I’ve written before about whether people can change. I can’t bring to mind exactly what conclusion I came to then, but I feel safe assuming that it was something along the lines of “only if there’s both a significant external event and a coincidental longing for change.” And I suppose I was probably correct, though all my musings in the past have been largely theoretical. I find myself now in that aching confluence I always believed necessary to prompt profound, lasting change in humans. I am at once grateful, optimistic, heartbroken, terrified, and desperate to escape to the familiar brokenness of my past.
In explaining the situation to someone who knew me before this moment, I likened myself to a city planner who’d slapped together a haphazard collection of buildings with little regard to the source of the building materials, the quality of the foundations, or the upkeep of the structures over time. And after 37 years of willful ignorance and quick fixes, I’ve had to condemn and raze the whole neighborhood, lest anyone else get hurt as the walls crumbled around them.
Now I’m surveying the empty city block, considering what needs to be built in its place, thinking about the long term, trying to remain flexible, consulting experts. Looking at my track record as a city planner, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to invest in my new plan, much less live in the new structures. But I can’t really let that stop me because there’s no guarantee I’ll be in this place again. How often do we find ourselves in the position to demolish and rebuild? To die to a longstanding idea of self and decide what the new self will be and do and believe.
A few weeks ago, my cousin offered me a piece of art he’d stuffed unceremoniously in the trunk of his car — a generic mass-produced print on stretched canvas (it’s pictured above). I initially declined the offer before reversing course, pulling it from his trunk, and leaning it against one of my bedroom walls, where it’s remained since that time. I accepted it because despite having lived in my home for a little over a year, I still don’t have anything on my bedroom walls. But the subject of the print isn’t something you’d typically see in a bedroom: nondescript skyscrapers comprising a city block.
I glanced at it this morning and saw it with fresh eyes — it’s perhaps the most perfect piece of art I’ve ever owned. So I moved it to a place of prominence to remind myself of where I’ve been and where I’m going.