May 23, 2007

I’m walking between home and work, and between my dean’s office and home, and I’m listening to This American Life, subject matter: Roadtrips. I’m thinking honestly about roadtrips, about other people’s roadtrips, about my own. I’m thinking about the position a person must be in to make a roadtrip. I’m thinking about the expectations of roadtrips. I’m thinking this thing we call a roadtrip isn’t something so simple or frivolous. In fact, it is a pilgrimage.

As they discussed on the show, when we take roadtrips, we expect to find many things: adventure, a secret love, true diversion from the norm, transformation. And each of the stories they covered revealed some person or another who was in this mild transformative state, regardless of destination or reason for travel. It was here that I began to relate deeply.

I’ve always felt that, even when taking trips to my grandmother’s house, not two hours from my home, that my family and I were entering into a new time sphere. Not time zone, though that certainly applies when you go from New Mexico to Texas. No, we were entering into a new dimension, and the world we had just left would remain as it was until we returned, and the world we were headed to hadn’t changed since the last time we’d visited. We were the catalyst of life. We were the stopwatches. The world would change when we got around to changing it.

But as life progressed, I learned, of course, that time does not stop, and that we are changing instead. I don’t remember where I heard it, but I distinctly remember someone mentioning how they felt like, when they traveled, that they didn’t really exist. They were in one place, and then they entered the plane or the car or the train or the boat, and they became nothing but particles, whizzing around in space until they coalesced magically in their presumed destination. An image that comes to mind is transportation a la Star Trek.

I feel this way. I felt, when I drove to Lexington, KY two summers ago, that I was not a person, I was not a thing, until we arrived 20 hours later. Even the jokes and the memories that came out of the car, during transit, seem whispy and unreal. They seem as though they happened standing still, apart from the travel. With the world whizzing by, how could I hold onto something unless I mentally clicked it onto brain-film. And the trip to Marshall, TX, this year was much the same. I was alone in the car, listening to music or podcasts, not really in any one place, never stationary. I was not being observed, I was free. I was particle and wave. I was nothing, yet.

My roadtrips have the expectation of great joy and hopefully no incident. I’ve had car trouble, sure, and its been a measure of my patience, sitting in a dinky town on Thanksgiving eve hoping to have radiator parts attached in some way, any way, to my vehicle so I can make the rest of my two hour jaunt to family. But hopefully, such times are rare.

When I arrive, I am new, I am fresh, and I stretch like I’m falling out of a womb for the first time, born in this new world where I will demonstrate how the process of travel has bettered me as a person. I will collect the lessons I need, and process them all the way back home, where, again, I am borne home, and ready to begin another new life.

Luckily, I get to born in Orlando this summer, where I’m gonna be performing with the National Intercollegiate Band! I’m so excited! This is the only performing group made up of only college students who audition from all parts of the country. Much like all-state band, but for adults. Yay! Go me!


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