I wrote the following essay the summer of last year.
I spent the year in Seattle. It was beautiful, so I’m going back again in September. It would take thirty-six hours to take the two thousand one hundred forty-two mile car route that Google Maps recommends, ferrying over Lake Michigan and then driving through Wisconsin and the five states that make up our Northern border with Canada. But my plane is already booked for September, and I plan to spend junior year in England. That leaves senior year for the long road trip. It can wait until then.
My college is on the quarter system, so we start and end the year late. Early June was when I breached the overcast sky and soared dutifully home to Grand Rapids. The air has been thick in Grand Rapids this summer. Just about as thick with humidity as Seattle is with clouds and mist—which they call rain. I have been interning with a refugee resettlement agency, and when I leave the chilled office in the afternoon I have to wade through the air to get to my car. By the time I sit down and close the door, the air has covered my clothes so generously that I stick to the driver’s seat. It makes me feel like a fish, covered with raw egg and breadcrumbs, being simultaneously pan-fried and baked in my car. Shocking after months living in the Pacific Northwest, which mainly hovers in the happy range of fifty to seventy-five degrees.
Swimming has become surreal. The sun makes pool water almost as hot as the air outside it, and the air outside it is almost as dense as the pool water. You get the feeling that you could just keep swimming up past the water’s surface and into the sky. But there wouldn’t be any great motivation to do that. You wouldn’t find any mountains to look at, just the water tower. I suppose if you swam high enough, as high as my homebound plane flying over the mountains and rivers of the western states, you might see patterns emerge in the miles of crops. That would be worth it. Or maybe you would get sucked into a jet engine and go home in a different sense of the term. Continue reading
In my careless free fall into annoying amateur iPhone photography, I’ve stumbled across a new app called Plastica. It attempts to replicate the photographs of plastic cameras, something I know nothing about. Here are some pictures from the last couple of days:
my living room
ice on the beach of South Haven
me, on the beach of South Haven
Colorado, as seen from a plane
The college search is hard for many people. Some lucky duckers know what they want to do and where they want to do it, only apply to that place, get accepted and attend. Others, like myself, have a vague sense of what they’d like to study and maybe a lead on a school they could be interested in. I thought that I’d like to study one of the liberal arts and I applied to eleven or twelve schools. Halfway through application season (January or so), I switched my intended major to music.
Some of my Christian friends have a strong sense of God’s will for their lives. Whether they use the phrase or not, you can tell they know—or at least think they know—which school God wants them to attend, what career God has prepared for them, etc. “God has a plan for you, and that is so beautiful and exciting!” This sort of language, although well-intended and true, confused me during my college search, and still does. The idea of ‘God’s plan’ wasn’t very comforting either, because I thought that it meant I had a one in twelve chance at choosing the Right School, and a similar chance at choosing the Right Major. There was a lot at stake and I didn’t want to screw my life up.
All right, close your eyes. Raise your hand if you think that sounds ridiculous and a little melodramatic. I see many hands in the air, belonging to agnostics, atheists, and believers alike. Oops, I raised my hand, too. Ok, hands down, hands down.
I still don’t understand the concept of God’s will, although I’ve learned that it involves a lot more freedom than I had previously thought. But I couldn’t see that in my senior year of high school. The fear that I could permanently remove myself from the Right Trajectory of Life added to my depression and anxiety, and was the cause of a couple panic attacks. I didn’t speak to anyone about this because I felt alone. Who would listen? Continue reading
When I first learned to drive I felt as if I had grown wings. I flew down the roads of rural and suburban Western Michigan like a gas powered Icarus, always approaching—but never reaching—freedom. The little Toyota Corolla has always felt safest on the more scenic routes. Take it to the highway and it starts to shudder. Sometimes it makes me wonder if my wings could just fly off while I’m driving, leaving me naked and embarrassed on the interstate.
I first experienced speed-freedom a couple of weeks into learning how to ride a bike. The first weeks I experienced more pavement than anything else, but once I became comfortable on the seat, I rode up and down the street in front of our home in Manchester, New Hampshire. When my parents were satisfied that I could pedal around safely enough, I biked around the block for the first time. “Around the block” really meant down the sidewalk, take a right, take another right and go until you reach the dead end—the house of my best friend. From there I could bike across his lawn into our back lawn, around our gardens and swingset, and then arrive back home. Even with my newfound freedom, home was always the final destination.