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This must be the place

art theplaceMy eyes fluttered open and, for a moment, I didn’t know where I was.

The room was familiar. The sheets and blankets were the same. But I wasn’t. As I got out bed at my parent’s house, I realized it had been three years since I was living under this roof, and with one day until my return to Western North Carolina, it was still surreal to be here, and now, in my native Upstate New York.

I was only supposed to be in Plattsburgh four days, but ended up cancelling my flight and staying through another weekend. Between spending time with my family, catching up with dear friends and wandering old stompin’ grounds, I really felt the urge to soak in the essence of my past. And yet, is it the past if it always remains in the forefront of your thoughts, as alive and ever-present as the exact moments in which they happened?

Floating. It’s what I’ve been feeling like as I traverse the spaces of my adolescence and subsequent young adulthood. In our modern world, it is odd to explore these places and faces, physically and emotionally, only seen from afar on social media or through text message — reality is truly stranger than fiction.

“It’s like I’m walking through Facebook right now,” I commented while barhopping my hometown one evening, running into an array of people and things I remember, but yet don’t know anything about anymore.

Since I graduated high school at 18, I’ve been on the run, from my childhood, limitation in staying around, fears and insecurities. I felt if I keep moving I wouldn’t slow down enough to see what was really going on, to come eye-to-eye with the fact that nothing’s the same, everything’s the same. 

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And though I’d come back and reside in Plattsburgh on and off between treks around America, I began to see how my home was evolving. Old faces disappeared, as new ones entered the picture. Hangout spots close up shop, as new ones open their doors in hopes of creating a scene. It’s the same story, in business as in life, when layer upon layer of hopes and dreams get strewn across the last, lost attempt at greatness. 

Why does it seem everyone is changing and yet I’m still, well, me? People seem so far gone or sad or unsure on how to properly grasp what it is they ultimately want. I feel lucky enough to have had the lightning bolt that is writing strike me a decade ago, while others are still standing outside with a metal rod pointing towards a dark and uncertain storm of chance that resides above us all. 

My recent barn stormin’ tour of my motherland has been a blur of booze, brotherhood and back-to-the-basics of what I see within myself. As Ben Franklin once said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” I’ve always adored that quote, where I find myself applying it to numerous aspects of my existence.

You see, after the initial shock and awe of being somewhere, anywhere, around folks you’ve glorified in memory, you begin to focus in on the cracks within the foundations you’ve spent years preserving. Now, don’t get me wrong, my trip back to the beginning has been sincerely enjoyable and overwhelmingly cathartic. But, it also has revealed itself to me as something of disarray and misplaced purpose.

For every one interaction of joy, of “How have you been, darling?” or “Good to see you, brother,” there has been paths crossed of sorrow and somber outlooks. I remember being the best man in a wedding where they’re now getting a divorce. Another wants to go and seek the “pearl,” but is afraid of actually taking the first step outside the city limits. The once happy couple I used to salute beers to wander into the bar with new arm candy. This, and more, paints a full, and accurate picture, of the good, the bad, and the ugly, of finally coming home.

At 30, I find myself just getting started on what it is I want to pursue in my existence. Sure, my 20s were a rollercoaster of shenanigans and haphazard decisions, but I don’t regret anything. I work and play hard, with my heart on my sleeve at all times. I love with a happy-go-lucky reckless abandon, one that shoots out in every direction, for what do you have to lose besides time itself? “This ain’t no dress rehearsal,” a dear friend jovially stated years ago.

Each and everyone one of us grew up in a place we call “home.” It is the origin of “you.” Whether you let that define you negatively or perpetuate you positively is up to your intent and actions — the direct correlation of your destiny. Life is a record that never stops playing, even after the song ends. It’s reaching for the needle and placing it back on the melody that comes from your determination and perseverance. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.



Hot picks

1 Balsam Range (bluegrass/gospel) will perform during the open house and barbecue starting at 3 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Sylva.

2 Country music stars Marty Stuart and Connie Smith will perform at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.

3 The Haywood County Fair will be held Aug. 25-31 at the Haywood County Fairground in Lake Junaluska.

4 The Highlands Village Square Art & Craft Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 29-30 in Kelsey-Hutchinson Park on Pine Street.

5 Barbara Bates Smith will bring her performance of “Granny D” to North Carolina NAACP President Reverend Barber at 2 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Harris Chapel A.M.E. Zion in Canton.

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