Connecticut, for the most part, is a beautiful and quaint state. The roads rise and fall with small hills and wind through lush green landscapes, as large oak trees create a canopy overhead. Driving through these winding roads, you experience Connecticut’s history through the architecture of its homes. In the more rural areas you see old saltbox houses from the late 1600s and early 1700s. Old towns are filled with colonials and Victorians, and the closer you get to major metropolitan areas, you find post-World War II tract housing consisting of cape cods and L-shaped ranches. Tudors dot the wealthy outskirts. In all, you have a wide variety of architecture to enjoy, covering the span of American history.
As pretty and diverse as it can be, there are few vistas in the state where you can look out and see for miles. You happen upon homes and landscapes when you drive or walk along the roads. You can see only what is in your immediate view, unaware of the world past the canopy or over the next hill.This was my life for 18 years.
As I stood on the balcony of my hotel room, I experienced Tucson for the first time, and admired the beauty of differences. Instead of being cocooned in Kelly green leaves, I could see miles and miles of sand-colored ground and sage green plants.In place of winding roads, there was a clear grid stretching as far as the eye could see. Rather than being surrounded by homes spanning 250 years of history, I could only see homes that were 50 years old at the most. The tiny hills of Connecticut were no match for the bold and ragged Catalinas – the mountains made me feel like I was living in a topographic map.
When I stepped foot off of the plane, my mind was filled with a typical Yankee perception of Arizona – sun, sun, sun! It never rains! Blue skies all of the time! Imagine my surprise then, when on that balcony, I saw a menacing dark cloud creep over the Catalinas making its way towards my hotel. I inhaled to enjoy the unusually thick smell of ozone that preceded the storm. For the first time in my life, I saw lighting bolts stretch from cloud to ground, hitting different points on the mountain. The thunder rolled loudly as the storm neared. I watched with fascination and concern – this was nothing I had ever seen before and was wholly unexpected.
Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder exploded as a large lightning bolt slammed from the heavens to earth only a couple of miles from my balcony. I jumped. Tens of car alarms triggered, providing a soundtrack of man-made chaos responding to the ho-hum of Mother Nature. Large, dense raindrops fell from the sky furiously, while thunder and lightning rumbled and flashed around me. The world was ending in a biblical storm; why was I the only one who looked freaked out?
Just as quickly as the storm came, it ended. The sun peeked through the clouds, and the sky shimmered from the raindrops that continued to fall over Tucson. The menacing cloud moved on to wreak havoc on another part of town, leaving a brilliant rainbow in its wake. The sun seemed brighter, the sky bluer.
I realized at that moment that I had finally made it to Act II. I did it. I was able to leave home – to really leave home and start the next stage of my life. I had no idea where I would wind up, but the wheels were finally in motion. I could finally be “me” and have an existence that was built completely on my own accomplishments and failures.
Today, I think about how my life has mirrored that moment – I think of all the times I believed I could see far ahead, and I would anticipate and plan every move, only to be rocked by an unexpected lightning strike or fierce storm. I’d feel like my world was ending yet somehow the storm would find a way to clear, and I’d be stronger and wiser on the other side; even if there was a little damage left in the storm’s wake.
That moment also serves as a microcosm of why I was a virgin to life. There was much I thought I knew about the world, only to have an abrupt epiphany to challenge my thinking. The epiphanies can range from subtle to anvil-like; they can be triumphant or they can be devastating. They can be humorous, morbidly funny, and on a rare occasion – unfortunately – they can still bring tears to my eyes.
Over the years, there is one epiphany that trumps all others in its importance – the realization that we do not connect with each other through our perfection, but through our mistakes. In the coming weeks, you’ll learn why I was (and am) a Virgin to Life. My missteps are embarrassing at times, but a little hyperbole, humor, and a few choice curse words can at least provide good therapeutic laugh and perspective if nothing else. So feel free to laugh and/or facepalm at my expense – I won’t be offended; Maybe you’ll even find a little bit of yourself in my stories – I won’t tell if you won’t.
Photo of Arizona copyright 2007-2012 by Chris Giard.