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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

While the World Sleeps

I like going to the beach in the middle of the night. I’m most alive during that brief but beautiful interval of time after the insomniac stoners stomp out their dying blunts and before the yogaphiles invade the morning shores in colorful spandex like Teletubbie conquistadors. While the world sleeps, I sneak out to the coast. I carve myself a little piece of real estate in the sand, shaking and shimming until I’m burrowed three or four inches deep. Sure, it’s no $2500 Tempur-Pedic but I don’t go for the r&r. My purposes don’t allow it.

 

After dark, the horizon disappears. The ocean appears infinite and expressionless. It’s a mystifying scene that fills the ocular orbs with a singular sense of wonder and a feeling that there is somewhere, somehow, someone, something, someway, that there are possibilities, that there is hope.

 

The moon drops the temp and pumps up the humidity. It’s a moisture infused cocktail that wreaks havoc on any gal’s hairdo, but in my estimation, does wonders for the respiratory system…

 

…and so I breathe in the sweet and salty brew and think. Nothing more, nothing less.


Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my future. I have less than a year and a half left in college, at which point, I’ll no longer be a student, but an unemployed twentysomething. I’ll miss school. I’ve been a student for the better part of my life and it’s given my days a sort of rhythm that will be strange to live without.

 

What I’m most afraid of is becoming stuck, stuck in a life I didn’t intend on leading. The world pressures us to make compromises. One concession leads to the next, and before we know it, we are living lives that are not ours. I have already made several such settlements. I  rationalize each with a familiar excuse: “I am looking out for my future.”  In retrospect, I wonder if looking ahead has caused me to sacrifice the present.  

 

Was it the right move to leave my friends and family back East and pursue an education in Los Angeles? Was it the best decision to put music and mechanics, two fields I love but I’m told are for “delinquents,” on the back burners and focus almost exclusively on my studies?

 

I try not to dwell on the past but I think there is something to gained from revisiting our previous missteps and miscalculations.  Growth is moving forward with a sense of what’s behind you.

 

I can’t help but think how every hour I spend studying the nuances of Gothic literature could be better spent laughing with those I love. Many of us live our lives in constant preparation for the future. We do well in school so that we can go to a good college; we study hard in college so that we can get a good job; we work hard at our job so that we can get a better job that pays more and comes with medical AND dental benefits; we save our money so that we can live comfortably in our retirement; and then we arrive at old age with a fat bank account and realize we sacrificed too much for the paycheck. We exit the carnival with a 6-foot stuffed animal but without as many memories of cotton candy or roller coaster rides as we originally hoped for.

 

I am not advocating an abdication of all responsibility, just a reprioritization. 

 

Because when it’s all said and done, you won’t look back and reminisce on the grade you received in chemistry or the numbers printed on the Christmas bonus; instead, you’ll look back on the smiles of those who made you the happiest and the moments you shared with them.

 

When I’m old, I hope to go to the beach on a warm July night, scoop mashed peas into my mouth, look out into the big empty and say to myself: “Man, what a ride.”

 

~Ian M. Johnson

 

4 Comments:

Anonymous Paul Beckwith said...

Props to you on this entry, Ian. It's nice to know that there are kindred spirits who think about the kind of matters you've described.

Some of the most amazing experiences of my life have occurred at the beach during those witching hours that blur the line between being out late and being out early. It is especially impressive to go there when a storm is approaching, and the overcast sky becomes a vaulted ceiling that would put even St. Peter's Basilica to shame.

When this happens, if you direct your gaze to be parallel with the shore, the sight becomes a transcendental image of the war between the bastions of light, shining from the cities on the hills, and the oncoming, all-devouring darkness of the brewing storm. And from the haze of the clouds, the departing aircraft seem like little more than missiles of light and noise, stalwart avengers setting out on suicide missions that are destined to fail, as the rumbling oblivion of the night inevitably envelopes them.

And there you stand, right in the middle of the two, watching, and wondering which side you belong on. It's like standing on the dividing line of some colossal Gaian yin-yang. Truly an incredible sight. Makes me want to go out for a run tonight, just for the kicks of seeing the ocean again.

February 28, 2010 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Editorial Committee said...

As always pure genius Ian. I can totally relate. All of being doing my whole life is preparing for the future. Thanks for reminding us to live in the moment.

-Court

February 28, 2010 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Tamara said...

I love it!

March 2, 2010 at 12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BRILLIANT!!!

March 2, 2010 at 11:02 AM  

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