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Turning Points

Thus Spake Mojave66:

Hey, thank you for letting me into this wonderful group. I really love y’alls blogs.

My apologies for the lateness– I’ve been scrambling at odd hours to try to get into San Francisco’s City Hall to marry my partner of 12 years. It’s been an amazing, profound experience– such an outpouring of love and support from damn near everybody in our city. Florists have been dropping off free roses, there are offers of discounted hotel rooms, people passing around food and honking and waving their support.

So this week’s question is inspired by all this: what are the five most profound moments of your life? Those are those moments when you know your life is going to be altered for better OR for worse, that the path you’ve chosen has either been slighly altered or you’ve even fallen off a damn cliff and now it’s incredibly altered. You may have no clue where this new path will take you, but you know for a fact that you’re stepping off in a new direction.

First of all, congratulations, Mojave66. I hope in the future when the senile culture wars are over, that people won’t need to rush in and marry en masse just to have a chance to marry at all.

Now, as for your question, oh man, that’s really a tough and complicated one. I’m not gonna go into all of them—some of my turning points are things I am working hard to put behind me, and to some extent forget—but life is really so full of these moments it won’t be too hard to come up with five.

  1. When I crossed out the word “love”. I was writing a poem for a girl named Janelle Britz, a classmate with somewhat hairy arms and a smile that made my heart thump and a very Roman nose. It was in the fifth, no, sixth grade and she sat behind me and one row over, in front of Aliya Ashraf. I had such a crush on her, and something in my decided to write a poem about it. It began with something like “Come, let us be one…” and in my young effusiveness, and embarrassment, I kind of tried to mysteriously gesture at what I was saying. The ending went like this:

    Reaching for a common goal…

    Come, let us be one.

    Well, something within me looked at that word. I considered my family, my parents and the kinds of things they gave up for myself and my sisters, the patience and also the difficulties, and I realized I had none of that with this girl. Somehow, strangely, I was wiser then than I am now about these things, and I knew that love was absolutely the wrong word. So I crossed it out, and began trying to think of what would actually be the right word there. And to this day, I am still puzzling at the same sort of game, though now it’s poems about Chinese Rebellions and novels about refugees and terrorists and biotech company takeovers.

  2. The day I began to play the saxophone. I saw my sisters playing flute in church on Sunday, noticed all the attention they got, and jealously, but also rather indignantly, declared than anyone could play music, and decided I would prove this sometime. Maybe my folks didn’t start me at the same time as my sisters because they thought I was more interested in books, I don’t know. But in any case, I marched up to my mother a few days later asking for music lessons. She asked me which instrument I would like to learn, and I told her, of course, drums. She refused, fearing I’d go deaf. So then I told her guitar, and she said no, I think out of fear I’d grow my hair long and get into heavy metal. Third choice was bagpipe, to which she was more receptive except that she insisted I practice outdoors. Those of you who know the Canadian winters know that was a dealbreaker. So finally, watching the vampire movie Lost Boys, I saw a man with a rippling muscular chest playing sax in a concert. I figured this man had to have women chasing him through the streets, or else maybe just hoped that the muscles would rub off on me if I played the same instrument. So saxophone it was. And with the sax, I have gone so many places, found so many things. It changed my life completely.
  3. When I decided to do writing seriously, which to me also meant giving up on doing music seriously because there are only so many hours in one’s life. It was a hard decision, because living immersed in music is really addictive and feels really good. But I know I made the right choice.
  4. In Montreal, one night, I sat and watched the sun setting. I was sitting in front of a Cathedral, on the edge of a long drop, a drop that would have killed me if I’d fallen. Looking out into the fading sun, I decided that I would end the relationship I was in, and which I’d been in with the same woman for a number of years. It was such a difficult decision, but it also was the right one, the only one. It was scary to go on alone in life, but sometimes you have to do that for a while, and really I wasn’t as alone as I felt.
  5. Looking out the window of the airplane I was in, staring out across the ice that covered the frozen north sea, on the first flight I ever took to Korea. I had no idea about the language, the customs, all I knew was that I was going to East Asia to teach English. It was kind of ridiculous how uninformed and ill-equipped I was coming here… in reality, it was as much a case of me going somewhere, anywhere, as long as it involved leaving Canada. But this place has infected me with its ideas, changed the way I think, changed the way I treat other people and even how I pour drinks for my friends. Coming to Korea was perhaps the most surprising thing I could do to myself, and I think it was also the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

Okay, I need to run off to band practice soon, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop reading. More Friday Fivers can be found under the Friday Five dropdown list to the right.

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