Boats against the current

Published 10:56 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

I read The Great Gatsby when I was sixteen years old. In fact, my very last essay I ever wrote for college was about that book.

The other day, I was researching F. Scott Fitzgerald and how he and his wife resided in the Tryon area for some portion of their lives. Every once in a while, I recall Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and see it in little moments in my life. Like when I was at the Charlotte airport and I looked across the runway and saw the city glimmering in the distance. It reminded me of when Gatsby would throw parties across the bay at West Egg in his mansion. Nick, the narrator, could see the lights and hear the chaos over there, but where he stood, it was quiet and dark.

I recently went through a rut. A church rut. I didn’t know where I needed to be, to serve, to tithe. I kind of felt like I was floating around aimlessly, waiting for God to speak to me.

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At the end of The Great Gatsby, there’s hope for the narrator of the story, similarly to how there’s certainly hope for me when one stage of life ends and another begins.

A precise moment comes to mind from a couple years ago. It takes me back to when I graduated from college.

Picture it: December 2020.

Mom was running around the whole house, throwing up Christmas decorations, while I was making a guest list for my graduation party.

During the chaos that night, I finished up my guest list and pulled out some notebook paper to write a letter to an English professor who edited my first novel.

The letter reflected how an entire chapter of my life was coming to an end, and how I couldn’t believe I’d known my editor since I was 15 years old, and how I had no idea what I was doing with my life.

But I had hope.

My editor was a professor of American Literature, and he’d read and taught The Great Gatsby countless times.

My letter concluded with something like this:

“Remember at the end of The Great Gatsby, when Gatsby had died, and the story was over, and Nick was off to a new life? He looked at that green light on the dock across the bay, at that quiet, lifeless house. And the green light symbolized the hope of Gatsby’s future and dreams. And it’s like, now, I have a green light of my own. One thing ended, and a new life is before me. I don’t know what it’ll look like, but I’ll beat on, boats against the current.”

Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Flash forward to April 2, 2022. Tomorrow, I turn 23 years old. Last year around this time, I titled my column, “The Year I Turned Twenty-Two.”

This year, turning a year older doesn’t scare me like it did then. In fact, I feel rather unfazed (which is a good thing). I’m not going zip lining or doing anything crazy to prove to myself that I’m brave. I’m simply going shopping. But back then, I needed that green light to push me forward.

In 2020, I saw my metaphorical green light and beat on against a world of obstacles, and today, I’m just glad I had that hope when I needed it most.

It got me all the way here, and it’ll keep glowing for the rest of my life.