Tonight, I stepped outside. We’re in that sweet spot between summer and fall, when the sun still feels warm on our bare arms during the day but the open windows invite in a chill at night that makes us curl up in our sleep.
It was always my favorite time of year growing up. It seemed romantic somehow, like that cool, clear air was cleaning off summer’s slate, making way for all the hope and promise of a new school year and the new memories waiting to be made.
I missed this time of year while I lived in Arizona; so I stepped outside tonight to bask in it for a few moments.
I took a deep breath and a memory rushed in with the air. College. Sophomore – maybe junior? – year. A wood patio off the side of a house I can no longer clearly describe. Same time of year, same crisp, still air, same stars overhead. I remembered sitting with a friend. A guy, one who was older than me, quiet and smart. A phenomenal writer. One I’ve long since lost touch with.
I smiled a bit at my own randomness of recall. Then I picked up my iPhone, hit the button to light up my screen … and looked back toward the sky. What was I going to do, check Facebook for the 417th time today?
I put the phone down. I sat and I tried to remember that night, pulling at every detail of the memory that still remained. A muffled party continuing in the house behind us, sitting on a cold wooden step with that friend, escaping the noise together for a while.
It was a time in my life in which I felt very alone. Maybe alone isn’t the right word. Undefined might be better. Not in a sad way; in an exhilarating way. So few chapters behind me, so many ahead. A pivotal time, one that would set the course for the rest of my life.
Not that I was thinking about all this in the midst of a college party.
Except maybe I was because those were the feelings that came back to me tonight as I breathed in the early fall air. Maybe I was feeling the enormity of my future that night, and I needed to step outside and take it all in.
I don’t remember what we talked about, if we even talked much. I don’t remember what we drank or how long we sat there. I just remember the smell of the air and the emotion and the sense of calm he brought with him.
And that’s my problem lately, the core of my recent bout of writer’s block. I don’t allow myself any time to think or to just be, to look around and see and smell, to wonder, to remember.
It’s not that I have zero “me time;” it’s that when I do, it’s easier to check out of life, to decompress by fixing my eyes to my phone or the TV or – if I’m feeling extra motivated – to my computer, trying to arrange words into sentences to tell the story of a little boy who has begun to define me a bit too much.
I’m spending too much time trying to write about what I think I should be writing about and not enough time poking around inside my own head.
I wrote this whole post without checking Facebook once. Maybe that’s a start.