For several days and nights I traveled back to and across Montana. I’ve written about a particular photograph before, specifically the words on the sign that read, “Leaving USA”. This image, too, is the central defining moment for the protagonist in The Journey of Samson Pyne. There is a choice to be made here and it is not one to be taken lightly.
You see the goal had been reached. All the frustration and turmoil of running from grief and the “yet to be defined” by trying to go to something better had arrived with a decision to be made. All the mountain passes and blizzards and storms driven through, even that massive diversion east, everything came down to this moment. The ghosts within the memories, the cities left behind, the frustrations, everything that was and could be, depended upon what I would do next.
I can’t tell you that I didn’t think about crossing the border and never looking back, ever again. But when I thought about those faces on Mount Rushmore and the construction underway on the Crazy Horse Memorial. When I really thought about all the people from an incredibly diverse background I had met along the way to this point in life here on Earth, I asked myself, “What do you want from life on this planet?”
It was not a question I had ever really asked myself before. To that day I had only known tangents and diversions. Not in the people I met, mind you, but in career choices and places I thought I wanted to be. Until this moment I had never really asked myself what I wanted out of life here. Was it really because I didn't know?
I had been born into a nation that presented more opportunity and choice than perhaps any other place on the planet could. I had been born to parents who did everything they could to uphold such values, including providing the safety and security of a home to always come back to. Suddenly I realized just how much the characters in my books in some way or another resembled pieces of me. And in this moment I began to wonder just how the pieces fit together. How is it that such diversity could be housed within the same mind? But more importantly, in the outside world, what kept such a diverse nation together? How we could debate, squabble, fight and then pick up arms to defend ourselves as one nation completely baffled me
I don’t know that I will ever fully understand, but the USA is exactly the kind of place where I've always wanted to be. This is the nation I want to always call home. What I wanted from life on this planet was something I had all along — freedom.
Freedom to speak, freedom to agree or disagree, freedom to believe or not. Freedom to travel the open road, freedom to break down, if not drive off a cliff (at least in metaphor). Freedom to fight, freedom to restrain oneself; the freedom to choose. Freedom to cross borders, freedom to come back. It was then I realized I had my answer: what kept this nation together was freedom.
I had fought through my fears and I had finally found my limitation. I would most likely visit other countries in the future, but this is my home, this is who I am. What I had been searching for all along had been within me all of this time. So why couldn't I see it? What had kept me for years from truly understanding this very basic fact?
I chose to turn around, and it was the best choice I have ever made in my entire life. But as I’ve said before, life is never really that simple, is it.