Jackson to New Orleans: On the Occasion of a Teacher Wedding

On the occasion of a teacher wedding, I leave Jackson, Mississippi for New Orleans. I am giddy after two months of living with my parents and working at Lemuria Books. I’m giddy, and I’m organizing and getting things ready for a move to Tallahassee. I am hitting the road for one more week before I finally settle into a house there, where I’ll write fiction and workshop it and teach freshmen for three years. One long week of travel. A last flourish on top of that road trip I did this past year. After this, I’ll pack up all my things and move them to this house and settle and be a writer. I’ve always written, but I’m going to identify as a writer for the first time. It is almost natural; this road trip made me a writer to a lot of people. It’s occurring to me lately that everything I do—traveling, writing, every job I undertake — paid or not — is a way of searching, and I’ll only do it — I’ll only enjoy it, it seems — if I expect it to be an act of searching, an act of exercising hope and surprise to rid me of any of the plaque of certainty I may have accumulated through the week, months, or years of mindless abeyance to what society needed me to do.

I listened to a Rebecca Solnit interview with Krista Tippett (http://www.onbeing.org/program/rebecca-solnit-falling-together/8691) this morning and they discussed the idea of being a hopeful person who looks at memories and uses them to tell their own story in a hopeful way—giving their story a redemptive ending. How you can kind of be somebody who looks at their memories and uses that as evidence of hope. Other people look at their memories and tell themselves a story of certainty. Almost without fail, the story of certainty is a tragedy. It’s the story the news tells us every day.

News and education both need new ways and meaning, new stories; both operate on assumptions of certainty. As much as the children and the consumers rebel against the ugliness, they blindly accept the most toxic aspect of the two systems: they accept the story of certainty. Perhaps the rebellion we need looks like gazing intently in order to understanding the flaws, and to change the story from front to back. To face and confront and tweak.

Here I am leaving Jackson Mississippi for a week of traveling I-don’t-know-where, an act of hope, or of rebellion against the notion that one job ends and another begins immediately. I’ve brought my travel guitar, this cheap nylon stringed thing Santa brought my brother and me when we were in elementary school. I’ve brought cheese and crackers from my parents’ house, their staple. I’ve packed my whole twenty-pounds-heavier body, which I’ve fattened up in the months living at home. I’ve packed books I’ve acquired while working at the bookstore and a film camera whose film is almost spent on people I’ve grown new admiration and love for here in Jackson. I’m packing up all these nights at the Apothecary Bar behind Brent’s Drugs and new habits both good and bad. My hair is cut. I packed my bathing suit, and I’m not afraid to wear it. I threw all kinds of shoes in the car. I’m so excited to be on the road agin, to be moving because at the end of the day, to be mobile means I’m not really even leaving anyone. Nothing is for certain and that’s the most hopeful thing.

Whatever I end up writing in Tallahassee, let none of it end in certainty. Whatever I write over the course of these next three years, thirty years, eighty years, let none of claim to be fact.

Originally written in June of 2016.


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