Diary

We Simplify Our Journey To Make It Understandable

As I sit here this January, I can’t help but think about the past ten years. It’s incredible to consider how much time has passed and how far I’ve come. Ten years, a whole decade, feels like a lifetime in human years. It’s long enough to transform completely, to shed skins and emerge anew. But it’s also just enough time to realize how quickly moments can blend into one another, how easily the days can slip through our fingers like grains of sand.

Thomas Slatin—Selfie, taken at Twin Mountains Farm Bed & Breakfast, Middletown Springs, Vermont; June 2014.

Ten years ago, I was a very different person. I was at the south end of my career, feeling stagnated and unfulfilled. Professionally, I had hit a plateau, and personally, I was in turmoil. I was in a toxic relationship with a woman I had once loved deeply, but from whom I had grown apart. Our relationship had soured to the point of bitterness, and every day felt heavier than the last. The love that once bound us had turned into an anchor chain, and I felt trapped, unable to break free.

Desperation can be a powerful motivator. I was desperately seeking a change, a way out, not just from the relationship but from my entire life as it was. I dreamed of moving to another state where nobody knew me, where I could start over with a clean slate. I imagined a place where my past wouldn’t weigh me down, where I could be whoever I wanted to be, free from the expectations and judgments of those who thought they knew me.

Now, a decade later, I realize how much of our time gets erased, ignored, and omitted when we compress our experiences into chunks for the ease of explaining things to other people. We say, “Ten years ago, I was…” and in doing so, we skip over the days and nights of struggle, the moments of profound sadness, our struggles, triumphs and defeats, and the flashes of unexpected joy. We simplify our journey to make it understandable and relatable to others, but as we do, we often forget to acknowledge the complexity of our own experiences.

It’s a peculiar habit we all have of reducing our lives to shorthand. We distill entire years into single sentences, moments into mere words. In trying to convey our stories, we often lose the nuance and detail that make them uniquely ours. Yet, this shorthand is also a testament to our ability to adapt and move forward. It’s a way of packaging our past, so we can carry it with us without being weighed down by every last detail.

The past ten years have taught me that time is both our greatest ally and our most elusive adversary. It heals wounds but also creates a distance from who we once were. I’ve learned that growth isn’t linear, and transformation isn’t a one-time event. It’s a continuous process of becoming, of shedding old skins and embracing new possibilities.

Looking back, I see now that my desperation to escape was really a yearning for growth and change. I wanted to break free from the constraints of my past, to redefine myself on my own terms. And while the journey hasn’t been easy, it has been profoundly rewarding.

Professionally, leaving my career was the best decision I could have made. It forced me to reassess what I truly wanted and to pursue paths I had never considered before. I learned new skills, met new people, and gradually built a career that was more aligned with my passions and values. I finally followed the advice of Allen Ginsberg, who had once suggested to me that I dedicate my life to writing and photography when I was twelve years old.

Personally, leaving that toxic relationship was like emerging from a long, dark tunnel into the light. It wasn’t easy to let go, to move on from someone who had been such a significant part of my life. But it was necessary for my growth and well-being. I learned to love myself, to prioritize my own happiness, and to never settle for less than I deserve.

I met Amelia on Twitter, fell in love with her, and together we eventually made that move to Vermont, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. Starting over was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up. I learned to be independent in a way I had never been before, to trust in my own abilities, and make decisions based solely on my own judgment.

Thomas Slatin’s Childhood Writing Desk On Fire—Middletown Springs, Vermont; December 2023.

In these ten years, I’ve learned that while much of our time may seem to get erased in the grand narrative of our lives, every moment is significant. Each day is a tiny facet of our existence, and every experience, whether good or bad, contributes to the person we become. We may reduce our lives to shorthand, but it’s the full story, with all its complexities and contradictions, that truly defines us.

As I look forward to the next decade, I do so with a sense of hope and anticipation. I know that the road ahead will have its share of challenges, but I also know that I am resilient, adaptable, and stronger than I ever thought possible. I’ve come a long way in ten years, and I can’t wait to see where the next ten take me.

December 22, 2023

12 Comments

  • Cate Spader

    All of your phrases packed a punch, Thomas! I felt so much emotion when I read the line, “and everyday felt heavier than the last.” Wow. Beautifully said as always, and I can’t wait to read more in 2024!

    • Thomas Slatin

      Hi, Cate! I wanted to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude for your lovely comments, as always. Your words never fail to brighten my day!

      Reflecting on my younger years, I realize I was always gripped by a strong sense of wanderlust, paired with the swirling uncertainties of not knowing exactly what I wanted from life. This unique combination allowed me to live a life that was anything but ordinary. I’ve been told by some that my life experiences sound almost too extraordinary to be true, but every moment has been my reality.

      Now, as I am well into my 44th year, teetering on the edge of what some might call retirement, I find that I haven’t lost an ounce of my youthful vigor or sense of wonder. Introspection has become my new muse, guiding me through this beautiful journey commonly referred to as life. Despite the years that have passed, my heart remains young, and I have no intention of stopping, or even slowing down anytime soon. I am already taking notes and making tentative plans for 2024, eager to see what new adventures await me.

      Through it all, if there’s one vital lesson I’ve learned, it’s the importance of dreaming many dreams. Life has shown me that dreams don’t always materialize as we hope, but that doesn’t diminish their value, nor the joy they often bring. I intend to keep dreaming, exploring, and living life to its fullest.

      On a whimsical note, Amelia and I now own a little farm, a rather unconventional one, as it only grows scenery!

      Until next time, we’re sending you positive thoughts. Can’t wait to catch up soon!

      Thomas 🙂

      • Cate Spader

        Thomas, I LOVE that people thought your true experiences were “too extraordinary.” What a life you’ve lived and you’re only in your 40s!

        A dear friend once told me that it’s important to surround yourself with others who say, “Why not?” Rather than “What if?” And it’s inspiring to hear Amelia’s and your love story, career changes to find peace, and everything in between.

        And I LOVE farms! And I love your sentiment on dreams changing or evolving, but not necessarily losing their value as some may think.

        Thank you for sharing and I can’t wait to catch up soon either!!!

        Cate

  • Julia Henderson

    This post deeply resonated with me. Your journey over the past decade is not only inspiring but a poignant reminder of the transformative power of time and self-reflection. Your courage to leave a stagnant career and a toxic relationship speaks volumes about your strength and determination. It’s a testament to the idea that growth often comes from the most challenging situations.

    I particularly connected with your observation about how we often simplify our lives into a few sentences or moments, losing the nuance of our experiences. It’s a poignant thought and a reminder to appreciate the complexity of our journeys.

    Your decision to follow Allen Ginsberg’s advice and embrace your passion for writing and photography is incredibly motivating. It’s a beautiful example of how listening to our inner voice can lead us to a fulfilling path, even if it’s not the one we initially planned.

    Your story of meeting Amelia and moving to Vermont is a beautiful chapter in your narrative. It highlights the importance of being open to love and new beginnings, no matter how daunting they may seem.

    As someone who has also experienced significant changes over the past decade, your story gives me hope and reassurance that embracing change, however challenging, can lead to a more authentic and rewarding life.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Your reflections have certainly given me much to ponder as I navigate my own path. Here’s to a decade of growth, learning, and embracing the unknown with resilience and optimism!

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