Thursday, April 25, 2013

So, if I were to write a book this is how I would begin it.

 Caution: working draft.

Prologue - I’m Coming Home.

I’m coming home, I’m coming home.  Tell the World I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.  I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes.  I’m coming home, I’m coming home.  Tell the World I’m coming.

I felt exhausted as I drove along the freeway.  Spring rang fresh as I drove through Ohio, the first hints of the forested Appalachian foothills spasming with green.  The scene was reinvigorating after spending four months organizing in North Dakota during the heart of winter.

I’m coming home... I’m coming home...

The radio was playing a new song of coming home, echoing my feelings as the miles ticked by as I grew closer and closer to Northern Virginia.  I grew up in the same household there my whole life, went to college at Virginia Tech, and soon jumped headfirst into the world after graduating and traveled across the country to hone in my skills for community organizing.

Tell the world I’m coming home...

I felt nearly defeated.  I was still reeling from almost being fired from my job several weeks earlier as I couldn’t deliver ‘the metrics’ desired, despite fighting -50° fahrenheit wind chills and an unforgiving ultra-conservative landscape for an idealistic organizer.  Since I was limited in what I could do for my advocacy-driven metrics, I organized with the small progressive community a statewide conservation issue summit.  Several dozen people came, though only a fraction attended my breakout on my campaign for livestock marketing fairness.  Two in the breakout group were spies gleaning information about me and how much of a threat the campaign was.

Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday...

While I reveled in the feeling of a homecoming, I also felt a impending sense of loss.  I felt like this would be one of the last times I would have this feeling.  My parents recently purchased a home in upper Michigan to retire in, planning to move for the first time in my life.  The move would be tasking for both of them, but especially my father.  My father hadn’t been healthy for many years and even the most trivial tasks proved enormous for him.  In recent phone conversations, he seemed impatient and constantly irritable.

I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes.

The road started to rise and fall, soft curves turning faster with the next wave of the mountains.  Pennsylvania state line.  Back-to-back tollbooths.  I glanced at the navigation: four more hours.  With a sigh, I lean back in the drivers seat and loosen my grip on the steering wheel.  I could feel the shadow over me of a turning page to a new chapter of my life, uncertain where the the story of me will go.

I thought back to last summer after graduating college.  While wading through the pristine New River on an early summer day, I found myself climbing a jumping rock in the middle of the river I’ve seen others use and hesitated on the edge.  The water was tumultuous, and I was unable to see the bottom.  Afraid of the unknown, President Roosevelt’s words entered my mind: “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”  I smiled to myself, closed my eyes and jumped.

Tell the World I’m coming.

I was 22 by the time I found myself driving home early that spring.  In my youth I was extensively teased and bullied.  I watched in horror the events unfolding at Columbine, and soon I found myself being carefully watchd by my teachers.  Walking between classes in middle school I heard the distant sirens wailing on their way to the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.  I silently feared the Cessna planes flying above our neighborhood were dropping anthrax.  We stayed inside during physical education because unknown deadly snipers were targeting fellow students.  Friends looked me in the eye to tell me they were going to shoot up our school.  

I easily fell obsessively in love.  I fought and won against having a label of being learning disabled.  I spent years embracing a potential career in engineering, with construction internships leading up to working at the Pentagon renovation for a summer.  I had joyrides with friends throughout suburbia, seeking for the darkened corners for a glimpse at the starry night sky.

In lockdown, my class was escorted by an officer with a shotgun to the library after a stabbing.  Three news helicopters hovered above when we were released.  Several times over the years in high school we were evacuated and watched the bomb squad come to sweep the building.  Once, someone blew up a quarter stick and destroyed several lockers.

Toward my senior year I began to see the interconnectedness of the environment to our everyday lives.  I was shocked by the ignorance of the issue in my community, and got involved by volunteering hundreds of hours, planting dozens of trees and removing invasive plant species in regional parks with a Buddhist nonprofit group.

The first day of my college classes were canceled because a convict killed a police officer and escaped custody within a mile or two of campus.  My new friends and I threw a football around outside, willfully ignoring the lockdown in place.  

I engaged more and more on environmental issues, attending a statewide youth energy summit and taking my energies to organizing on campus.  

A student murdered 32 and wounded dozens of others on campus.

I ran for town council my senior year in college.

I graduated and traveled the country while organizing.

I pulled into the driveway.  Finally, I was home again.

((Copyright © 2013 Bryce Carter.  All rights reserved.))