It’s three days from February, 2014. I’ve done almost nothing this year. I’m stuck in limbo between my dreams and the bleakest of futures, with an upcoming trial that, according to my most pessimistic self, will alter my seemingly predetermined course.
It’s been strange. 2013 was, in all subjective retrospect, probably the best year I’ve ever had as a whole. There were a lot of awful times, far too much time-killing and inactivity, but the absolutely amazing experiences that fell in between dwarf any single 365-day stretch before them. With the haze and uncertainty of this new month, it’s almost as if 2013 never happened.
I woke up foggy and alone that first day of last year, yet returned to California and set in motion the events that made 2013 what it was. Somehow, despite its events, removing the year from the continuum of my life causes few discontinuities in my present frame of mind. The emotions and mindset of the final moments of 2012 carry themselves straight through to now, bypassing 2013 completely. It’s been a miserable four weeks of waiting– of occasional hope and reassurances becoming inevitably swallowed in despair and pessimism.
One way or another, all of this is likely to end today. Or tomorrow. I’m under pressure; I feel like I can’t handle this. I know there’s a part of me that can. It’s time to flip the mental switch, for the sake of my future self. I’ve squandered too much time this year already.
On Sunday, I went for a drive. The Northern California coast has been one of my favorite places to go, usually for no reason in particular. With so much on my mind and stir-crazy at home, I had to leave. I drove for hours; in the Bay Area, distances are longer than they appear, yet the hours felt like mere minutes once I reached unknown lands.
It was night. The large settlements of the Bay glowed behind me in the fog. I was trying to get away. As I reached the coast, the clouds enveloped the land. Miles away, beams of lone cars driving down the Pacific Coast Highway tore through the thick blackness. I pulled off into a turnout, shut off the car, and stepped outside.
It was windy. It smelled like fish and seaweed. I could hear the roar of the waves below me, and felt the sharp cold of the Pacific air pierce my skin. The stars above were hidden behind ominous clouds. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the near total lack of light. Indirectly, I could see the foam of waves crashing on blurred shapes. Beyond that, nothing.
The unknown is scary. As most children are, I was once afraid of the dark. Secure in my childhood bedroom, there was nothing to fear. This place wasn’t totally unfamiliar; I’ve been to the coast numerous times before. Like I said, it’s one of my favorite places to be. Sometimes I’ll go watch the sunset from the hill over the Golden Gate just because it’s been too long since the last time I did. With the city so close, the ocean is comforting; its incessant churning and crashing provides stability against the concerns of civilization.
When the lights go out, there’s nothing there. Just darkness. Darkness that literally screams, assaulting every sense but one. The void that had swallowed the sun hours earlier. I stood there on the bluff, absolutely terrified. I was alone there at the edge. It was wonderful.
But there’s never nothing. Above the clouds were stars. More stars than I’d even seen before. Up the coast, people made their homes. Other souls continued to drive by occasionally, ripping the vacant serenity with their high beams. Another hour up the coast, I sat in my car, attempting to photograph the sky, listening to the hidden wildlife and enjoying the perfect scent of coastal pines. The wind there was gone and the clouds retreated to sea. The celestial sphere, never so bright to my eyes, looked like wallpaper. I felt like I could reach out and touch it. It rotated slowly around me, too slow to notice, yet I was able to capture its incredible velocity with my camera, if nothing else.
That night, there was nowhere else I’d rather have been. I felt stuck, trapped in limbo. Now I have this place. The edge of the world, where the sky meets the blackest ocean. If I ever feel down about life, it’s helpful to know there’s somewhere where I can experience extreme personal insignificance, terror, and beauty at once. After you feel the grandeur of it all, there’s not much left to fear.