I recently went on a really short, but profoundly symbolic run. A short ways north from my apartment on Turk Hill Road, there’s a four-way intersection. Turning either left or right brings you up a hill into two completely different environments. Even the names of these streets themselves belie their socioeconomic climate.
Turning left sets you on Beauclaire Lane, leading to an affluent neighborhood composed almost exclusively of large, broadly-spaced homes on cul de sacs. The entire area backs up to a vineyard, so all the streets are named for wines. Quintessential wealthy, comfortable living for those lucky enough to have it.
Turning right, you’ll find yourself on Steele Road. a winding, wooded path that soon opens up into farmland. Wide open space stretches in every direction, sparsely dotted with buildings that put function ahead of form. In the wintertime, it reminds me of one of my favorite musical lyrics: ‘the fields are bled of everything, it’s so beautiful, stark, and unkind’.
As I neared the intersection, I weighed my two options. To the left, I could tool around in the neighborhoods for a while, maybe catch some badass Christmas lights that were rumored to be in the area, and head back early. To the right, I would have a much longer run ahead of me, but I would certainly get my full workout in, and reap all the benefits thereof.
This juxtaposition of the two sides of the road hit me halfway up the hill on Beauclaire. I stopped there, panting, and suddenly began extrapolating inward at the speed of light.
Without thinking, I had chosen the easy way out. It wasn’t too surprising – I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I think that in the aftermath of a year of profound personal growth, I spent 2017 mostly checked out of the real world. Sociopathy? Coping mechanism? Who knows? And more importantly, who cares?
I often stress the importance of having fun in the same breath as I encourage pushing your limits. One of the greatest fallacies in my writing is that these two things are often associated. In fact, these two things are often exclusive to each other. Not always, but most of the time. How can you do both? And if you can’t do both, how do you balance them? How do you know whether to turn left or right?
I lost myself in thought, swirling deeper and deeper into paradox, semantics, and technicality. Then I remembered something super important: Turk Hill keeps going straight ahead. You don’t have to turn.
I worry so much about so many things. I like to tell myself they’re the important things, but at the end of the day, they’re really just expressions of self-doubt. Are my life goals good ones? Am I making mistakes? Is my blackened, rotting soul still securely trapped inside my shining, smiling prison, or is it starting to leak out? Should I have turned right instead of left?
Spending time trying to find the answers to these questions only rationalizes them, and strokes my own malignant ego. I don’t have to define myself as being on either side of these boundaries. I can just ride the line straight down the middle of Turk Hill Road, and simply live.
As I headed back down the road to my apartment, I found relief in the notion that I don’t have to live up to an archetypal image of myself. I don’t have to be good or bad, happy or sad, successful or unsuccessful. And I caught the faintest glimmer of pride in one of the few, fundamental truths I can hold on to. Under the dark night sky, I whispered to myself, “I’m Jeff Green.”
I mean, I would have yelled it, but I’m just SUPER self-conscious about raising my voice.