[Italian: "In the middle of our life's journey..."]
Those more literary souls among my long-neglected — and undoubtedly aggrandized — readership may recognise the title of my entry as the first line of Dante's Inferno. The crucial difference is that I, unlike Dante, do not find myself in a dark and savage forest, uncertain of my course and wary of my threatening surroundings. On the contrary, I've never been more certain that my path is the right one — illuminated not only by hope but by the harsh light of experience, and bounded both by my ambition and a sense of perspective earned through enduring past adversity and error. Such certainty may seem to be born of naïveté, but I speak instead from a font of confidence the likes of which I've never known. It is an almost prescient knowledge of the future that awaits me.
But I get ahead of myself. Much time has passed since last I regaled you with what I have always, in jest, called "tales of swashbuckling and derring-do," and a myriad of experiences — both good and bad, but all opportunities to learn — has buffeted me in the interim. To quote from William Goldman's delightful novel The Princess Bride:
"Let me tell you what's been going on—" He stopped and shook his head. "No," he said. "There's too much, it would take too long, let me distill it for you..."
So let me, too, distill for you the past year or so of my life, though some of you know the rudiments of the story already.
In January 2008, life found me in North Carolina — near Chapel Hill, for those familiar with the area — pursuing a new chapter of my life, far from the material and meteorological comforts of Southern California, as well as the professional certainty of a promising position at Blizzard Entertainment. I was resolved to return to the world of academia, positively bursting with lofty career goals, and had come into a romance not yet been exposed as merely a shadow of the profound emotional bond under whose guise it had beguiled me.
The future appeared bright, as a sunny winter's day belies the frigid wind.
Early last year, amidst the then nascent economic slump that made it all but impossible for me to find stable work on that foreign soil, the fledgling — but nevertheless beleaguered — relationship came to an end. I had been out of work for months, left to watch my funds hemorrhage with every passing day, and now found myself alone and thousands of miles from home. At the time, I could only battle despair. It seemed that I had failed at everything I had set out to do — that, to use a somewhat more visceral phrase, everything I touched had turned to shit. For a couple weeks, I wallowed in self-pity and sodium-laden delivery food. In time, however, I came to my senses and felt a sense of freedom I had never before known; in retrospect, I hadn't been treated particularly well in that relationship, and what happiness I had felt had been tempered with unease. Now I was free to live by my own agenda alone, to live by myself and for myself.
The next few months passed leisurely — as only they can in the South — and I found temporary work that, at least for a time, staved off the inevitable bankruptcy awaiting me. I picked up cooking as a hobby and subsequently discovered that it's a great comfort to me, that hours spent in the kitchen serve to center me, and thus had another career path to consider — that of the personal or professional chef. I eventually did run out of money, though, and was forced to return to my hometown of Pomona to "regroup," as I jauntily put it, whilst temporarily staying with my parents. This brings us up to my last journal entry, in which I mentioned a trip to the Seattle area this past summer. I returned from my brief foray into Washington as a changed man — several pounds heavier from indulging in sumptuous meals at Seattle restaurants, albeit a bit lighter in the billfold from said dining, and with a renewed sense of hope.
(As has no doubt become clear, I suck at distillation. My apologies.)
Why the hope, you ask? I had met an intriguing young woman under rather unusual circumstances, and the prospect of friendship — or more, I dared to hope — with her excited me. The story of how we first met isn't a short one, and in fact seems to grow longer with embellishment every time I tell it, so I'll let that wait for another journal entry. It's a good tale, and deserves ample space. What began as friendly and engaging e-mail correspondence segued into IMs and finally blossomed into prolonged phone calls — the bills from which stagger me to this day — that steadily revealed what a truly remarkable woman I had stumbled upon.
She is brilliant — powerfully literary and linguistic alike — beautiful, daring yet nurturing, strong yet tender, a seeming contradiction of qualities that find a happy marriage in her delightful mind. Her name is Laura, and in her I have found true love — no mere pretender dressed up in hopes and embraced out of ignorance — for the first time in my twentysomething years. I am at once humbled by, and yet exultant to behold, the emotion, dedication, and fervor with which we both imbue our relationship. In Laura, I have found myself anew — my best traits amplified, my less admirable ones patiently endured — and draw from her both strength and purpose. No wintry gales threaten our summery future together.
I have been known to become "mushy" at times, however, so I'll leave it at that for the sake of propriety. Suffice it to say that I'm extraordinarily happy, and that life found me this January as a different man — I've grown and learned from my failures in North Carolina, as well as gained valuable perspective in life and relationships. I know now what I want from both; I've found it in the love Laura and I share, and in the nigh predestined path that lies before us.
Thus I write to you today from a small apartment in Columbus, OH — a surprising destination, perhaps, for a Southern Californian, born and raised. (The locals here are always amused, and not a little dismayed, when they learn whence I came. Evidently, they envision all of Southern California as a paradise, and almost invariably say, "Like San Diego?" as if that beacon of temperate climate and coastal beauty were indicative of the entire region. Balmy, Pomona is not.) In my time here, I've experienced biting cold and snow drifts the likes of which I had never seen outside of towering mountaintops in California. More on the entertaining spectacle of my cold-weather acclimation in other entries, though.
I'm working full-time at Barnes & Noble (a grave temptation), reading during all my remaining waking hours, exploring the city on my days off, and seeing Laura as frequently as our schedules and transportation will allow. In short, life is good, even if money is tight and my wireless connection infuriatingly spotty. I hope to continue writing about my experiences here, not only to keep my creative writing juices flowing but to chronicle this mundane adventure I call my life.
As always, I apologise for the length of this entry. Those familiar with my writing, I hope, are already immunised against its relentless longwindedness.
Newcomers, flee while you still can.