Leaving the Nest
My “Early-Life” Crisis was finally behind me and I had accepted the offer to work in Grand Teton National Park. My decision was made and the clock was ticking down to my departure. In the weeks leading up to my move date, reality hadn’t quite set in. Everyone’s life, including my own, continued as usual until the last few days before I left. This was when the gravity of my situation came down with the force of a hammer. I had gone away to college, sure, but I was never more than an hour away from the people I love the most; my family. In the end, leaving home was easily one of the most emotionally difficult things I’ve ever had to do.
In the weekend before I left, my father invited me to come with him to the North Georgia/Tennessee area a few days before he attended work-related meetings. The plan was to hike the National and State Parks of the region and visit our old stomping grounds. It was kind of a last hurrah, as it were, masked as a weekend getaway. It was the last chance that my father and I would have to be out on our own since celebrations and moving would take me away for the week and a half. We hiked through the Smoky Mountains, visited Stone Mountain Georgia, ate at the Varsity (a staple in Atlanta) and went to Brasstown Bald (the highest point in the state of Georgia). Although the weather was rainy and temps were touching 60 degrees at best, that didn’t take away from the real reason I was there; to enjoy the company of my father before my big move. I feel as though I should’ve had more questions, more things to say, but words escaped me. I hope that he didn’t think I was put off, or didn’t want to talk to him, but what are you supposed to say to your father before going out on your own for the first time? In that moment, I didn’t have the answer to that question. Instead, I simply enjoyed the trip for what it was and in the end, talking wasn’t necessary. We took in the sights and enjoyed the simple moments of each other’s company. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding between us that every minute was a blessing. This moment, couldn’t be enjoyed again for quite some time. The white elephant in the room was only acknowledge at Moe’s restaurant in Dahlonega, Georgia as “Cat’s in the Cradle” became audible over the radio. The napkins on the table wiped more than crumbs that afternoon. It was an amazing weekend and yet another journey with my father that I’ll never forget.
I returned from my adventure in the mountains and the final days loomed closer. Graduation day, my birthday, and move day were all taking place in the span of two days so my schedule was quite busy. I was saying my goodbyes to friends from college, seeing The Art of Cool play one last time, and setting aside time to spend with my family, especially my best friend and brother, Zack. Like we’ve always done, we slacklined, cruised around town listening to music, and relaxed to pass the time. The same phenomenon occurred that happened with my father just days before. Conversations were shorter than usual and the hangout sessions seemed to present the same uncomfortable silence. Normally we talk and talk and talk about the most useless shit (which I enjoy) like Seinfeld quotes, music, and our countless inside jokes. The tone seemed a little more somber and once again, I didn’t know how to appropriately place a hold on our face to face relationship. Do you say see you later? Do you have some profound conversation on how meaningful your relationship is or do you talk about the meaning of life? After all, life isn’t a movie so things are a little more complicated when real people are involved. We eventually talked about our goals and what we both wanted to achieve in life. We wished each other nothing but the best. We made it very clear that we were more than supportive of each other’s various pursuits in life whether it be music or exploring. In all of this, it was still fairly easy to bury all the emotions and write off my leaving as a fairy tale. It was easy up until the final minutes before I rode off to the call of the West.
My brother and I pulled into the driveway after listening to the album “Some Nights” by “Fun.” “Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go. Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?” The lyrics in this song resonated much more than they had in previous listens due to my emotional state. I was fighting tears throughout the cruise around our hometown. I think my brother caught me as a small drop escaped down my cheek, but of course, he’s too polite to call me a pussy. I stepped out of the car and went straight for my Oakley’s to hide the waterworks I knew would ensue. Before I even made it into the door at home I’d already lost it. The bathroom became my first stop as I tried to pull myself together. I splashed myself off with some water and took a deep breath to try to regain my composure. I thought I had to be strong and play it off as though it was nothing, to keep up the act that we were all participating in for the past few weeks. At this point, I walked out with tears wiped, ready to handle myself and say a proper goodbye….or so I thought. I broke down; we all did. The outpouring of love that I felt in the hugs that were given that day is astonishing. I’m tearing up even here as I think about it. Never have I felt so appreciated, loved, and missed than I did in that moment.
I made my way to the car still wiping the tears from my face knowing full well that the radio would be my only company for the next few days. I knew I had to do this for myself, but my god, if leaving my family in the rear view mirror wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
My brother stopped me just before I got in the car. “Nick!” he yelled. I turned around and awaited his reply. “It’s going to be a long walk.”* I smiled through the tears and nodded before I entered the car. I couldn’t agree more, Zack. I couldn’t agree more.
Quote from the one and only Survirorman, Les Stroud.