A Past Life

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Last night, as the first snowflakes began to glitter down from the heavens and the howling, frigid winds blew, unwavering, through the streets of White Plains, I boarded a bus for home, tired from the day even as the night was still young. As the bus lumbered on through the icy blizzard, I marveled in the winter wonderland outside—the Christmas lights glowing empathetically from the cottages and the townhomes, the last workers driving carefully home to their immaculate families awaiting their return—all seemed still, simple, and calm. When I finally got home I turned the key and entered my tiny but cozy apartment which seemed to embrace me in consolation of the lengthy and bewildering day of work and life and love. I switched on my desk lamp and the Christmas lights I hung up last week and my homestead came to life. Sitting at my desk to collect my thoughts, I knew there were still hours of work to get done: monthly reports to write up, articles to draft, music to practice, books to read, and notes to study.

If you had asked me what my perfect life would look like a few years ago or even a few months ago, I’m not sure what I would have described. Quite possibly I would have mused about some idealized reality where I was spending my days in class, my nights gigging or listening to concerts and my weekends having dinner at nice restaurants or jazz clubs. I would have mentioned the great TV shows I would watch, the fun times I would have with friends, or maybe even the relaxing vacations I would take. I would talk about my caring and loving boyfriend (a complete fantasy of course) and the room I would own, decorated faultlessly, as though Martha Stewart herself had planned out every inch of it.

I’m sure at some point this was truly what I wanted—the ideal life. Even as I entered college a couple years ago, I think I would have talked about the same sort of rose-tinted, unblemished life. However, in the last year, emotional pain overtook most aspects of my life and these dreams of utopian grandeur faded from my mind. It was unexpected, not because it has not been present before, but because these feelings slowly and subtly took up more and more time and energy until, in a matter of months, a dark cloud hung over the entirety of my life. The problem with this type of depression, anxiety, and compulsion is that the road into it is easy, but the road out is tough, grueling, and full of even more pain than simply remaining in the darkness. There were days when I wondered if I would ever find the break in the trees, or whether I would keep wandering in the forest of despair for a lifetime.

Young adulthood is surely a tough time in life for all who experience it. It is the crossing of a bridge from the land of innocence and childhood joyousness into the complex world of adult responsibility, work, and above all, duty. Now that I have found the light, if for a brief and ephemeral moment, I can see that my despair came from the unrest of this drastic change in my life. It is hard to be told that you are on your own, that you decide what actions you take to create your life, that you have a great deal of responsibility that is yours and yours alone.

But now that I have graduated from both the childhood naivety and the anguish of the transition period, I can feel that I am beginning to let go of that past life. I no longer need that comforts of dependence any longer. With this new life there is a great deal of work to be done both on myself and for school and career as well—chores must be done, personal and mental hygiene must be kept up, and all the studying and work must be done each and every day. I should want to run in fear; in fact, for a while I did want to run on fear.

But worry, doubt, and fear are not the answer, especially in the real world. Now an adult, I know that things must be done without negotiation and I have an immense sense of duty in my work and responsibilities. Certainly it is a delicate and precarious balance between personal life, work, and sleep, but that balance must be kept up, regardless of circumstance.

With the leaving behind of my past life I accept responsibility for my actions, my thoughts, and my obligations. There is still a plethora of joy to be found in my life, but now that joy comes along with meaning, purpose, and a sense of having worked to earn it. Responsibility creates a more meaningful sense of joy.

As I looked out the bus windows last night, I knew that I could finally let go of my past life and of those empty dreams. That the work I am doing now is vital and important. That my life is not how I dreamed it years ago, but it is meaningful because in its imperfections I can find work to be done and in its triumphs and beauties I can know that my hard work has paid off. In the snowy darkness, I knew that I had found meaning and joy in the troubles I had been through and that my past life did not burden me anymore. And maybe that freedom to build my own life is the most beautiful piece of it all.

Here’s to leaving behind the past and creating the present…

– Ethan Brown Jones

Reflections on the Journey

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Outside, snow deadened city and people equally as forcefully. The sky seemed to have collapsed in on itself, the damp, heavy blanket of snow enveloping the forsaken world within its suffocating embrace. I gathered myself as much as I could, slinging my purse over my arm and wrapping my scarf tighter around my neck. Looking around the theatre, I could just see the balcony and the lights rigging high above, silent and familiar in the blackness of the deserted theatre.

The chill cut instantly to my core as I hesitantly pushed through the stage door, greeting the outside world for the first time since morning. I was the last to leave, the only car left in the lot, a lonesome soul among shadows in the wintery land. Shivering, I snuggled further into my thick grey overcoat, quickening my pace towards the chilled metal enclosure of the car. In the dim glow of the stark streetlamps, it appeared as though not a single creature stirred in the matted environment. My car seemed frozen and foreign to my touch. I turned the key and it finally turned over, sluggishly choking to life. I could see my breath, even in the car, and outside the snow continued to fall, covering the ground in deep layer of white. Slipping through snow, squishing and crunching, I began to make my way home at last.

Few cars accompanied me on the road. Lonesome was the night, the snow had made hermits of us all. As I drove home, the heat blasting warm air about the car, NPR on in the background, I couldn’t help but think that an era was ending. The theatre, that theatre specifically, had been an integral piece of my life for almost four years. A shell of building, swathed in the powdery white, had a significance for me which was so great that I couldn’t help but feel sorrow as I drove away for one of the last times.

The landscape I was driving through was alien in the oblique white. Desperation became my foremost emotion as I drove on into the night. The lanes of the road became more and more difficult to discern. Everything was simply a wall of white as the blizzard crept in over the landscape. My shoulders hiked up towards my ears in an attempt to warm my body in the cold night air. Hunched over the steering wheel I slowly traveled onward, moving further and further away from the last era of my life with every mile I drove.

Driving onward, I moved without prospect, without direction, on into the night. Thoughts of the theatre flashed before my eyes. Lights on costumed actors, heavy makeup bedazzled across characters’ faces, fog floating saccharine through the hall, and voices hushed in whispers of anticipation lay dreamlike before my eyes. I drove onward towards an unknown destiny. The journey on that night felt as though it would never end. I slogged through the slushy, wet, thick snow.

I seemed to think about the death in my life on these nights driving home from work. I could just end it all here, I could just drive off the road and roll my car down the side of a mountain. So much else in my life had died. My grandparents had died; how easily they slipped from my grasp. Frail and ephemeral are we all in this life. I had died inside too; my heart had been ripped out a long time ago.

Where was I going? Where had my life gone, eighteen years gone without a trace of relevance?

I would never get home. Sure, I would arrive at a building that I had called home for so many years, cold, bewildered, and disheveled. But would I really be home— secure, complete?

As I drove on I got closer and closer to home, feeling the fragility of my life as the car skated across the icepack which was slick beneath the thick layer of white. Tomorrow would be another day back in the theatre. The people would be the same. That high-powered theatrical energy would fill the theatre to the brim. The snow would melt. And again, tomorrow, I would wonder where my life had turned so far from the course. I would wonder where I crashed, my car rolling down that mountain towards base, towards the center of my character.

Thinking back on this night, driving home from the theatre for one of the last times in my life, I am reminded of other snowy nights, similarly as comfortingly bleak. People shivered and muttered, holding on to the few small vestiges of beauty that would pull them through the winter on those nights. But I think I was happier then. I felt at least at that point like I knew what I was doing with my life. I knew where I was going.

I eventually reached home, or the place I currently called home. I feel like I am perpetually on a journey towards a home that is nowhere to be found. Towards a home that has no place and no time. The snow deadens the pain enough to go on. Innocence cannot be restored though; the snow is simply the illusion of security in a world that is more broken than complete.

-Ethan Brown Jones

 

Wide Open Spaces

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I have felt many things in my life: heartbreak, love, passion, desire, sadness, depression, inspiration. But never have I felt stronger about anything in my life than the incredible love,  inspiration, and heartbreak of the last couple of weeks. I have felt such strong feelings, and isn’t that what living is really about, embracing every single feeling equally, not just the good or the bad. I embrace all that comes my way, but because of it, I feel so lost sometimes that I don’t know what to do. But what I have found, is that the more lost I feel, the more I want to get lost. I just want to walk off to someplace very far away, with nothing but the wind and the golden sun to keep me company. I want to leave everything behind, everything but my mind and my soul. I want to cry just to let out all that I have held in, and laugh and sing and yell. I want to leave behind all the pain and the sorrow, and feel nothing but clarity and love and heartbreak. I almost want to never be found. I want to just let everything go and walk away from it all.

In my moments of desperation, I realize that love will always prevail, that life will always go on, that I am me and always will be, and others will always be themselves too.  I will always be the person I am  today. I will always remember my past and dream about the future. I will always live in  another time than my own. But maybe, just maybe I can learn to live in the now by losing everything but my mind and the world around me.

I live for the wide open spaces in this world, the never-ending meadows of green and blue and gold, the wispy orange-peel sky spreading out beyond the horizon for as far as the eye can see. I live for the beautiful rolling ocean stretching out into my endless dreams. I live life for the endless views from my windows, admiring the minute details of every inch of earth, the glistening waters, the shining lights and all-encasing darkness. I love the quiet seclusion of someplace lost and far away, but also the bustling city and the stone pillars of buildings soaring ever upward. Life is too short to not admire the beauty in everything around you.

Living for the wide open spaces for me is about loving the quiet simplicity of a far away place. It’s about loving just thinking about life and being alone with your thoughts. Wide open spaces are the places you can dream, the places you can love and lose, the places you can make the big mistake, and the places that you can cry for the sake of letting go. I design to let go, I write to remember, I play to express, I make art to live my life. I like to be the person who lives for every minute of their life, the ups and the downs. I live everyday the way I want to, not the way any one else wants me too. That’s my life, my way, wide open spaces galore.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones