Given the Chance
by Amanda Janik
The world didn’t change when I left it.
My rusting car held all that it could —
my clothing, my brush, my favorite tapes.
When I drove away it was for good,
and though I knew this, I couldn’t say it out loud.
I took in the wet streets and the thick greens.
The warmth of late and familiar Midwest nights
slowly left me as I drove until I felt
quiet inside, and empty.
I’ve never felt as filled up with laughter
and uncertainty and prowess and the frantic need to run
as I did those days before leaving.
I never quite found what I was looking for.
I’ve never stopped quietly regretting that I’d left.
Not over thousands of miles and decades of time.
And I know, given the generous and undeserved chance,
that I’d do it again —
the ocean, the outback, the dirty urban grime —
all of it.
I would do it all again.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem about leaving my home town nearly 20 years ago, determined to never move back. I was successful, with all of the ups and downs that come with any success, I suppose. I sometimes look back and wonder what life would be like had I stayed — but then I look at all I have and I figure it’s a fair trade-off. I’ve always written using a more conversational tone, in both my poetry and prose. I find taking the guesswork out for readers makes the work both more accessible and relatable, which is my goal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Janik lives north of San Francisco with an eclectic collection of people and animals. She has twice been published in The Sun magazine’s Readers Write section, but most often can be found reading her work on stage at events such as SF LitQuake, SF SketchFest, SF ImprovFest, and more. She is the producer of Mortified Sonoma County and has been reading diaries about the awkward parts of the life she left behind for Mortified in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland since 2011. More of her writing can be found at www.amandajanik.com.
Author photo by Brian Howlett.