Driving through the mean streets of Glendale, Arizona late at night immediately triggered some feelings of youth for Nate. At those late hours nearly 12 years ago, as the intermediate signals flash red and yellow, with the windows rolled up and the music blaring, he would have been on the way home from Fountain Shadows after a night of shenanigans with Tiffani and Sean. Tonight he returns from Superstar video, a homebody depositing movies reminiscent of this very era.
As he experiences this season in Phoenix, however long it may be, juxtapositions of the old and new continue to prevail in a powerful way. These juxtapositions expose evolution, refinement, and a newfound appreciation of a childhood that was not as bad as the moment led him to believe. Sure things were not ideal, but are they ever, really?
The juxtapositions also illuminate the past in a way that makes Nate wonder why it wasn’t so crystal clear in the first place. To quote Dammit by Blink 182, “I guess this is growing up.”
Nate feels at home, but in a new a way, and realizes a lot of life has slipped in between his departure and return from Phoenix. The take away from this is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. He left a wanderlust teenager looking for trouble and returns an adult with a slightly increased amount of discernment. He drives around in his own car and, more noticeably, burns his own gas money. After a night at Metrocenter, he blasts down the Dunlap on ramp at the I-17, but for possibly the first time in his life, does not take the 27th Avenue fork to the old neighborhood.
Same, but not really. While he does not return to the old house and continues down the freeway, he finds himself, for possibly the first season in life, truly wanting to return to his roots, truly appreciative of where he came from.
He flips through the stations on the radio. He rocks out to Craven Morehead on Go Punk Yourself. The Edge is no longer. Christian and Country songs intersperse the familiar tunes.
Same, but not really. The palette is more expansive. The world has been seen – and rather than abandon the past like he had set out to do, the product is a balance of the old and new. Better together. The metaphor in this scenario is that Nate is not afraid to like beyond a contrived image of himself. Nate likes what he likes because he actually likes it – independent of the rest of the world. Screw ‘em.
He gathers at the George and Dragon with Randall and Su. The destination is new, but the friends are old and dear. Dad used to frequent the George and Dragon with his friends – a side of Dad that Nate heard about but never knew. For the first time in his life, Nate understands that his life and his father’s were more alike than he ever thought, and they likely would have truly enjoyed each other as adults. Sadness perks, and Nate mourns the loss of what he never had. Simultaneously, he is eternally grateful for dear friends, adopted fathers, and a God who was orchestrating this journey the whole time, a God Nate never knew back then.
Same, but not really. It is amazing how great the journey can be and how special places and people can be if there is enough room for God to work, and enough recognition that nobody but God can take the credit. It is amazing how great life can be with a grateful heart that forgives the past. It is also amazing how great life can be when the future does not rob from the present. Perhaps that is the biggest change – the future and past no longer overwhelm Nate’s present, at least most of the time. Does he have a general of sense of how things could have gone or could go? Sure. Does he spend every waking minute micromanaging and psychoanalyzing the plan, only to have it all blow up, and realize God’s plan was better in the first place? Man, is he sure trying. With each successful surrender, the days become sweeter, conversations deeper.
The place is the same, but the attitude and journey have evolved into something greater. Perhaps that is the point – it is not the place that makes or breaks happiness. While “place” is a prominent theme in this season of life, this story could be titled “Any City” Uncovered. It took leaving and coming back for Nate to realize this. Appreciate the past, take what has been learned, filter out the crap, express gratitude for joys celebrated and lessons learned, embrace the present, and hold hope in a God that has got the future covered.