Don’t Ruin the Future

Last weekend, I returned to one of those pivotal places of the past. The city: Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My last official #RunningTo stop before retreating to a cabin in the woods for 36 solitary hours to figure out whether I’d move to Milwaukee or Gettysburg or Charlotte to round out my 9 months on the road. I’d walked the glitzy strip that reminded me of Las Vegas and Niagara Falls, complete with ridiculous Ripley’s and Guinness museums and approximately 17 separate old tyme photo shops.

And at the end of the strip, a Starbucks: the last place I’d have WiFi until I had a new home. I remember sitting at the end circular table, tweeting my last tweet, and insta-ing my last Instagram: a high-speed drive through the wintry Smokies before fleeing like Chris McCandless into the wild . . .

#RunningTo DAY 279: “I now walk into the wild…” #thesmokies #tennessee #driving #mountains #snow #roadtrip

A video posted by Thomas Mark Zuniga (@thomasmarkz) on

I returned to Gatlinburg last weekend, and I reunited with that same Starbucks at the end of that same touristy street. I even sat at the same circular table where I’d sipped a vanilla iced coffee and taken a bold breath before disappearing from the world, desperate to hear from a God who had led me by fire and friend requests coast-to-coast for 9 months.

Milwaukee, Gettysburg, Charlotte — which would it be?

Goodness, if you’d have told me then that 20 months later I’d return to this city and this Starbucks and this circular table NOT currently living in any of those three candidate cities, I’d have just given up on life and blown my remaining road-funds on trips to the Ripley’s and Guinness museums and started my own old tyme photo shop in town.

But I guess it’s good I didn’t know then what I know now. Life has a way of working itself out in the future. You’re not supposed to know what happens next. That’d ruin the story.

I’ll have more to say about the endgame of my journey whenever I get around to completing my next memoir. 20 months later, I’m convinced I made the right decision for me at the time.

It just so happens the right decision didn’t go at all like I’d have planned or hoped. For better and for worse. Both.

Nonetheless, here I stand in the present of a new future. Here I look, here I walk —

— into the wild of a future yet to be.

This is Day 22 of #MakeNovemberTolerable. Keep checking back every day this month for new stories and discoveries of beauty where beauty may be hard to find.

  • naturgesetz

    Spoiler alert: life never goes the way you planned it. Small details may be as planned, but the big picture’s always different.

  • Anon

    Love it. Reminds me of the movie/story, Big Fish. Josh

    • That’s Elliott’s favorite movie! I still haven’t seen it. Need to change that soon.