with bravado

one man's 28-year-old quest to live and share a worthy story

book club: ‘among the ten thousand things’.

I found Among the Ten Thousand Things in an array of books arranged on the table of Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore. My eyes were drawn to the title, arrange in block fonts against what appears to be a city skyline, and my hands were compelled. Sometimes we know we will find ourselves in stories by instinct.

My journey reading the text, however, has been punctuated and stretched. I read the first two sections on city train rides, the next eight or so on an afternoon read at the campus library in the fall, six more at the airport this spring, and the rest over muggy summer days. Each time, I was pulled back into the worlds of these characters –– Jack, Deb, Simon, Kay.

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soundtrack to a chapter.

At some point, I tweeted, stop adding songs to the playlist. Let it live and breathe in its current form. One day, many days after this chapter has ended, open it again, hit play, lie your head back, and bask.

Music has a way of following us around all day. Headphones pump music into our eardrums, granting soundtracks to our commutes. In the car, we drum on our steering wheels and sing along, settling down at stoplights. We curate playlists for the people we fall in love with, passing songs along in social media messages, love letters in their own right. Then, in a moment we aren’t expecting, a song we’ve forgotten catches us off-guard. Our faces go gentle, eyes go distant. Memories pull themselves from the shelf, unfurl before our eyes, beg our hands to brush over them.

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for forever.

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For Forever. I met Robbie almost two years into a four-year chapter. When we met, he was a graduate student hoping to pass his final exams and find meaningful work, and I was a hall director that had been assigned to get him from place to place through a busy twenty-four hours of interviewing. I don’t remember much about my earliest impressions, except that he spoke in a language I understood. To him, stories were vital, life was rife with lessons, and there was meaning in everything.

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in closing: the second ball state chapter.

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i. I arrived at this chapter out of money and out of breath. That May, after decades of pushing my heart down beneath the surface, I came out to my parents. Letters typed with shaking hands, placed on the countertop in a house I didn’t expect to find empty. This was the beginning of a brave new chapter, I’d told myself, but I didn’t prepare myself for all the change my courage might bring.

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the last solstice.

It was the summer solstice, bringing with it the promise of more sun than we’d seen in a good, long time. That morning, I woke amidst the late darkness, climbed into my car, and found the right kind of song to greet the earliest sunrise: Murder in the City, the Avett Brothers, nostalgia and love through acoustic guitar. Windows down, I picked up friends and we grabbed coffee from a wearied barista.

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2017: here, now, on the eve of everything.

But me? Well, it’s hard to know. I’d like to think I’ll be proud of the life I’ve chosen to live, that I’ll look back on the year…for evidence of courage, love, and sincerity, and I’ll see the fruits of my efforts.

But there are answers I cannot have right now. There are trails I’ll have to run, no promise of anything at the end, in the hopes that my hustle will not be in vain. I’ll dig and run and write and love and try anew.

I wrote these words at the dusk of 2016, a year that left me feeling uncharacteristically battered and bruised. I sat down, that evening, and allowed the pain I’d been bundling to unfurl: My heart was broken (still), my courage was tentative, and my direction was unclear. Around me, my country somehow cast its faith into a man who did nothing to disguise motives of division, oppression, and dishonesty. Through all of it, I discovered, I was holding onto hope. Obstinate, pervasive hope, beckoning my hands to search the night sky for stars.

I wasn’t sure where I was going, at the dawn of 2017, but I knew I’d need to run. I’d need to start showing up –– for myself and for the people I love, trying anew, letting loose my frayed and dangling threads and weaving new ones. And so it was that I set out into the new year.

2017

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hey so here’s a taylor swift track for every step of your breakup.

Today, after work, I was jamming to a playlist that includes some of Ms. Swift’s work, and I realized the song –– ‘Come Back…Be Here’ –– perfectly captured the feeling of missing someone we know we might be better off letting go.

Then I thought, ‘Hey. I wonder if Taylor has written and performed a song for every step of a breakup?’ (The answer, I’m sure you can guess, is yes.)
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