Twenty First Century American Pilgrim

The idea started formulating earlier this week when I took up an offer from a client to stop by after work for a drink. "Dinner Just Because - 7PM - (address following)" was scribbled on the backside of the restaurant tab and stuffed into my back pocket with stray espresso grounds and a fistful of keys. Closer to eight, her home as I found it, was a mixture of dear friends, family, coworkers, and associations (at least me) laughing around the long table with glasses of Lambrusco and the remnants of a salmon dinner. I found myself wound into a conversation with the three men I shared the end of the table with. "When I was thirty, I found myself reading all this literature on pilgrimages, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, The Canterbury Tales and I thought to myself, 'Where is the great American pilgrimage to? Where is the American Mecca?'" We took a poll among the four of us, the first three shout outs?




And the story continues from there. I begin laughing and asking questions, "I used to live there, you know." And exactly what was  it that had drawn me to Memphis? There is just something about it isn't there. His story has formulated itself into a book he hopes to soon have published. I learned through the course of the conversation that if you ever need to hitch-hike somewhere just tell them you are going to Graceland, anyone would give you a ride to help you get there. From Philadelphia to the front door was a a mere 29 rides. But that's his tale, my story feels as though it's still unfolding.

It is both ritual and culture to migrate and make these journey's of change where the destination isn't irrelevant but is also not the point. It's a classic story arch, the journey is the point, it's even cliche to say so. 

Coming as a direct descendant of people with the tenacity to make a pilgrimage (Mormon pioneers anyone?), my starting point was in an American Mecca of sorts - Utah, whose state motto rings, This is the place. Utah was an enchanting place to live and grow up but I found myself with a crumbled foundation in my late teens and I needed to get out. Through circumstance, the answer that revealed itself to me was Flagstaff, Arizona, also, Route 66. Come to think of it, what is more iconic that traveling to Route 66? I mean really, talk about an iconic American pilgrimage. 

Coincidence! Or does it mean something???

This is starting to sound like the beginnings of a Dan Brown novel, isn't it? I kid, but I'm telling you, as I reflect on it, I am seeing this strange pattern I wasn't aware of before...

Back to UTAH! for college until we reached the point when (and some of you were here reading this blog)  the time to migrate South arrived. Honestly I'm not sure, but I think I was in my super-anonymous-nobody-knows-anything-about-me blog phase at that time. I don't think any of what was really going on was shared on this particular public forum. Needless to say, it was one of the most profoundly difficult and dark times I've experienced. Hardship is inherent in the word pilgrimage, isn't it? It is in these challenges and trials that I feel I have earned a small space in the tribe of Twenty First Century Pilgrims. We lost loved ones, we left everything we knew, we were different people by the time we got there--this is textbook. Sure, we didn't have to walk and it only took us a few weeks for all to be said and done, but on that road I grew immensely. 

So we (the collective readers) have already acknowledged that Utah, Route 66, and Memphis are some of the great American pilgrimages. Each has historically served as a host for ideals and dreams that are worth sacrificing for. Was Memphis it? Did I find it? Of course not, because you know now I've found New York. New York is in a category of it's own.

And we push forward.

We are all aware that globally, New York is presently and historically a quintessential destination of millions of pilgrimage stories. To come here is to become part of something much, much bigger. New York has had a remarkable and profound change on me. I'm not really present online right now, but I'm experiencing and doing and changing a lot. It feels like months have passed since my birthday. The last few weeks feel like years have gone by. I feel so lost as to how to comprehend the passing of time and the demand for energy to keep things going and together and enjoyable here. Things are good, but I haven't had a ton of space away to reflect on my metacognitive self. I think this is why I was so tripped out when I went to visit Memphis at the beginning of this month. It was the first time I had had space for reflection and was catapulted into this crazy headspace while also seeing Memphis for the first time in a few months, and dancing/choreographing a 10 minute piece when I haven't been dancing much. It felt like an awful lot of self-realization to process during such a busy period in my life. I don't feel like I've fount it I don't think I even know what it means to have an ideal or goal like that. Organic. Growing sideways, onward and upward.

Back at the dinner party, I just sat thinking if I had my own version of the American Mecca. The physical place that I hope to get to. It now appears that, subconsciously, I've been tracing these roots in a very textbook fashion. It's too bad I'm not a better writer and that I just don't have the love or passion for it to pursue writing in a serious capacity. As a reader I can see the potential to pull a lot from it, I just know I'm not the person to take on that task. I work in a different medium. 

Onward, ever onward.
Where are we journeying to?

I would love to hear your stories and thoughts. After seeing this in a new light, I'm curious how those of you who have made the international trek feel.

We are still pushing forward here, finding time to work hard, enjoy, and go through the gamut of emotions that are casually known as a first year in New York. It's gorgeous here now, April is magical in the city. Some kind of spring fever that is going on has everything in color. Hope you are all doing well, too.

1 comment:

Annalece said...

Emmy, this is so beautifully written. You took the words right out of my mouth (although my words wouldn't have been nearly as eloquent). Figuring out how to create joy everywhere we go, away from everything we've ever know, can be such a challenge. I have come to discover that this challenge is one of the very most fulfilling. Crossing in to new territory can be so frustrating and dark, like you said, but to eventually find and create joy for yourself and your love has become my quest. As we are looking to the future and another pilgrimage right around the corner (nothing set in stone yet) I begin thinking about the things that made this pilgrimage successful and what things made this pilgrimage so miserable. I suppose the more we do it, the better we become at it. I love you so much. I sure wish NY were on the radar as the next big stop. xoxo