The future remains, as always, uncertain

By Jon Hillenbrand In Poetry


I may not have all of the answers, but I know what I know. I’ve drunk lessons from the fire hose, most of it getting away from me. I’ve filled my cup with what I know, and periodically pour it most of the way out onto the pavement like tears among the flood; useless to me, nectar to some, poison to others.

Riding through the campus of Northwestern University is both energizing and depressing. Loyola, where I went, is geographically close yet couldn’t be any more distant from what a university should be. All that wasted time and money. I can wholly confirm that the grass is several shades greener on the NU campus especially along the path that meanders around hills and along the lake. Soccer practice under bright lights with the moonlit lake 30 feet away. I’ve seen geese there, rabbits and even a fox. “That’s gotta be a sign of good luck,” a student said to me as we watched it low crawl into some bushes. “What is this, Shangri-La,” I thought.

But my time at Loyola wasn’t really wasted for the lessons I learned during my time there are forever a part of me; not all bad and not all good. I rode past a bonfire-illuminated group of anxiety and desperate relaxation that can only mean college in the same way the color white means marriage and black means death. With smokey eyes I looked away toward the darkening blue trail. How I long to relive those years in a better way, with better choices and more certainty and clarity about what matters and what does not. I didn’t even try to get into NU. I was certain that my choice of entering the medical field and following the educational path of my father was good enough, and through the family math, good enough for me. What a child I was.

Yet, I would never go back even if I had the chance. For the knowledge that I currently hold inside myself has been carried upon the peaks and valleys of a stream of experience. I’ll never go back to that time of uncertainty. I know things now…difficult things such as, even though I feel she’s the best for me, if I’m not the best for her, then we aren’t right together. It kills me. And I’d rather ignore that part of it, but I also know that I can’t. So I watch her back as she walks away past me without turning around. And maybe it looks easy, but I’ve gotten good at hiding.

I may be tempted by the outdoor fairs and fun smell of cigarettes, yet I don’t smoke. I may have a hard time getting over my PTSD issues with bars, but I’m trying. I may be tempted by the allure of ill-advised sex, but I stay far away. I’m tired and alone, but I still try to go on. I’ve never been more sure of my position right now. I feel it’s the only time in my life when I know that I am not the smartest person in the room, but I’m certainly not the dumbest, and either way, I’m confident. I’m filled with good and bad ideas, most of which I successfully filter. I have a future, and it’s pretty much there for me to take. Alone or not, successful or not.

I’ve gotten scared, but I’m no longer afraid.

What do you think?