Thursday, March 1, 2007

The long trip home

In my mind, little rests beyond Coachella.

I understand I will return to Carbondale for two weeks, finish up my time as assistant editor of the Herrin Independent and Carterville Courier, and leave southern Illinois forever with a degree in journalism.

As it stands, I’m contractually obligated to be in St. Petersburg from June 3 through July 17 for a summer fellowship program many describe as journalism boot camp. But all this seems vague to me. In my minds eye, only Coachella is sharp.

My college career, much like the rest of my life, featured few conventional events. For the first two years, I attended a community college. I went to class for two hours each morning, drove to Panera Bread, changed into my uniform in the parking lot and worked a full day. I wasn’t a college student. There were no frat parties, no one night trists with women I barely knew and no extra curricular activities. Instead I spent my days selling soup, speaking Spanish to co-workers and writing in a journal most nights when homework was done.

I transferred to Southern Illinois University Carbondale three years ago, mostly because they were the only school in the state that would accept me and also offered a journalism major and creative writing minor. While I have since swapped creative writing for Spanish, that is what drew me here. Once I arrived I fell into a very serious relationship and a very serious job at the school paper. Between these two endeavors, I had no time for the typical college lifestyle.

This trip to Coachella is my way of making up for lost time. I have quit drinking and don’t plan to indulge on this trip. To me, there’s something far more beautiful, far more relaxing and much more special about sitting sober in a packed festival watching a band spill their personal material as a scorching southern California sun sets behind them. Surrounded by good friends, where could I possibly go after that?

The trip home scares me. I’ll be tired and energized at the same time. I’ll have two weeks business left to handle, but no certainties after that. If only my transition into real life could be as simple, beautiful and pure as a five day, cross-country trip with three good friends to see a favorite band from my youth reunite.

But something tells me nothing in life will ever be as simple.

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