I recently signed up for Writer’s Digest magazine. In the very first issue, I find an article about the 80’s actor Andrew McCarthy who has found a second career as a travel writer for National Geographic Traveler magazine. I slowly read the article about how he found his latest calling, which he tells in his latest novel The Longest Way Home, One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. I’ve often yearn to travel and do a lot of self reflection, so I ordered a copy through my local library.
I first saw his pale blue eyes in the movie Pretty in Pink as the privileged white boy love interest to Molly Ringwald’s teen with creative talent from the other, poor side of town. I have seen him in other roles, but it was this movie that introduced me to this talented actor. I also thought he was hot, and I would not have minded him being my teen love interest.
I am not much of a movie goer. Although I saw him in a number of other flicks, I forgot about him over the years. Reading about his new career and the topic of his new book renewed my interest in him. What has he done? What has he learned? Maybe I could glean something that would help me shift into a place where I have longed to be. Mr. McCarthy was searching for a way to free himself of a past that kept him hanging back from getting emotionally involved with others. Travel, for him, was a way to get the head space he needed to be able to reflect on his self.
The book sat on my desk for several days. I kept looking at it and thinking I should read it. I was unable to pick it up. Even though I had not thought of him in years, I suddenly was feeling like I learned that an old ex-boyfriend had gotten married, and I was strangely upset by it. Mark was going to the library, so I told him I was going to return the book. I put it in my bag. As we were about to leave, I changed my mind, took it out, and put it back on my desk.
I read a few chapters. His writing brings details to what he sees. He uses the names of trees, towns, snakes, and towns that make you feel like you could describe the Amazon if all that you had to rely on was what he wrote about it. He describes the night sky in fresh ways. Mr. McCarthy also shares his internal emotional and mental dialog, sparing the reader nothing. On a hike through Patagonia, he writes about sitting down in a field with no one around and crying his eyes out, screaming, and cursing at God. After reading through the chapter on his travels to Patagonia, I put it down again for a few days so I could let what I read be absorbed by my subconscious mind.
How many of us would share their flaws with the world so that a greater story of ourselves could unfold? Mad props to you, Mr. McCarthy. How many of our partners would allow us to tell the story of ourselves that would invariably tell a part of their story, too? D, his wife, must truly have loved him to let him do and be what he needed to be. She let him go where he needed to go. I am just glad that he found a way back to her, to home.
I read his tales of travel, his need to be alone, and his tendency to withdraw from others, and I can relate. I have often held myself back where my desires emerged. If I imagine potential for conflict or for scorn for my desires, I retreat. I hide. I have convinced myself to think of something else to desire, something that is acceptable, and something that will not create a rift between me and others. The rift terrifies me.
Writing in this blog has started to give me a way of out of this internal shell of mine. I take small risks. I write every day. I try to share something of myself that I would ordinarily be ashamed to admit. When I feel I am about to dance with the edge, I know I need to throw myself off and into the unknown.
I may be judged and hated and shamed, but that really isn’t my problem anymore.