The world never ceases to amaze me with how incredibly close our paths come, just a breath from crossing. People you just met may have been so close to crossing your path previously. How did your paths miss each other? What prevented you meeting before? These are the mysteries we will never really answer.
Saiquan Canty and I might have crossed paths in a place, Clovis, NM. He was stationed there in the Air Force, and it is the base I would have gone to had I chosen to remain on active duty. We worked in complementary fields, Saiquan in supply and myself in aircraft maintenance. There are probably dozens of times our paths could have crossed, but they waited until now.
We sit in a small coffee shop as two writers, two veterans a few years away from the service. Any two people could occupy this table, but it’s the two of us. Saiquan, a tall, lean young man with a smile that reflects true joy and an eye that captures so much and misses so little. He is curious and friendly, a combination that cannot be beat for afternoon coffee.
His love for Charleston has led him on a journey to write a blog highlighting those little spots in a city that often go unnoticed. We all know these places, having hidden a few in our memory and from those we consider “unworthy” of those magical spots. These smaller spots are often wonderful and yet we’ve all felt the pain of one or two of them disappearing. The memories of open doors one day, then the sudden cold feeling of a permanently hanging closed sign.
Saiquan loves these places. They give Charleston its charm. He speaks with such passion, about Charleston as a small Southern version of New York. We talk of boroughs within the city, of West Ashley, Mt Pleasant, Folly Beach, North Charleston, and Summerville. In the few years he’s lived here, he has opened his heart and fallen in love with this place.
The light in his eyes, the pitch of his voice as he speaks of Charleston bring back images of so many people I met in the military talking of those special places in the world that captured their hearts. It’s not something unique to veterans, but it is so much more common for them than for those who don’t travel both the beautiful and ugly parts of the world.
I ask him what wisdom he’s picked up in life. What can he pass on to others in a single sentence?
Saiquan tells me about living a life unbound, about making commitments and understanding what they mean. We talk of people robbed of opportunities because they didn’t think of the cost. It’s hard wisdom, something that can come only from someone who knows loss in such a way, but it is real.
How many of us would be asked that same question and try to make something joyous for our advice? Would we try to hold up an image of ourselves as more enlightened than we are? Would we portray our wisdom as some treasure we opened and marveled at? Or would we have the courage of Saiquan? The courage to admit that wisdom, true wisdom, comes when we take hit or two?
As we share stories about our time in the service, about what we miss and what we don’t, the courage, wisdom, and honesty of this young man radiate more and more. He is exactly who he is, without question. Saiquan doesn’t need to impress you, and in that he becomes all the more impressive, all the more authentic.
Take a moment and think about those paths you’ve walked, those cities you’ve called home, even for a moment. What part of them do you carry with you? What part of you might you have left behind? Di you take the time to love those places, those simple steps on a path with a series of destinations you cannot ever truly know?
Maybe what we can learn most from Saiquan is not just to live a life to its fullest, but also the role that letting yourself take in each step of the journey in living that life.
After we meet I go for a walk. I pass by spots I’ve seen hundreds of times, but this time I do something different. This time I take the moment to look at where I am, to see it anew. I let myself remember why I love Charleston again, take the time to experience it as though it were just happening.
I take the moment to live a life unbound.