This Is the End: In which I find what I was looking for

(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)

I started driving down a certain road years ago. It was a long road, with curves and slight dips and rises that didn’t let me see too far ahead. But the road was steady and calm and clear. I didn’t need to give much thought to where I was going or what was coming along the way. I was driving down an open, sure road.

One day as I was going down this road, I started to see unexpected signs for something coming up ahead. They advertised a place of beauty and safety at the very end of a side road. “It sounds wonderful,” I thought. Day after day I passed the pretty billboards advertising this place. They painted it as secure, exclusive, and mystical—exactly like a place I had always wanted to find. “But,” I recognized, “It’s a dead end.” So I drove on.

Months passed and still the signs continued. The idea of the dead end started creeping its way into my mind. I started to watch earnestly for more advertisements on the side of the road. They became more explicit and tantalizing, and I now noticed the detail of their imagery. Whenever I came to an especially beautiful sign, I stopped the car and studied the billboard, reading over and over what it described, taking in every detail. The signs left no doubt; the dead end was all I ever wanted.

The road I had been traveling on for years no longer mattered. “It’s a dead end…” I continued to say to myself, “…But I will go there.”

So I kept driving, carefully following the instructions in the ads. I was obsessed with finding that one side road with that one final end. I drove for days until I arrived where I am now: sitting in my stalled car, facing the dead end straight on.

It is beautiful. It is safe, sure, and enticing. I can see that the billboards were not wrong; this is what I’ve always wanted. It’s what I’ve been looking for down that main road. The dead end is welcoming to me and there is a perfect spot in which I can finally stop the car and park. I can stop traveling and just rest. All around me are calm fields protected by dense forests far off along their edges. The dead end will always be clean and clear and exactly as it should be. The dead end will always be what was advertised —

— it will always be a dead end. There will always not be anywhere else to go from here. This will always be the end of the road, with no option to drive further, no option to turn to the side. The dead end is exactly what it said it would be, and there is nothing else to do but to sit, stuck, unable to drive onward.

This is the end.

Demons: In which they take on new forms

I walk into the room and turn on The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me”. I reach for a bottle of wine. I put on Bordeaux-red lipstick and re-apply eyeliner. I change my clothes so my skin can catch any breeze that floats in through the open window.

But I stay down with my demons, Matt Berninger sings.
I stay down with my demons.

What are my demons these days?

Uncertainty about what my next steps should be, and whether I should take them driving through the streets of Guatemala City or walking down the streets of Chicago.

Unsure, often forced, and sometimes deliberately-veiled talks to God (Has he sent a response? I don’t always listen for one.)

Actively smoothing out the pebbles and boulders from my closest friendship.

Climbing every day the mountain of mental and emotional health. Some days I only stumble; other days I fall all the way to the dark ravine below.

And yet, what kind of “demons” are these? If these are all that haunt my steps, can I not easily turn to face them? If these are the troubles that knock at my door, can I not safely let them in?

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I Can Change: In which I’m inspired by Brandon Flowers’ enthusiasm

As I write this post, Brandon Flowers’ new album, The Desired Effect, has been out for about a month. I had been waiting for this album since it was announced in February. Like a lot of fans, I took notice of The Killers (the band of which Flowers is the leader singer) when their single Somebody Told Me hit radio in 2004. I was immediately hooked on the song and liked it unequivocally.

Unequivocally perhaps, but silently. One of my best friends at the time (see Lost in Zooropa) was as obsessed with music as I was, and we both prided ourselves in having really good taste. Although we didn’t always see eye to eye on specifics, we did agree that the other had a good ear and trusted each other’s musical judgment.

But with Somebody Told Me, and its album Hot Fuss, I felt hesitant. The Killers’ sound was different from what was being heard in alternative rock at the time and, while I liked their first singles, I was unsure of how they would hold up to the critics, including this friend, Doug. I thought he would ridicule their synth, ‘80s sound. There was an emotional element in the music that took me back to junior high in Miami that I knew he just wouldn’t get. And so, as I listened to Somebody Told Me on repeat and reveled in the swell of All These Things That I’ve Done, I kept silent about my new discovery.

Fast forward to a few months later. Doug and I were talking, as usual, about music, discussing new bands we were listening to. He mentioned this new, up-and-coming band, The Killers. Had I heard them? I should really give them a listen because they’re one of the best bands to come out in a long time and they’re going places musically that no one else is going. I really should check them out.

I was…surprised, yes. But mostly I was mad, at myself. Here I had been listening to this band for months already, and Doug was taking all the credit for discovering it first. I didn’t say much beyond, “OK. I’ll look them up,” because there really wasn’t much to say. I was just angry with myself at the missed opportunity of being the one to have introduced Doug to The Killers (who would become one of the best bands of the 2000s and one of Doug’s all-time favorite bands), and I was angry at the pattern this revealed.

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