May 26, 2014 by Erin
On Not Knowing What’s Ahead
Today finds me sitting on the floor amidst piles of paper and clothes, sorting what goes to Goodwill and what goes with me into a new season. I found an old writing notebook, full of melodramatic scribbles and the first gems that convinced me I could really be a writer. I found something I had written in late 2009, when life was largely frustrating and uncertain. It’s an ode to unexpected journeys and the Kentucky back-roads that still romance me. I thought it was fitting to share this week, as I face another transition and a great deal of uncertainty. It’s rough, but all this sorting doesn’t leave me much time for editing.
I originally wrote this for my friend Amy, as the first line says. But today I need to add Sarah McQueen to the dedication, who besides being crazy enough to start a nonprofit with me is also a very dear friend. I’m glad we’re traveling this next stretch of road together, unmapped as it may be.
To Amy, with whom I have driven hundreds of miles to nowhere.
Sometimes I don’t much like the way life is: riddled with uncertainty, every turn bringing something else you weren’t expecting. Feeling like you just can’t see around the bend, and knowing that every mile puts what’s familiar that much further behind you. I don’t like not knowing, feeling blind and lost.
I like driving. I like the moment when I first leave the grid, when the road narrows and I see more green than gray ahead of me. I like winding down my window and letting the Kentucky air breathe warmth and bluegrass and tobacco into my face and into my soul. There’s something nearly sacred about singing off-key at the top of your lungs while open fields whiz by. Brake in, gas out of the curves you can’t see around until a straight-away comes that begs for a lead foot.
And suddenly I realize I like not knowing where I’m going. The best drives, the ones that restore sanity and freedom, have no goal except getting home eventually. The road may take me anywhere, or nowhere in particular. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see very far ahead because this is a sweet curve, and see if I don’t take it at 55.
Who knows where we’re headed, or what curves or straight stretches are on this road. Figuring it out would ruin our chance to say, “How did we get here?” So the uncertainty may not be so bad. There could be flat tires or slow-moving tractors, but that will be funny later. We may discover a new favorite spot, with a starscape that makes you remember how small you are.
And, you know, at some point, we’ll get back home.