By: Ethan Maurice
In life, it's often your darkness that defines your light. The binds imposed on an individual's soul become the most satisfying to escape.
My dad's childhood took place in a rotating cast of apartments. Growing up he had to tread lightly, turn the volume down, and find somewhere else to play the drums out of respect for those living around him.
He dreamed of living in a house—a place where he could blast the stereo, where he could wale on his drum set, where he could live without constant filtration of his experience out of concern for others. While working full-time, he attended night school to become a mechanical designer. And after a couple years of work, he and my mom got their very own house.
They bought that house in 1989 and still live their today. He loves it.
While I was a kid, he used to crank up the volume on Black Sabbath's “War Pigs” or Ted Nugent's “Stranglehold” and “rock out” around the house with me. Words cannot express how much fun I had. Wielding air guitars and imaginary drum sticks and jumping all over our furniture, I relished in those moments as any kid would. But I also had this sense that their was something more than a song that had a hold on him. It wasn't until I was in college and dizzied by the infinite directions to choose from that he told me about growing up in apartments and how happy he was to have his own house. Only then did I finally understand what I witnessed in him as we blasted music and danced around our house as I grew up.
For me, things were different.
I grew up in a house where I could stomp around on the floor, crank the volume, and do whatever else I wanted without concern for neighbors a wall away or a floor below. I was never bound by such shackles as my dad's and can't appreciate having my own space the way he can. Owning a house would not give me the returns of satisfaction it gives him.
The shackles I wore were ill-health and brain damage from a mosquito bite that almost ended my life. After brushing so close with death, more than anything, I wanted to live—to feel and be shockingly, vibrantly alive—the polar opposite of comatose, brain-damaged, and gone as I was as a teen. I think this explains everything from the name of this website, to my desire to travel, and the rapturously alive moments that I seek and love.
As I often do, I was looking back through the notecards I take on the books I read and stumbled upon a quote from Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels that confirmed my dad and I are not alone in the supreme satisfaction of escaping what once bound us:
“Sometimes it's not until you see your shackles that you see your dreams. The soul must be caged before it can be set free.”
No two individuals' experiences are exactly alike. As the darkness of our past differs, so does the light we seek in the present. The contrast between the two becomes the measure with which each uniquely impressed upon soul examines their lives.
Put simply, your darkness defines your light.