Found In Pursuit

“We are all aware, if we have ever tried it, how empty and ghostly is a life lived for a long while in absolute solitude. Free me from my fellows, let me alone to work out the salvation of my own glorious self, and surely I shall now for the first time show who I am. No, not so; on the contrary, I merely show in such a case who I am not. I am no longer friend, brother, companion, co-worker, servant, citizen, father, son… I exist for nobody and find to my horror that I am nobody.”

James Royce

There is something romantic about the great unknown, something enticing about removing oneself from society in order to gain something within. Writers, artists, philosophers, and explorers have been doing this since the beginning of written history; so, as a person who has had his nose stuck in a book his entire life, I grew up fantasizing about the romantic life of being alone, attracted to stories that inspired adventure in my young heart.

Huckleberry Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Jim Hawkins… I would be like them one day, my young heart said. I would pack a knapsack, leave home with nothing but the shirt on my back, and I would be set free.

When I sold all of my possessions, packed a duffel bag full of clothes, and attempted to start a new life 2000 miles away from home, I was living my dream. I was living my adventure. I painfully shed the skin of an old life, like a snake ridding itself of weight, and I tried to become something new; only, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to become.

One of Ten

I am one of 10, but it felt more like one of 20. I am the second oldest out of a huge litter of siblings and friends and family who created beautiful chaos with and because of each other. Our house was madness, littered with animals, screaming babies, friends of friends, and every piece of junk lying anywhere that you can imagine.

When I was sixteen years old, I chose to leave the chaos of my home and go live with my dad, who had just moved to Washington. Instead of sharing a room with three brothers and having four other sisters directly across the hall from me, I would have my own space for the very first time, and I was eager to have it.

Stepping into my dad’s house, walking down a cramped hallway to the room at the end, I was filled with excitement for the unknown. I entered into the new room, sat on the new bed, and looked around at all the empty spaces that would be filled with nobody’s stuff but my own. But when I began to unpack the few things that I owned, the excitement leaked out of me and left through the open window of my new room.

It was quiet. Too quiet. Yet loud enough to create ringing in my ears. Without sisters, without brothers, without friends of sisters and brothers all around me, I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t even sleep.

I had my space - I had exactly what I thought I wanted - but it felt wrong somehow.

My First Escape

When I moved to Seattle, I felt similar to that sixteen-year-old self. Even though I was now a 26-year-old man, I still felt like a young boy, chasing after a dream but not knowing what I would do with it once I caught it.

I tried to tell myself that I was living an adventure.

I had walked down unknown streets. I had entered through unknown doorways. I had tried things that I had never tried before. But as the lights of the city faded, and and the silence of my new apartment and new life and new windows that opened to new sounds and new streets started to get louder and louder, I realized that I had nothing.

“I am no longer friend, brother, companion, co-worker, servant, citizen, father, son… I exist for nobody and find to my horror that I am nobody.”

James Royce

I had been married. I had owned a house in a tight-knit community. I had lived a block away from four different siblings and multiple friends, but I traded it all in the pursuit of the unknown.

I was doing exactly what I had always dreamed of doing - I was becoming exactly who I had always dreamed of being - but it felt wrong somehow.

The Missing Piece

I didn’t stay in Seattle very long, because I still had a lot to learn about myself and what I truly wanted, but it became the spark of my life, a challenge to become comfortable with myself and the world around me. It inspired my search, a search for balance between my gypsy heart and my need to be a part of something.

As a new city or place peeked its face over the horizon, I used to see it as a small piece of a larger puzzle. Life was an incomplete image for me. It was a mirage in the distance. It was a thing always pursued, hoping that a new city or place or experience would be the piece that finally fit – that it would be the piece that brought me happiness.

Now, as I sit among the Appalachian Mountains, building a life with a partner who sees the world as I do, I understand that life is not a puzzle to be solved. It is a mystery to be enjoyed.

All of my experiences and challenges have brought me to here, to this moment, to prepare me for something greater than the excitement of the next, new city - something greater than believing that I needed to be alone to “work out the salvation of my own glorious self…”

Like a boy becoming a man, like a child who has run fast enough and jumped far enough to understand that invincibility is a thing of myth, I stand frozen on the edge of something different, ready to take a step. I can turn around. I can fall back down the path of constant new, telling myself that I am living an adventure, or I can take a leap to the other side, plant roots, and bloom.

I can feel my toes digging deep into the wet earth, keeping myself from turning away. Water rushes between me and the other side, but a voice holds me steady, whispering in my ears.

It is the voice of adventure, and it wants to know what exists on the other side.

Found In Pursuit

Six years ago, I set out on the journey of my life, searching for something that could not be found. Little did I know that the journey was my life, and the search was what it was all about.

I was found in pursuit, and these are my stories.

I looked down at the water before me, took two steps back, and I jumped.

Nathan Standridge is a journalist, author, and woodworker living in Asheville, NC. He’s been seen trekking through San Franciscan streets at 4 A.M., drinking whiskey during a tornado in the Ozarks, and sitting in silence among the temples of Thailand. His book Change was published in 2016, and he is currently working on a new novel.