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Running From the Past

He sat there watching everything fall apart around him.  Sitting alone next to a rotting old log covered in moss older than he was, in the woods that he grew up next to as a kid.  He sat there wondering if it was worth it.  He had been there for so much of his life, sitting next to that log and memorizing each and every bump, twist and turn of it.  Sitting next to that log made him think of things, things that he would have never thought of unless he was right there, next to that log.    

Sure he had a great life, but it was never what he wanted.  He lived in the suburbs of Saint Paul.  It was beautiful there, but he had dreamed all his life about living in Manhattan, just like his Uncle Marty.

He had the coolest uncle.  When he was 11, he went to live with his uncle for a week.  That week was the best week of his life.  He went to Coney Island and went on all the rides he could go on without getting sick.   Then he went to a Mets game where he caught his first and only fly ball.  And he absolutely loved the New York style pizza.

When he went to the top of the Empire State Building he felt like he was on the top of the world.  Towering over all the other buildings and people, he noticed then for the first time he was like a speck of dust in this giant world.  When he stood at the top, he knew this was where he wanted to live one day until the day he died. His mom was always telling him New York wasn’t all fun and games but he was willing to take that chance.

He was gonna live in one of the older apartments above a bagel shop on the upper west side of Manhattan.  Where he was gonna go for breakfast every morning.  He would ride his bike to work everyday to save energy and stay fit.  Then on the weekends he would go on long walks with his beautiful wife Lea in central park.  

He was gonna work as an occupational therapist for one of New Yorks best gyms.  There he would work with some of the the world’s greatest athletes.  It wasn’t like he would save the world, but he could be the difference between winning the championship, and being out for the rest of the season.  He also promised himself that he wouldn’t even think about having kids till he was 35.  

He was going to be the sauerkraut king of Queens.  This was an annual contest where you have to make three of the best bowls of sauerkraut then eat it all in less than four minutes.  He was gonna be respected at work for his advanced methods of healing and play center on the company’s local basketball team.  He was gonna be 6 feet and 2 inches and he was also gonna make sure to never go over 200lbs and stay healthy.  

He knew that he shouldn't be wasting all of his childhood thinking about the future, but he did.  He really liked the sounds of future him and he thought it wouldn't be too hard.  All of his friends wanted to be professional baseball players or the president or some crazy thing that would never happen like being a profesional singer.  For example, one kid thought he would be Mvp of the NBA in 2010 for the Washington Wizards.  That guy now worked in a coal mine.  He was being way more realistic compared to him.  Granted he didn’t have that many friends, which is probably why he was sitting next to a tree so much.

But here he was, sitting next to his childhood playground.  The place he would go everyday as a kid.  Where he would go to think and make big life decisions.  He chose what college to go to here.  He even proposed here.

He thought back to when this log was a mighty oak tree, it was unstoppable.  Then one day there was a storm so evil and so violent, it destroyed everything.  It crushed the  garage till it was flat like a pancake on the ground.  They chopped up that part of the tree, but it was so big you wouldn’t know that half of it was gone at all.  Ever since, for some reason, he felt safe next to that tree.  

He kept thinking, trying to find one thing he did right.  Well, at least he had gotten married.  He had gotten married when he was 29 to a woman named Sydney.  Sydney was great, but she was kind of like the anchor on his life.  He felt like he forced himself into a marriage that he never really wanted.  He didn’t plan on getting married so young.  

Once he got into a serious relationship he thought he must have been in love, but he wasn’t.   After they got married, he had wanted to go to Rome for their honeymoon.  But that was too extreme for Sidney, who wanted something nice and simple so they spent their honeymoon at Sydney's parents in Gary, Indiana.

There must have been something else he did right.  He and Christie first tried to have kids when he was 33.  After a few months and no success they went to a doctor.  There they learned that Sydney was not fertile.  It was tough at first and he had even suggested adoption, but Sydney only wanted her baby.

His dream of becoming an occupational therapist was crushed after he failed his class on Kinesiology, thanks to Sydney.  That term he had just met Sydney, who tended to keep him from studying.  After he failed those classes he considered breaking up with Sydney but obviously, he didn’t.  Who knows where he would be now if he did.  He would probably have passed that class and might be even living in New York.  

But he didn’t give up on Sydney or his dream job, he took classes on philosophy and biology.  After he failed those it became clear the job just wasn’t meant to be.  So he dropped out of college, and was now a construction worker for buildings in Saint Paul.

He did however become the sauerkraut king of Queens, he was very proud of that.  He went to compete the weekend that Sydney’s parents came to town.  It was really important to Sydney that he made a good impression on them.  He was so nervous he left to go to the competition. So he had to hide what felt like his biggest accomplishment, from Sydney.   But the reality of it all was that he was just short of a huge failure.  He was done thinking.  He needed to act.  He needed to change his life and do the things that he had always wanted to do.

So the time had finally come, the time he stood up to his wife and told her what he was gonna do with his life.  He might have been 45 but that didn’t mean he was too old to succeed.  But as he was getting up his nerve, he started to remember all of the fights he had ever had with Sydney.  All the fights that he had never won.  No matter how hard he tried, he never won.

But this time it would be different, he was gonna win.  He had to. But how? How was this time any different, how would he walk away victor.  No, this time was different because this was his dream and Sydney couldn’t take that away.  If she could, she must not love him.   

He knew that he needed to start over so he started writing, he wrote about his dreams, his goals, and his hopes.  He wrote his apologies and his sympathies.  When he finished it looked like this.

Dear Sydney,

Please forgive me for my absence.  I never wished in my wildest dreams that it would end like this.  We are just too different.  I do love you, but I cannot live knowing that I have accomplished nothing that I have wanted in my life.  

I have tried to forget this, knowing that I have a great life, and a wonderful wife to live it with.  But I cannot forget, for my urge to experience more of life is just too strong.

You know of my  dreams.  You once called them silly and childish.  I want to live in the city and to become an occupational therapist.  I need to live a life where I know that I’m helping people.  I know I’m older than I once was, but I do believe that I can still succeed in this world.  

We live in America and I cannot live another minute knowing that I am not living my dream.  Where a man born in another land would never get that chance.  Please forgive me if you can.  My Dearest apologies,


He left the note down next to that tree where he knew that Sydney would find it.  He had tried to make this a special place where he and Sydney could go, but like many other things that were important to him, Sydney found it childish.  But she would know to look there.  

Now it was time to go out and do what he’s always wanted to do.  He looked back at that note.  He could pick it up now and no one would ever know.  But he had to do this.  He turned away. He watched the door on his old life slowly close while another burst open.


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