An App For That: On Memories, Writing, Running and Trying to Get Away

The gym is the best time for me to brainstorm, especially when I’m on the treadmill. During this moment, I have the opportunity to separate myself from myself and the world around me. It’s my break from reality and the time that I can reflect and clear my mind. However, since I quit my gym membership I discovered I get the same effect (or more) from running on the street. I’m fully aware that I’m not the quickest runner, but as soon as I get my breathing and strides aligned, I go into a zone, creating my own world with each step. Though I prefer to run with others, after the first mile it becomes a solitary act–like writing. I’m on a journey running somewhere, anywhere allowing me to analyze the routes in which I’ve taken to ensure I end up in the correct place in the long haul.

While running about 4 miles the other day, I started thinking of my before life–a life in which I no longer live; a life of when I lived in NYC. I was thinking about how I ended up in NYC and how I’ve changed so much during the 12 years. I used to think it was a mistake–all of it. But now I realize it was fate–the Gods were angry with me, or wanted  me grow differently than I would have and, in turn, I was led down a path I would have never chosen. Where all my friends, from my (what I assumed to be) safe haven WVa were buying homes, having children, and getting married–I was in NYC area, struggling.

I moved August 14, 2000 in my 1996 Subaru Legacy station wagon. Everything I owned was in the car, and I had $5000 in my bank account, ready to live off while I sought work. I should have turned back the moment I ended up at my final destination, but I didn’t. Bad vibes were blanketed with naivety. And, again, I should have turned back. But I didn’t. No one wants to appear as a failure, so I continued and fought.

Immediately I was lonely.

I was in a dark place where looking for a job was simply impossible. This was a time when the world was just peeking its head into the internet world. Some things, like applying for jobs, were simply impossible unless you sent the applications via postal mail and prayed for the best. And yet, that was many years ago–NYC is a thing of the past and at the time of writing this, I live in Puerto Rico. And, to boot, the internet now flourishes so applying for a job is quite easy.

During this particular run though,  my mind wandered and I considered how technology has changed since I graduated from college and moved to NYC. A part of my loneliness during this time came from the advancement of technology. I’m a writer. And up until this moment, I was able to stay in contact with many of my friends via letter writing. Gradually, I stopped writing letters by hand and depended on emails. Also, during this time, those of us who didn’t have much money, were obligated to focus on letter writing simply because there was no such thing as FREE long distance calling. The world was influx.  Those who did not have an email address simply got forgotten and left behind; and most people lost contact with one another. But I digress.

I was considering my experiences in NYC coupled with those in WV and how I was fortunate enough to live during a time where I can see such technologic advances. The most common thing we say these days is “There’s an App for that…”. With that in mind, as I ran, my mind journeyed to a dark place and flooded me with bad memories at each turn I took. And I remember thinking — I wish someone would make an App to eliminate our bad memories, like that film “Etermal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”.

I found myself escaping West Virginia because I felt as if I had too much baggage there. Baggage that, now as an adult, I can’t even recall what it could have been. Perhaps it was simply the notion that I needed independence and a voice, which NYC would later offer. I had to escape the subtle racism in WVa, that took me to move away to understand what racism truly is. And I’m not sure what is worse–that or the experiences in NYC and the struggles that came with it.

At times I think a button should be pressed to erase a lot of NYC memories, too–the earlier part of my adulthood.  My difficulties in NYC appeared to me from the moment I arrived. I was (like everyone else who moves there) naive and hopeful. Also, the aftermath of 9/11 molded me, and controlled me more than I should have allowed it.

I’ve changed mentally and physically. I was insecure, yet I had faith that all things around me would end up okay. I was soft spoken and now I speak my mind and willing to suffer the ramifications for doing so. I grew up typing my poetry longhand or using a typewriter (with a bottle of whiteout) and now I have a laptop and a backspace key to erase my mistakes. But I’ve nothing to erase my memories except old age that will approach–there is no app for that. And, I’ve realized that life is about understanding there are those three options: Getting over our past and moving forward or attempt to redo things (with our invisible backspace button); or stay in the same stagnant situation.

I learn from running, especially when I do the Trail Runs in the Puerto Rico heat. I struggle and life is difficult, I jump over vines, roots, on streets, sand, and forests. Life is lonely and the only way to get yourself out of your rut is to do it yourself, not depend on someone else. At times, I never know what the terrain will be until it’s too late. But at that moment I can’t stand still unless I’m prepared for another passerby to knock me down. Nor do I have a backspace to redo what’s already been undone. I need to move forward in a calculated way and have no regrets for experience.

After I completed my run and came up with this imaginary App for my iphone, I don’t think it’s something I need or even want. My struggles are my struggles and it’s what has molded me and gives personality. And, if the Gods truly wanted me to struggle or to take roads less traveled, then so be it. I’ve landed on my feet with barely a scratch and eager to keep running forward.

About Stephen Earley Jordan II

Author of "Beyond Bougie", "Cold, Black, and Hungry" and many other books.
This entry was posted in Literacy, Running, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An App For That: On Memories, Writing, Running and Trying to Get Away

  1. David Muncy says:

    Sometimes I wish there were an app for starting over. Like way back in grade school…

  2. Amber says:

    I can relate to so much of this! Imaginary baggage, loneliness, leaving home, fear, realizing how life isn’t what you expected, how much your struggles have changed you, and finally gaining acceptance of it all. I get it. And I understand what you mean about running. My perspective of myself and my capabilities has shifted and grown with every mile, every new challenge, every race. Running literally forces me to depend on my own strength to keep moving forward, then I find that my strength isn’t limited to what my body can do. What a beautiful post. Much love to you.

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