Story 3

Self-talk until the end

Hi, I’m Frank, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. Originally from Michigan, USA, I have lived and worked around the world in various shapes and styles. Currently, I’m giving a voice to my Narrative Paths journal as an expression of living, in case I am alive tomorrow.

I am a retired urban library director, former college instructor, and currently a publisher, on-call consultant, ghostwriter, author, artist, adventurer, boat-sitter, and philosopher.

My interests vary from art, architecture to meditation to driving, cooking, wine tasting, and boat-sitting. I have a small income and make ends meet, at least for today. I am writing this while engaged in boat-sitting near Charleston, South Carolina. I talk to myself a lot.

Daily edits of yesterday’s experiences

Metaphorically my life began as an oral journal the day I was born. A kind of self-talk, self-expression, and wonder.

I will hold tight with the word “journal” instead of “blog” as the latter is both intellectually and sensually unstimulating. I feel that the term blog strangles, chokes the writer, and it’s not as efficacious a description as the inventors think it is. The paradigm is already obsolete and I believe it will evolve into another one to more accurately express its potential.

That said, life can be a predicament. Mine occurred when I emerged from my mother’s womb. The exact moment was when my body was cut loose from the umbilical cord. I was condemned to be free. Since that moment, my journey has been filled with non-linear poetic and not so poetic narrative expressions. Jumbled, curved and circular with beginnings repeated throughout my life. 

Each day is an opportunity to make edits of yesterday’s experiences and apply them to the existing moment. Movement has and is essential to my life. From biking, hiking, walking, driving, running, dancing, writing, breathing—movement was and is core to me from youth to adult.

When I started my journal in 2011, I said to myself that this looked pretty good and was able to get interviews with international architects. I questioned “how long will it last?”—I didn’t know the answer. Perhaps a few years at most.

Uncertainty and ambiguity are part of my soul, mixed in with patience, persistence, humility, curiosity, and the knowledge that change is the nature of existence.

I wait for change with a trust that either way, I made an effort. My journal progressed until a few years ago when I decided to make it a truly global e-journal with a more professional theme, and as a result, Narrative Paths journal began to see the light. 

This is not an advertisement, but an endorsement that the guys at Pixelgrade, with their products and knowledge, have affected my perception of what I can accomplish. I began getting visitors without paying for professional services.

Unsettled experiences for an authentic life

I have lived in Japan, boat sat on a Chinese junk in Hong Kong Harbor and a motorsailor in Charleston Harbor, journeyed by seaplane across the Bay of Bengal, traveled and explored parts of India and trekked through the Middle East and Europe and experienced Central America—from deserts to jungles and sprawling cities and quaint villages and deserted beaches and sailed parts of the South Pacific.

I’ve been an adventurer, working here and there, teaching English as a second language. I was a newspaper reporter, working on an automobile production line, a first mate on a small sailing vessel, and a building consultant.

I have sipped wine and beer with strangers, where we shared our questions about life’s meaning. Along the way, I worked on a few university degrees, and yet through it all, I still had questions about life on this planet and the nature of humanity itself.

I had witnessed bloodshed in the Middle East and Central America, hunger, and starvation first-hand in parts of East Africa and know that pain is without a language and also witnessed the love and nurturing when there seemed to be none remaining.

By the time I got around writing my journal, I was achieving the state of being penniless. I spent it on life—living and surviving. And I was aging chronologically. I have outlived my chronological prediction. But what is age? Time is its own dimension—I blink, and an artificial year is gone. My biology suggests something else, not sure what.

Writing is an expression of living for me and is a work in progress. I try to edit my life and my words in case I am alive tomorrow while adjusting my glasses to refocus my near-sightedness.

The e-journal has evolved into an advanced course in geography, ISP, proxy servers, and so forth, but most people who write me directly, express their personal gratitude for the mere existence of the Narrative Paths project. Little did I know or so it appears. 

Life can be filled with dramatic irony. Mine certainly is.

As I reflect back, it was in the early Spring of 2017, and my father laid naked on the ground at 99 years of age. His lips moved.  When asked who he was talking to, he replied, “God and myself” and then quietly added, “This is a good day to die.” He died.

If we have any words at the end of life, isn’t it the same as the beginning: self-talk?

LJ Frank

Contributors of this story: LJ Frank wrote it, Oana Filip edited it, Andrei Ungurianu implemented it, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei built the infrastructure.

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