Circus ringmaster in front of circus acrobats under a travelling big top

Reaching Back Across Half A Life

August 20, 2001.  Three weeks before the Twin Towers came tumbling down.  I wrote a 563 word journal entry entitled “Free Training” marking my first awkward and tentative steps into the world of circus.

For the last two days I have been transcribing this and subsequent journal entries into this publicly accessible blog – this is equal parts self-discovery, art project, and entrepreneurial venture.

5834 days; 833 weeks; 194 months; 16 years.  Half my lifetime ago.

I was so focused back then on the girls in my class – if people liked me – on showing how strong I was – on being part of “the gang” – on obsessively training at the expense of developing real friendships with the very people that have since become as close to me as brothers and sisters – people I would die for.

I write about meeting my first classmate that morning – “The Contortionist.”  Only 17 years old that day.  Two years later she would be my first circus girlfriend.  Two years after that she would be my first circus breakup and two years after that we would almost start things up again.  Two years after that I would be in a relationship with her best friend and ten years after that we are still be going strong and setting the stage for our circus family.  All blinks of an eye.  Really.

But on that Monday 16 years ago, I just griped that she had beaten me to the gym on the first day of open training.  Not once thinking that, having arrived from Germany just days earlier, she had probably woken up alone on a sofa in an empty apartment at 5am, known no one in town, and counted down the hours to 8am as an antidote to boredom.

For all my (frankly embarassing) self-centeredness in those early writings (on the day the World Trade Center collapsed, I lamented being “good at many things” and therefore “unable to focus.”) there is a hunger for life, a mission to accomplish, and a desire to seize upon every opportunity.

Back then, the circus world represented a romantic ideal to me, and, 16 years later I can happily confirm that of all the romantic ideals I’ve had in my life, this is the only one that has lived fully up to its promise.  There is nothing better than circus.  Every venture I’ve undertaken outside of this sphere has felt cold and empty.  I sought out meaning in great principles but found it all lacking at their core.

I write about the clever trick of lugging home bags of wet laundry to save $3.50 at the laundromat.

The world I lived in back then was so tangible, yet spiritual, blue-collar, yet philosophical.  Pain, hunger, yearning – these are the ostinato themes of a 23-year-old circus student.  Somewhere, somehow, it all went off the rails – good intentions every step of the way, of course, but I’m in a process of recentering right now and there’s no better starting point than the past.