequently unemployed (having lost my position, due to graduation, at the university), and with nowhere much to go to feel like I had a purpose, no real desire to get a job or have a family or study more. It was the first time I had to look for something to identify as life, the first time there wasn’t a clear next step that I wanted to take, except to take that first step to get as far away as possible from everything I’d been doing, everything it seemed I should be doing next, and anything that felt comfortable. Like any great adventure, mine started with an escape.
A summer in the Czech Republic, the next two-and-half years in Korea, eight months in Guatemala, ten months in Turkey, three in Palestine, a year back in Guatemala, and now seven months into Moscow; a fantastically kooky and foreign wife, an overstuffed passport which has had to have extra pages sewn into it, a fluctuating bank account (Korea, Turkey, Moscow up; Guatemala, Palestine down), a ticket to fly me out of here in two months; no children, no pets, no career-track position, no PhD, no home, no car; my oversized MFA diploma has been folded in half since Korea and stuck into a plastic folder in order to a. get the next teaching gig when necessary (the diploma) and b. to prevent that fabled document from getting water damaged while in my backpack (the plastic folder)—all of that and nothing’s changed: I can’t wait to start the grand adventure.
It happened in 1996 when I finished high school. It happened in 2000 when I finished at LSU. It happened in 2005 when I finished at the University of Memphis. It happened after my first year in Korea. It happened after my second year in Korea. It has happened every year since. I get fed up, too comfortable, wondering when I’m actually going to get out and do something risky, to start living, stop working. A part of me has managed to keep my head in the Kerouac’s hobo dream, unwilling to accept that home is a part of life. Every year, for months, I work hard to create a comfortable environment, something predictable and steady and safe, enough money coming in, a regular beer in the evening. Every year I shock my adventure into mundane life, routine and real and something I’m dying to leave again.
Emma and I end up working six days a week, eating a rotating menu of dishes we’ve created from the ingredients of a place, watching this year’s downloaded series of network TV as we fall asleep at around so-and-so time so that we can get up at around such-and-such time. Writing, crocheting, guitar-playing—various things creep in and weave the experiences into rather distorted versions of one another, and rather refracted versions of the further past, until we become teenagers again, unwilling to succumb to the thought of being in this place any longer than necessary. We plot ourselves into a new destination, discuss how it’ll all be a little different this time, perhaps that right mix of spontaneity and finding a well-worn pair of pajama pants. We count down the days until we go, again, and the adventure runs its course.