Merging Two Worlds



 
I realized long ago that my interests, my devotions and my heart exist almost exactly in equal depth for two discrete places—Kansas City, the place I currently call home and where my family is and all of my current investments such as school and work are rooted, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, the place I used to call home and where so many of my closest friendly bonds still reside where I grew up during my most formative early teenage years. Each place has more than its own fair share of positive considerations and factors to keep each set of emotions, interests, devotions and investments powerfully tied to them. I take a lot of comfort in this, but for that reason I find myself stuck in a perpetually awkward state of longing for whichever place I’m not currently breathing in the sweet air of at each passing moment.

So there is a kind of distance which always separates me from both places simultaneously…because this distance isn’t just the obvious physical one, for however many actual miles are between myself and one of these beautiful places, that same number of miles, manifested emotionally, always works to separate me from the other. If there was some way that I could merge the two worlds, and have forever all of the cherished variables that I so long to be a part of, all of them combined in the most wonderful way, I would tear apart the fabric of space-time with my bare hands to bring them together and I don’t think I could ever ask for anything more.

There are almost 700 torturous miles separating these two worlds. And each one has its own intense well of gravity, always mercilessly tugging me away from the other. Only periodically do I get the opportunity to cut the chains keeping me rooted here in Kansas City and let myself drift that way, over to Cheyenne. The largest of these chains are those of school and work—because only with the blessing of each of these can I make time to temporarily break free from their otherwise unrelenting grip on my focus. I can always still keep in touch and communicate in ways not so different from what is usually taking place anyway, so it’s not so much a matter of separating myself from the people I’m surrounded by here as it is a matter of separating myself from the career-oriented lifestyle I’m surrounded by. And so the beautiful fairy tale setting I can’t shake from my mind (if I even wanted to) is the one in which all of the people I so often find myself dreaming about, together in equal parts both here in Kansas City and there in Cheyenne, are here with me together at once. I absolutely cannot think of a better world than one which incorporates all of the best attributes of both of these, seamlessly combined into a true fairy tale setting if there ever was one.

For obvious reasons my most immediate concerns are those of school and work, and so there really is no question about where I need to be now…at least for the time being, in this moment. And being closer to family, both immediate here in town and slightly less immediate only a couple hours away, is a very nice thing. But on the other hand, in the place that I used to call home (and still do for a fleeting two weeks out of the year), I have some of my longest and deepest-held friendships and the physical surroundings which never fail to provide intensely treasured nostalgic feelings of their own. And although this woefully short amount of time I’m able to take advantage of each year is so relatively brief, separated by about twenty-five times this amount of time, in which I must remain devoted to more productive pursuits here at “home”, all of this time and distance that seems so daunting all the while I’m away seems to just dissolve and fade away the moment I arrive and see all the familiar faces I’ve been missing for so long. And then it’s almost as if I was never even gone at all. It’s a feeling of belonging simply without compare.

If there is ever any doubt in my mind about whether I should really be utilizing my entire vacation time to travel out there and mingle into the ongoing social network, whether I’m still going to fit in and be appreciated, it is utterly demolished almost immediately as I never fail to seamlessly blend back into the scene. It's funny, sometimes, how often people are surprised that I'd take my vacations and come out here to Cheyenne time after time. "Cheyenne, of all places?!" Yes, beautiful Cheyenne, so full of all these wonderful friendships. Truth is, there's no place in the world I'd rather be when I get the chance.

I guess I could say that I’m more physically tied to my current home, and more emotionally tied to my prior home. But this is without a doubt mostly because of the simple fact that I’ve lived here for so long and have career-oriented goals that have been progressing for much of that time. I guess I could also say that my bright future (as its prospects are currently situated) lies here in Kansas City, while my longed-for past (as its prospects are currently situated, as well) lie all the way over there in Cheyenne. There are some deep considerations in this realization, because there are many important variables which are so easy to overlook if I let imagination run rampant and neglect to consider more than sheer longing for the past and what I only get to experience briefly each year.

There is something to be said, of course, of the fact that my time spent in Cheyenne each year is a worry-free vacation from my career-oriented goals and that these emotions are undoubtedly heightened by this. Admittedly, by the end of each visit there is a part of me looking forward to returning to my busy, productive routine back in Missouri. I do enjoy being busy and productive, and I always have to admit that the carefree vacation really does need to come to an end, as far as my bright future is concerned. So it’s difficult to say how things would be if the situation was reversed and I was using my vacation time each year to visit friends and family back in Missouri. I think it would be strikingly similar, in its own way—I would miss family and friends, and I would try to set aside time to come visit, and I would probably feel an intense longing for such times once I returned (to Cheyenne). But I would realize that I needed to return, because I would have a productive life to continue when my vacation time ran out. The two versions are not so different. Such is my devotion to and my connections in both places.

Perhaps the most important consideration of all is that I’m really only drawn back to Cheyenne each chance I get because of the incredible people in it. I’m not particularly drawn to the place because of the place itself—although if I happened to be passing by and absolutely none of my good friends remained, I’d probably drive through and stop at a couple familiar places at least to appreciate some nice nostalgia. But my true interests lie with the inhabitants and for this reason I need to be careful not to rely too much on these people who might not stick around themselves. I must take this fact of life for all of its implications, because when all things are considered the most important thing, besides the familiar friendly faces I definitely would like to be close to, is to be situated physically where I can make the most for myself regardless of the people that have every reason of their own to come and go (the same thing applies, of course, to Kansas City). In an ideal world I would situate myself in the best physical location and have every friendly face from anywhere I could desire forever within my reach—but such is not even remotely likely going to be the case, and this is the primary reason for my wandering mind to create and hold onto this idea which shines so brightly in its potential glory for how I could possibly have the best of all possible worlds right here in the palms of my hands, at least in my idealized daydreams.

So I always find myself torn so cleanly down the center when I consider all of the possibilities that I might have any control over establishing for myself. Kansas City has its obvious physical advantages, and of course a good many deep friendships, while Cheyenne has its unmistakable nostalgia and harbors some of the most deeply-rooted friendships of all. This is the nature of my longing to merge the two worlds, because if I could remain here in this better-situated location on the planet’s surface while still having these friends (combined with my many friends I already have over here) then I would be hard-pressed to imagine a way to be any happier with the Universe.

To anyone who knows me particularly well, or even not, it must go without saying that the primary key to the happiness found in Cheyenne is one Dave Ewaliko, with whom I’ve shared most of every single one of my most cherished memories and most deeply held thoughts. And this isn’t to discount any of the almost countless other intensely-cherished friendships I have rooted in the city (both cities). These people should know who they are. I adore every single one to the utmost of my overflowing heart.

I find it absolutely incredible how intertwined my thoughts are with a place full of people that I’ve only fleetingly kept in physical contact with over so many long years. Early on, after the intense move well over eight years ago (2004), I always comforted myself with the thoughts that the “loss” of Cheyenne, or rather, "The Motherland," as Dave and I came to refer to it, would fade away in time. And of course I was right, to a degree. But there is still somewhat more longing than I had anticipated, or at least had hoped for. I guess I always knew deep down that it was going to be a “scar” for life. It’s interesting how emotional damages can be so much more excruciating than even the most severe physical ones. In the summer of 2007 I fell off a house while working construction and broke my back... fractured my 12th lumbar vertebrate. But miraculously, I feel little pain or even anything more than occasional discomfort at this stage afterwards. The only reminder I ever have is some discomfort if I stand in one place too long, and this doesn’t happen often. It makes things like washing dishes frustrating. On the other hand, I am haunted regularly by the memories of past fortunes that were left behind once my family moved away in June 2004 and the imaginings of things that might have gone so differently had this not been the case. I do see them as wonderful memories, but even the most incredible of feelings can simultaneously bring the most intense longings. And these memories, for all the times that they bring unrivaled happiness and comfort, can sometimes revive the most tragic despair for such good times which are so long gone. Such is the double-edged blade of nostalgia.

I can say in complete honesty that the absolute best days of my mid-adolescent teenage years were spent in a two-and-a-half-year period of unrivaled bliss over in Cheyenne, namely with two incredible friends, none other than Dave Ewaliko and Cliff Cox. In those years we had conquered the world, as it had mattered to us at the time. Yet I can also say in complete honesty that the absolute best days of my elder teenage years were those I spent with my best friends I had here in KC, with Sean Lusher and Jacob Knepper and, similarly, it feels like I had conquered the world all over again with them. The value I hold to each time period is so similar in its worth that I cannot pin down a specific route that would have played out for the better if it could have been more long-lasting—if I had stayed in Cheyenne, then those mid-teenage years definitely would have culminated in ever-increasing intensity as we aged into adults, and yet those late-teenage years I spent here in KC would have had a more powerful foundation, and in turn a much more powerful transition into adulthood, if I had arrived here sooner. The dividing line is, in all practicality, because of all of the intricacies involved in each particular case, impossible to gauge effectively. The thoughtful devotion may be an obsession, but it is an obsession I passionately indulge.

Because even still every time I hear or read about issues Dave is having over there in The Motherland, I want nothing more than to just leap head-first into my car and drive nonstop all the way there, pull into his driveway, throw him into the passenger seat, and drive to Anthony's Pizza (even though it doesn't exist anymore... but any place would do). Then we could go back to his house, stopping at the Mini-Mart for 64 oz. sodas on the way, to laugh our vocal cords sore playing Fifa Soccer or Monkey Ball or watching MXC... and I know in my heart that, at least for the duration of our game-playing or TV-watching, any troubling issues would be in the back of our minds (if anywhere at all). His dad would say hi to me in his ever-soft voice as he rushes to the kitchen to cook sausages for us, his siblings Cece and Jonah would be playfully screaming and throwing each other around the house, Autumn would be laughing at it all or telling them that they're stupid, and his mom (though she has sadly passed on since such memories were so deeply rooted) would be sitting on the couch, telling me about how “special” I am. How special is it when a few experiences easily recalled into memory can rival, or even surpass, the most impressive dream?

They say that home is where the heart is, and I say that if home is where the heart is then there is not a single homeless person in the world. But some people might be unfortunately misplaced.

Long ago, Dave and I came up with a semi-serious pact that when we're wrinkly old geezers assigned to wheelchairs we'll still be sitting out on our neighboring porches (because we will be next-door neighbors), chatting about all the insanity we lived through and all the girls we chased, cherish and loved. It sticks with me, in part because I truly want this to happen. In a way I can precisely imagine the two of us, sitting side-by-side in our rickety old rocking chairs, cracking jokes and reminiscing about all the good times (most of which are yet to come), cracking the same old jokes, Dave bursting out in his oh-so-characteristic hearty laugh (although the years will have taken their toll on it), and just simply enjoying truly cooperative company with each other as a gorgeous Vanilla Sky makes its complex interactions over the horizon.

Everybody has forever to look forward to. Life is absolutely not short, it is the longest thing possible to experience and because we have absolute control over our investments within it I feel it is of the most profound importance that we pursue those things most cherished to us. Because forever is so much more than just a word… forever is the amount of your life that you'll always know you have all such people in your life. And even when they're not around you anymore, or very fleetingly so, as unfortunate as that is, there are still so many ways to talk with them, and even visit whenever possible. Distance plays its unfortunate role in so many cases between people who would otherwise enjoy nothing more than being in each other’s company, but at the same time this same distance can help to strengthen and filter out everything but the most cherished connections of all. And you will know you have one of those true and long-lasting friendships when you can show up on their doorstep after absolutely any amount of time and distance and within mere moments all of the most deep and cherished feelings of all come flooding back as if a tidal wave was unleashed from the deepest depths of the ocean. And you'll know when that term "forever" is to the fullest extent when you see such a person after so much time has passed, and you’ve each pursued such separate paths, and yet each time your paths cross once again it seems exactly like there was no time passed at all.

It may be a fanciful daydream to imagine myself having the best of both of these worlds combined, but if nothing else at least I can collide and merge them within in my own mind, and imagine how wonderful things would be if I had all variables in my grasp at all times. But of course I cannot physically have this fortune. I can, however, relish in all the bountiful memories each holds, and pursue with the best of my abilities all of the time that I can spare to continue to make the best of each, as separately as they must be, and as intertwined as they can be, because I have the power to make it so as often as I can manage.

And so I am somewhat distanced from my current home, here in Kansas City, emotionally, and from my long-lost home, there in Cheyenne, physically. But life is complicated, circumstances are complicated, cooperation is complicated, and my deepest desires are perhaps most complicated of all. So if I seem a little bit distant at any point in time, to anyone from either location, please understand that as much as I’d love more than anything to be there sharing time and memories, old and new, with you, I might seem a bit distant only because I am.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 7:06 PM

1 comments:

gleat said...

Eli, I may be able to tell where some of your edits occurred. For example, you usually identify KC as here and Cheyenne as there. There is at least one place that is reversed in the middle of the paragraph, so that it seems like you are editing from Cheyenne. Actually, that's cool.

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