The Tipping Point

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-- Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I read those words at my high school graduation, during a speech about living without regret. At the time, it was mostly a speech to myself, about how I was going to not dwell on the things I'd suffered in the years before. I was going to college. I was being reborn.

But as my high school English teacher Linda Prady told us as we read "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston... as you move through life things change meaning based on who you become when you experience them.

When I was in Italy last month I re-read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," and was surprised to find it a bit flat. Uninspiring. In my memory, it was an astounding novel. Having read more. Written more. Lived more... Its revelations were the revelations of my youth. Maybe in the 20 years since it was written our ideas about time, love, sex and history are different. Or perhaps in the 10 since I last read it my own have changed.

Perhaps both are true.

Two road diverged... diverge... At times we stand on a precipice, and we are forced to decide which path we will chose.

In three days I will turn in my ID badge and my Blackberry and I will have officially chosen to walk away from a very safe, very comfortable, very respectable job with a national cable news network, having been given sole responsibility for the contests of its web site two nights a week and written dozens of articles... I am walking away from something thousands would fight for... Forgive me.

But I will walk away to see what it is that I've been so furiously trying to make.

I am a cynical scientist, but I am also vulnerable to belief in something... greater? To call it that seems naive. But I believe I know when we've done right by ourselves. By others. By the world. I know something more exists than myself and that which I can see.

I want to make a gallery of double-exposure Holga photographs. I want to learn all about The Blues. I want to read Herodotus. I want to absorb everything. I want to let myself believe...

I lay on the sofa in my grandmother's sunroom, sleeping, before my grandfather's funeral. And at 3:33 a.m., the lights and television turned themselves on. They did. I had turned them off. It was a funeral. I had not been drinking. I had fallen asleep in the dark, after turning the television off.

They came back on. They woke me. At 3:33 a.m. the lights and television turned on in a dark room and woke me. Me. The skeptic.

I mentioned it at brunch, uneasy... maybe I was wrong? But even if I were wrong, it had happened. My mother told me it was him. My grandfather. His favorite number was 333.

I don't know if I can accept that. This ghost story. All I know is that the lights and television went on just then. And nowhere else in the house.

My mother swears its a sign. From him -- the man who believed I'd be an actor until he saw me sing at my graduation from Dartmouth -- I was one of the performers in the tavern the night before graduation. Singing and playing my guitar. Then he thought I'd play music. Until I went to India... When he shoved a National Geographic in my face to show me how they were having a drought, it wasn't safe...

I promised I'd be safe. I was going with the chief of pediactric infectious diseases from NYU, or some such title (Ruchi?), and they were not going to let anything happen to me... I was taking photographs.

I took photographs of strangers going through the motions of their lives. I had studied photojournalism, and I was fresh from my internship with I was a maniac. I think I shot 25 rolls? Back when people took pictures with film. That shit cost money.

But I let it go... I let it go for a man and a dream and a life that never came to be, and followed my writing down another path, because it came with both easier acceptance and less threat. I can craft a paragraph like nobody's business.

I have just torn my apartment apart looking for a photograph from Istanbul that I wanted to scan... What could I have done with it?

When I find it, I will post it.

But I digress.

Two roads diverged, and I gave myself a deadline. I gave myself until August 6 to jump, or else who knows how long I would have waited. But I did it.



Net said…
Go you!

That's very awesome. And I totally believe in that message-you're-supposed-to-heed stuff. Just always have.

Good luck, and it sounds awesome - I can't wait to read/hear about what you do next!
Michael Bruno said…
This is all so terribly exciting! And terribly frightening. You should certainly be doing something that makes you more excited to get up in the morning (or in your crazy land of the night shift, the afternoon). We shall frolic and play next week and talk about our futures.

P.S. You rocked that night at Lone Pine....
Shanu's Dad said…
Hey Jenn - Been busy the past few week so I'm probably a bit out of the loop. What's the deal here, again? You believe in ghosts and quit your job to read Herodotus? What's the plan...

Lovely writing though. Miss seeing you in the Slope. Laters - samir k.
Three20Four said…
I think it's really interesting and great how we all saw grandpop differently, but always in a very good way. Especially how we all reacted during his funeral. I'm surprised I never heard your 3:33 story before - I agree with your mom. Anything with 33 was always big to him.

The only thing I really remember from the funeral is the flag over the entrance of the graveyard. All I wanted was to make sure that it was perfect and flying high when everyone got there. (I think I even left the funeral a little early to go check on it)

I don't know if he ever really had ideas of what I would become like he always did with you and your sisters. As the oldest I'm sure he had a very different attachment with you than he did with anyone else. Next to you, I would even say the next closest was Mark - they always seemed to share something special that no one else really understood.

Good luck with the job quitting! (hope people @ work aren't finding out via this post!)

- Steve

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