How do we explain a split existence? How do we make those closest to us understand that a part of us will always be out of reach, living in a past we can’t ever leave behind, in a place we can’t get back to but can’t ever really escape? My name is Vance; my name is Eduardo. I am American; I am Argentine. I am everything and I am no one. I sing a song of myselves.
It’s an odd feeling, knowing that, in eighteen years of life, I experienced more than many people do in eighty. This is not a boast; it is simply a fact. I have arrived at the midpoint of my life with so much baggage that my overhead compartment is about to burst, and the question constantly on my mind is: How do I follow that act? How do I make the latter half of my life live up to the expectations created by what went before? Did I really peak in high school? I am globetrotter; I am multicultural; I am (somewhat still) bilingual. I am a bit schizophrenic. And I am surrounded by walls, ironically erected by the freedom of years gone by.
Melodramatic? Yes. Also sadly true. Everything I have seen thus far in my life pushes me always to see more, to take in a wider view, while at the same time whispering in my ear that it’s never enough, that I’m wasting precious time. No matter how much I accomplish, I’m driven to achieve more, to justify the content of my heart and soul by adding more and more pages, chapters, books to the story of who I am. I wonder if it really meant anything. Was I put where I was for a reason, or did I just happen to wind up there? Was it meant to define my future, or simply to qualify my past? Whatever happened to the “wide-eyed wanderer” I used to see when I looked in the mirror, and how do I get away from the jaded visage that stares back at me now?
Never fear! I am still in the game, whether or not I completely understand the rules. For those of you who know what I mean, life is like a game of Mau. There are no rules, and the rules are always changing. We make them up as we go. Life is too short to let others do it for us. So we struggle, together but alone, to understand our reason for being, and to figure out how to hold on to the bits and pieces of our lives and assemble them into a coherent whole (or even an incoherent one–sometimes that is the best we can do).
In the back of my mind, an Argentine memory: pitch darkness, a long, steep hillside, a trail made for stumbling, and a curfew chasing me home. At the bottom of the hill, a creek forded by two ramshackle bridges barely worthy of the name, logs placed parallel with slats arranged crosswise at uncertain intervals. More than enough to offer the incautious a short fall and an unwanted bath. The first time I tried this little path I was absolutely terrified. I knew I was on a clock (in the Woods home, a curfew was a curfew, little as I might like it) and I could not see a bleeding thing (never mind the possibility that I might soon be a bleeding thing). I staggered downwards like a blind man, hands outstretched, prepared to feel my way with my face at the first wrong step. Somehow I made it all the way down, after several close calls and near falls. That was the first time. The longer I walked this way, the faster and more surefooted I became, and two years later I was taking it at a gallop.
Such is life. Limited visibility, treacherous inclines, and a short time to get from A to B. The difference between “straight” and “strait.” But it’s all about the practice. Somewhere along this path, the boy became (proyecto de) a man. The man moves faster and with greater confidence, maybe, but strangely from time to time he misses the mystery and wonder of the stumbling child. Uncertainty and immobility are not the same thing. Then there was but one path to take and a willingness to take it, no matter the consequences. Now, there are too many paths to take and a fear of choosing the wrong one, because of the consequences.
How to remove the straitjacket that comes with adulthood and disillusionment? How to rid myself of the imperfection reached with practice and find my way back to the kid who hated practice and still believed perfection was possible? How to divest myself of the fool’s wisdom that comes with experience, and focus again on the experience itself? I strive to recover the belief that everything is an experience, and remember that experience isn’t everything…