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Points of Change

A few weeks ago, a weird confluence of things happened, and it made it think about some things. It made me wonder what-if, and it made me start to daydream. There are times where I have to remind myself that things don’t happen like they do in the movies. And even if they did, John Hughes isn’t directing my life. I don’t know if that happens to anyone else—a few moments of incredibly impossible maybe—but it happens to me.


No matter what, I’m a hopeful person. I cannot turn it off, even though I have tried. I don’t really know how to give up on dreams or people—especially people. Unless you’ve gone the way of Manson or been mean to someone I care about, I’m yours for life. I don’t waffle, except under extreme circumstances.


Depending on the person, extreme circumstances vary and are relative. There are social pressures, stigmas, concerns. When making choices, people often worry what others thinks, because society tends to be mob-like its viciousness. By which I mean, people fear change and dislike what they don’t understand.


But here’s the thing: people don’t have to understand the things you want in life. It’s not a requirement. Why? Because those in your life only need to accept your choices. It isn’t necessary, or even healthy, for everyone to agree on them. And I’m always reminded that we get one spin around this crazy hunk of rock. Tomorrow doesn’t come with a promise. The next second doesn’t. And in our lives, there’s a tremendous amount of power in our choices.


This brings me back to extreme conditions, or points of change. Moments—really, a series of moments, because nothing is ever one thing—that makes us stop walking a certain direction. Circumstances that shift everything, with one choice, whether it’s, “I’m not going to stay in this job anymore” or “I don’t love this person; I need to break up with them.” Fill in the blank with your current question mark. I suppose I’ve wondering a lot about what makes someone give up—on a dream, situation, or relationship. When is enough enough? There’s obviously no easy, clear cut, or standard answer.


This made me think about someone I used to know, someone I used to be close with. He could be the strongest person, but he was also the most scared. He kept his fear close to his chest, tethered, feeling it but rarely letting it be seen. Sometimes, he’d start to make strides in one direction—to go after what he wanted—only to put himself back into the muck, hitched to that anvil of terror. Over and over again, he’d make the same choices, the same mistakes. It was sad to watch for a lot of reasons.


I think the most frustrating thing is that it wasn’t that he didn’t have the courage. He simply allowed the fear to make his choices. There’s something so heartbreaking about the idea of what might’ve been. Potential, not snuffed out, but simply unseized.


I miss the person he could’ve been, but not as much as I miss the person he was, underneath all the armor and the mess. In those rare unguarded moments where he allowed himself to breathe. Sometimes, I wonder what might’ve happened if he made a brave choice and stuck with it. But like I said earlier, life isn’t like the movies. Jake Ryan doesn’t show up unexpectedly. No one is holding up a boom box playing Peter Gabriel.


But there are instances, however fleeting, of ordinary magic. And those are the surprises I live for, honestly. The swirling chaos that results in something truly miraculous. The raw honesty, the stumbles, the mistakes. The recognition that feels like a jolt, seeing and being seen. It can be terrifying, can’t it?


But we live one life. This life, right now and here. No one can reconfigure the past, scoop it out and make it Not True. Connections are never as simple as we try to make them, or unmake them. But that’s not the point. No, my final point is this: hope is a terrifying creature, unmistakable in its persistence, unflappable in its truth. There’s nothing unremarkable about it. It’s a thing that shines. And it sometimes finds us at the strangest time, years after the fact of a thing.


And just when you least expect it to, it starts to sing.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Nathan-Andrew Leaflight
    August 7, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Hello Ali,

    You did manage to frighten me a bit with this short paragraph :

    “I think the most frustrating thing is that it wasn’t that he didn’t have the courage. He simply allowed the fear to make his choices. There’s something so heartbreaking about the idea of what might’ve been. Potential, not snuffed out, but simply unseized.”

    This fear I’ve referenced does not derive from any sense of unexpected recognition. Neither is it a vanity-driven shrinking from sudden exposure. Rather, it is a response to the unusual mirror which your essay has placed before me: one which functions as the opposite of a distorting funhouse mirror. Like a corrective lens, it shows me that the chaotically twisting images I’ve long tried to negotiate are merely a matter of perspective. That what I have experienced is really quite normal. That I can actively make another choice, as I’d hoped. That knowing what I now know, whatever happens is unquestionably my responsibility.

    While I followed you on Twitter because of your poetry, I must commend you on your equally perceptive essays. And your surprising aptitude for optometry.


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