It’s just over the edge of midnight on January 18th, which means it has been almost three days since I left Oklahoma. I would like to take this opportunity to announce that it was the greatest experience of my life.
I’ve never felt such a distinct connection to a place before. Of course, Scotland is my home and I’m forever in awe of its sprawling hills and history, but I can honestly say I’ve never really felt it. I’ve seen the quiet village of Elie and soaked in its ocean mist, and I’ve walked the Royal Mile and took a hundred photos – but I’ve never felt a real, throbbing connection. There’s so much appreciation and I love my country, don’t get me wrong – but I felt something different as I scoured the horizon in Edmond for some real hills.
I felt a path open before my feet. I felt the future soar inside me, with all its possibilities and hopes and mystery. And I felt love like I’ve never felt it before, it expelled from the girl I’m in utter adoration of and radiated from the generosity and friendship of a wonderfully tight-knitted family of which I’m forever thankful for. This is the first time I have found meaning somewhere. Pathways have sprung ahead of me – call them cobbled streets to happiness if you will. Some may be difficult to traverse, others could be smooth waveless oceans of grass that feel simple and right – either way, they are roads I want to travel, directions I wish to follow – and a place has never incited such a passion within me before. I feel music and colour when I think of the future, but what shines through most is yearning. I have a plan that I want to carry out, and it’s hit me so hard than I’m almost submissive to its pull. Love is like gravity, after all.
I could attribute this outlook to many things on that trip, be it tasting peanut butter on a burger for the first time, or finding something of a calling card for my future career in the state newspaper – but most importantly, it bloomed and was helpfully pushed along by Cate Howell, the girl who I share a brilliantly unconventional relationship with. There’s a certain word for the kind of feelings that erupt when I think of her, and it’s somewhere ahead of utter adoration or pure respect – it’s some word that I can’t grasp at or form with my mouth, but it’s huge, it’s love, and above all – it is colour. I’m not one to make a relationship ‘my life’, or my only reason for living, but there’s such an intensity here that I can’t ignore, and it makes up such a huge part of my existence. Meeting her and feeling her hands and eyes solidified what was already solid. I have a sure path ahead of me, and I can’t wait for her to share it. Of course, I’m not entirely naive – long term relationships are difficult and require so many things from both parties. I have the maturity to say I’ve never fully recognised this until a while through last year – hell, I almost gave up on the idea of being with someone else completely. And I look forward to arguments, and blazing ardour and growth. Relationships are like the old tree that has forever stood outside the first house I ever lived in. The branches can twist in surprising ways, they intertwine, they can be chopped and changed for ease and understanding – but above all they stand strong from a root that’s embedded in nature and constant nurture. And for the first time, I’ve realised I want to be the rain and the sun.
I don’t want to attribute an entire epiphany in my life to a relationship, just so you understand, but I want to scream out to the world that it is such a large part in it. It has changed my life and where it will lead, and I’ve never been so sure of something before. I’m flooded in colours and music, and although I’m not with her in person now, the utter bond between us hasn’t wavered across the Atlantic at all. I’m normally one for worrying hugely on what other people think, or indeed how they would view this. I can still take their criticisms and praise but now I realise that this relationship is about us. And what we both want is all that really counts. She’s helped to instil something of a regained confidence within me, something that had faded somewhat over the past few years. There’s a certain maturity that’s developed from this which allows me to view my own faults and want to grow from them, to become the man I want to be. It’s so exhilarating to have someone that accepts me for me, and wants to help me grow. And there’s such a connection that’s been forged from me wanting to do the same with Cate too. I’m so blissfully, cheesily and wonderfully happy it’s almost surreal. But it’s here, it surrounds me and I’ll hold onto it and help it evolve for as long as I possibly ever can.
Of course this relationship and meeting Cate for the first time isn’t all that made this trip so fantastic. The sheer hospitality and friendship I was offered throughout my stay was utterly wonderful, and I’m so happy to have made all the new friends and meet the family that I truly felt a part of over the course of the fortnight. I found myself somewhat lost at times with them all sharing such an intense connection with each other, but it was a pleasure to sift happily through screeds of family history and scream Rock the Casbah in a drunken frenzy. I loved being a part of it for that fortnight, and that welcoming closeness with people who had never met me before is something I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life. There is such gratitude within me towards Cate’s mother and grandmother who accepted me into their homes, and it is truly warming for me to feel so comfortable with not just them, but effectively everyone else I met.
In short, my trip to Oklahoma made me realise that everything I know I want in my life is within my grasp. It’s a truly bold thing for me to say that, but I know it’s true and I want to work for it. And there will be hardships along the way, I can’t naively dive into a new direction in life and expect eternal and flawless happiness – but I can vow now to overcome them, no matter how difficult things could ever get. 2012 marks a significant change in my life, and whether it flourished from a random message on Tumblr, tasting ‘real American’ beer for the first time, staying in a hotel and playing Bioshock with my girlfriend on the first night we’ve ever had together, impressing a truly excellent writer, discussing the relationship between love and gravity, hearing a girl scream at her mum in a way I never thought possible, developing an addiction for sunflower seeds and Reese’s Cups – and of course, finally being with Cate and sharing her life as we watched the movie that brought us together and sat beneath stacks of glowing lights – I can honestly say that the direction that I’m going is the right one, and I’ll be surprised if I ever stray from the wonderfully promising path that lies before me.