As you may know, the momentous though unnecessary event of completing a master’s degree has recently passed in my life. I spent a few weeks in Charleston where I covered a world-renowned arts festival and toasted (sometimes roasted) the likes of Philip Glass, Noel Coward, Mike Daisey and other acrobats, visual artists and art savants alike.
And as you may not be aware yet, I made the decision to return to my native Dallas for the time being.
If not for my grandmother I would call myself a vagabond, roaming the streets, partaking in theater, furiously scribbling notes about everything I see, and then aimlessly seeking a place to rest my head. This hyperbolic state of affairs remedied itself in the spare bedroom at Nanny’s where I moved in the few belongings that fit into two suitcases and an assortment of carry-on luggage. It is currently in a tidy state of disarray and my grandmother graciously pretends that living with me will be “FUN!” So far for payment I’ve taken her to press night of Jersey Boys.
Last year I whined that leaving home was lonely and I would never recover. But what a lovely year it was! Filled with romance and friendship and sorrow and a whole hell of a lot of self-improvement. Even the crooked house turned into a blessing, as the landlord’s assistant, the darling Elisa offered to buy my bed when I hadn’t sold it an hour before my plane took off.
This year, I find myself in my hometown where everything seems to have ordered a face lift. The McDonalds my Dad used to make late-night McFlurry trips to must’ve been first on the re-model list. The city recently modernized the Rec Center where at 10-years-old my mother took me daily to battle high cholesterol with a four-mile run. And somehow as if in accordance with myself, everything seems better.
Today I know that I will never regret the decision to move home. Two weeks before I moved away last June, we checked my grandfather into a nursing home. My grandma took me there today, and for the first time in six months he had a conversation about things he could remember. He talked to me about our Christmas Eve trips to the mall, where he would buy me clothes and I’d sneak him a Cinnabon. We talked about Frankie Valli and the stupid songs he learned in the Navy that he would clean up and teach to us when we were little. I promised him I’d play the piano for him sometime.
I also know that for my career, it’s the right decision. Some people live in Dallas and spend their time reading about New York or Los Angeles. I found myself in New York City reading about Dallas, knowing that honing my voice here as a freelancer makes more sense than starving in NYC and not being able to afford the shows I want to see.
And the entire Smart clan trickles back to Texas within the next year. My parents bought a house that closes next week. When they’ll officially live there hinges on my Dad’s job, but it’s a start.
The decision to be here in Texas might not be forever, but being here. Feeling here is enough.
I just finished reading This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. At the end of the book, the protagonist Amory Blaine cries “I know myself, but that is all!”
At the end of Jersey Boys , Frankie Valli says that after all is said and done, what he remembers as the greatest moment was “three guys singing under a street lamp, before the hits… with everything ahead of them.”
How wonderful it is to recognize this moment for myself. It’s a gift to be self-aware. And a gift to be young and ambitious.