I left Akron for the first time in 1988 when I went away to college. At that time I sat atop a monstrous wave of success in terms of what might be deemed the parameters of success by the average 18 year old. My eyes were trained only on the infinite horizon from my lofty perch. Akron represented to me a limit. I could not be who I wanted to be if I remained here. So off I went…in search of the horizon…with the mantra on my lips that I could never go back.
I did not realize at the time, however, how existentially precarious my spot was atop that roiling urge of water. That was because I was 18….I was stupid….I was selfish….I was completely self-unaware. My eyes fixed on the horizon and the future, but just below me was exposed reef at the end of any fall. I know because I met the reef long before I ever reached the horizon. And, after a long period of time and after a long and unwelcome education in myself, I came to a conclusion: the notion that I could never return to Akron, physically…to the site of my former self, metaphorically…was false at its core. I came to a realization that I could never leave Akron…that my move to the horizon was not a move to myself but an escape from myself…that one is always from where one is from and that to hate that is, in part, to loathe a part of one’s very self.
So, while I came back to Akron in 2003 for many reasons, I fundamentally came back to come to terms with that part of myself that is from here and will never depart from here. The only problem…after 9 years here I realize that I really do hate Akron. I experience it as a desert. Part of me is always thirsty here, and there is no water in sight. So I have taken to reading the life of my patron saint, Anthony of Egypt, for clues as to how one lives in the desert…how one lives with an experience of self that at some level is an experience of a deprived, longing, unsatiated self…how one lives an inner life of fullness amid the experience of deprivation…how one can be filled up with the sensation of need…how one can create from the material of nothingness.
I do not have the answer to any of it, if such a thing as an answer exists. The one conclusion I have come to, however, is that the only fatal flaw I could make while traversing the desert is to stop walking. Heat…thirst…exhaustion…keep walking. Ironically, I am again walking to the horizon. The main difference is that at age 18 I thought I would reach the horizon. Now, at age 42, I know that the horizon Is just an excuse to keep walking.