About an hour from my house, there is a place called the Salt Flats; an expanse of desert in a long flat valley, sparkling white with a thick layer of crystal salt, the ghost of a lake that once covered this valley.
If you go there at night, you can see all the stars above, and the wind is cold and dry in your throat, like the ash of prehistoric sea life. In the distance are mountains, purple and eerie. And if you get up and run as fast a you can toward them, they never seem to get closer; it is only when you turn and look back at the blanket and flashlight and thermos you left behind, that you realize how far you ran, that you are now just a spec in the great glittering expanse of nothing, hung between two places like a star.
And you run back, faster than you want to admit, as fast as if all the bogey men of your childhood were coming down out of those distant mountains and calling your name.
Change is like that.
I've done so much, run so far, but sometimes I feel like nothing is different until I look back at who and where I was last year, the year before. Back when I was in the comfort of denial and I'll-do-it-someday. Back in the time when I wasn't stumbling through writing Something I Want People to Read for People Who Want to Read It, back when I was just a wanna be writer, one working too hard at life and being normal to actually do it.
I look behind at the comfort of that blanket on the ground, the comfort of nothing yet ventured–it's so far away–and I want to run back. The mountains ahead are so far away and so cold looking, and I swear the desert is howling for me, calling my soul to Hell. I'm sure all the demons I have ever imagined are waiting in the shadows, hungry, salivating.
But unlike running in the desert, I can't turn back. Those mountains are where I want to be, even if they are still impossibly distant, even if those monsters live and breathe and I have to slay them with my trembling ink-stained hands.
Even if no one likes what I write.
I can't go back. As much as I sometimes wish to, I'm not that person anymore. I need a change, something to remind me every day that I am different, that its ok to move on.
I read once that people who wanted to make major changes in their lives were able to do so easily after merely changing their route to work each day. Change one thing, anything, and life makes room for more alterations.
Enter a box of hair dye, a bottle of wine, and irowboat's help.
Today, I stare at the world from beneath magenta bangs instead of my natural brown laced with early white.
It seems like such a small thing, changing hair color. Reversible, insignificant, superficial.
But that's the point. Life is a series of small shifts, small steps in one direction or another, each step a reminder of the way we want to go, and shuffling that direction.
Novels aren't written in 30,000-word chunks; they are done 5, 500, 1,342 words at a time, each word and sentence and hour set aside for just the purpose another step through the salty netherworld between.
Those moutnains aren't going to get up and walk their demon-infested paths to us. We have to go to them and fight the good fight all the way to the top. And remember not to go back.
Every time I look in the mirror, I'll remember to not look back, to go forward, to be brave, and bold, and loud.
Let the rest of life follow.