Rinse, Repeat

As an instrument of human creation, music has an uncanny ability to express an emotion, capture a moment, and even define a whole time period of one’s life.

**Note: Written and produced over the course of several months, from July 2022 – February 2023

As an instrument of human creation, music has an uncanny ability to express an emotion, capture a moment, and even define a whole time period of one’s life. As such, music remains a particularly unique and compelling art form to the human experience. A crutch in times of sorrow, a companion in times of joy, it also serves as a launchpad for creativity. 

With this perspective in mind, I’d like to start this next post with a song called Roots. Performed by an artist by the name of Cautious Clay, I first heard it when it was released as part of his 2021 album: Deadpan Love. In the year and a half since hearing it, the song has lived in my head “rent-free” as some might say, often lingering somewhere in the back of my mind to the point that I figured it would someday be a source of inspiration for me to write.

Well, that day appears to be now.

But just so that we’re on the same page, first let’s take a listen:

From atoms up to comets
Life is never promised
You can make me wanna
Lie and be dishonest (lie and be dishonest)
The simple things, they mean much
Just stay a while, be in touch
I'm clocking out at eight
Let's get tacos and the red punch (tacos and the red punch, oh, oh, oh)
But you got your eyes down
You say you're gonna leave
Gotta clean house
Just another rinse repeat
On life, and love
Life, and love

I really miss thе feeling (yeah)
The confidencе in silence
The simple things, they mean much
It's never been a science (it's never been a science, oh-oh, oh-oh)
So you gotta trust it in the process
'Cause nothing lasts forever anyway
Got my best advice from a broken screen display
But you got your eyes down
You say you're gonna leave (you say you're gonna leave)
Gotta clean house (whoa, oh, oh)
Just another rinse, repeat
On life, and love
Life (life), and love

Don't know what you thinking 'bout
In patterns you've been speaking out
Can't remember meaning
Lord knows, I've been reaching
It's harder 'cause the roots run deep
A smile says what I can't see through
I guess half the way I'll meet you
But you got your eyes down (eyes down)
You say you're gonna leave (you say you're gonna leave)
Gotta clean house (whoa, oh, oh)
Just another rinse, repeat
On life, and love (ooh love)
Life (life), and love
Life, and love
Life, whoa, oh, oh, oh

* * * 

The time on my wristwatch froze the other day. It was an unusual thing to happen; not only by the fact that it’s a relatively new watch, but also the circumstances under which it froze.

I actually saw it stop in real time.

The rose gold hands, glimmering above a matte black dial, ticked to a stop at 7:00:09.

It happened as I was walking along the uneven, street-lit backroads of Grand Anse Beach. The Caribbean sun had long already set, as the once familiar chorus of whistling frogs pulsated through the night. Gentle waves could be heard unfurling softly in the distance, a subtle reminder of the Caribbean Sea’s proximity just beyond the gated fences of the brightly-lit and manicured landscapes of the all-inclusive resorts. 

It was one of those nights that already had an intimate feel to it, the kind that only exists within the presence of someone, someplace, or something special. In tonight’s case, I was on my way to a cocktail reception the night before a wedding in Grenada. 

It was my first time being back on the island in over three years – hard to believe. The occasion of the Burkhardt-Peńa wedding couldn’t have been a more perfect time for my first reunion back to a place, and a people, that I came to love and care about so deeply.

The song “So Long” by Trinidadian soca artist Nadia Batson was something of an unofficial anthem for our time together in Grenada with the Peace Corps.

What’s more, this destination wedding arrived on the backdrop of back-to-back trips with other people and places that have had a remarkable influence on my life. It immediately followed a bachelor party weekend in Louisville with the hometown friends I grew up and went to high school with. The week prior to that, I had just returned from a dream-made-manifest backpacking venture into Yosemite National Park with friends from my time living in Reno.

This meant that over the course of six flights in just three weeks, I traveled over 11,000 miles. 

If that seems like a lot…it was. But the truth is, it turned out to be just the beginning of a whole new chapter.

For it was during this time that I made what was – up until this point – the most difficult decision of my life.

I’ve left Washington, D.C.

In many ways, it still doesn’t feel real. I had really come to love living there. The circumstances and complexities of the world quite literally revolved around the sprawling, metropolitan city. There’s an aura of significance that permeates in the air, hovering above its gridlocked streets and vibrant subway passages. 

It was a decision that, frankly, even five months later I’m still coming to terms with. For whether or not I’ll ever come to regret it, the jury is still out.

So during the wedding festivities, I tried not to dwell on the gravity of my recent, life-changing decision and instead chose to focus on enjoying being back in Grenada again. Then on the night of the ceremony, I was encouraged by a loving anecdote that the mother of the bride shared with the congregation of family and friends gathered to celebrate:

Life is nothing but a series of moments.

I found this perspective to be as profound as it is simple. But allow me to take it a step further.

For these series of moments in turn make memories.

The same memories that are then strung together in a narrative arc that becomes the framework of your life’s story.

Well, with that in mind I guess you could say my life has now come full circle.

When I arrived in D.C. in the summer of 2021, I immediately immersed myself in my new career and social life there; so much so that I had not taken a single day off of work until Memorial Day weekend the following year, coincidentally for the same Yosemite trip referenced earlier.

I suppose it’s not without irony then that at the same time I chose to take a new job, and a new life, back in Columbus, Ohio. For after graduating from Capital University in the spring of 2017, this was where my life’s journey first took off for Grenada as a naive young man whose heart was set on changing the world. 

So for much of those 11,000 miles I spent in the air, idly watching the clouds go by, I had the remarkable opportunity to reflect on the people and places that shaped me into who I am today. For both Grenada and Yosemite – the latter more so due to its proximity to Reno, Nevada – respectively hold a special place in my heart as having been a foundational piece to some very formative experiences of my life. 

Yet it was also during this time that I was grappling with this new opportunity that had suddenly presented itself to me.  

Appropriate, it seems. As for some inherent reason I always felt that some of my best thinking came from time spent alone with my thoughts, over 30,000 feet in the air. 

This mental exercise reaffirmed for me how incredible it is that a particular place, and the people you experience it with, can have such an outsized influence on your life. 

I’m proud to add Washington, D.C. (and more specifically Arlington, Virginia) to that list of formative places.

Not only was it my first introduction into the professional workforce, it was also my first experience in a truly urban, East Coast, big-city environment. This was demonstrated by the fact that my primary means of getting around was walking or taking the Metro, specifically the Orange/Silver Line from the Clarendon station, barrelling down the tunnels under the Potomac River and into a dynamic metropolitan city.

My reasons for taking the Metro were seemingly endless: adult recreation leagues, dates, commuting to and from the airport, sporting events, or nights out with friends.

The streets always seemed to be teeming with activity. Restaurants were full. Patrons savored their meals inside fine-dining venues and outside on curbside tables. Pedestrians and cyclists weaved through the very same traffic, hustling to their intended destinations. The wail of sirens echoed off the walls of a concrete jungle. An endless stream of aircraft cascaded across the sky, periodically accompanied by the thumping of low-flying helicopters passing over the city. It was a place where one could, in a sea of chaos and commotion, simply be anonymous. 

It’s one of the things I already miss about the city. 

Yet if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that my relationship with Washington, D.C., will continue. Under what circumstances that relationship will develop, only time will tell. 

But speaking of time, I digress. So let’s get back to my broken wristwatch.

Other than a mental note to resolve it later, the revelry of the week carried on. After which, I returned to my one bedroom flat in Arlington, VA. From the very minute I walked through that door, my life quickly became consumed with cardboard boxes and packing tape, phone calls and paperwork, overwhelmed by the logistics of packing up and moving my whole life all over again.

It’s something, admittedly, that’s just getting harder and harder for me to do these days. My life can no longer be contained to just two suitcases, like it did in Grenada. Nor can it be contained within the confines of my Ford Escape, like it did in Reno.

As I’ve now learned, my life now strategically fits into a studio-sized U-Haul.

So with my Ford Escape mounted securely on its trailer, I embarked on an overnight drive back to Ohio, weaving through the rolling backwoods of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia along the way.

At the end of this long, winding road ahead was another chapter…yet to be written.

Earlier this spring, my family welcomed another King girl. For anyone that knows my family, her arrival is significant in more ways than one. It may have taken a generation, but the girls are finally taking over the family name. With baby Mackenzie’s arrival, the next generation of Kings officially have more girls than boys.

The weekend of her baptism, during which I excitedly and humbly agreed to be a godfather for the second time, was coincidentally the same weekend I moved from D.C. back to Columbus. For the next six weeks, I slept on my brother’s couch while I searched for an apartment and after finding one, have since been working at re-building my life.

All over again.

Just another rinse, repeat.

So it seemed fitting that one of the first things I did upon returning to Ohio, was to take my broken watch to a local jeweler. For over the span of those two months it took me to move and get settled, the time on that watch remained frozen still. 

One could also argue, however, that from the moment I stepped off of the Capital University campus and onto a plane bound for St. Lucia (my first stop on the way to making Grenada my home for the next two years), that time in my life has also stood still. Yet, I’ve now returned to a city of Columbus that I barely even recognize. A booming city where five years have passed and the lives of both my friends and family have long since carried on without me. 

That part’s been hard, I admit, realizing how much has changed and catching up on all that I’ve missed. 

But I’m also learning that it’s okay. 

In fact, it’s more than okay. For there is a vague sense of comfort that comes after accepting the fact that the world will somehow find a way to keep moving forward, even if it’s without you. 

But in the meantime, I returned to the watchmaker to pick up my newly-repaired watch. 

A watch that has continued ticking ever since. 

I’ve started my new job, which is primarily centered on broadcast news: a whole new realm of journalism that is challenging me in ways I’ve never been challenged, particularly when it comes to storytelling.

But I suppose it’s part of a natural progression in my life and career. My time with the Air & Space Forces Association in Arlington, VA, gave me my first foray into the professional workforce and how multimedia journalism can move a nonprofit’s mission forward into the digital age. 

Another striking coincidence, however, occurred during my last week of work at AFA, when I was reminded of another mission I once devoted my life to. One that, in the years since, I’m continuing to learn came with a great personal, spiritual, mental, physical, financial, and emotional expense. The reminder: a live-stream of a primary school graduation ceremony.

It was taking place in a little town, on a volcanic island somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean. The young graduates awkwardly shifted their weight back and forth on a creaky wooden stage, donning blue “Class of 2022” sashes over their iron-pressed uniforms. They offered shy smiles from the top of the stage, while their parents beamed with pride from the audience. 

One by one, I heard each of their names called. As each student stepped forward, I recognized each one as they proudly received their diplomas.

Well, recognized might actually be a stretch, as some of them have really grown up over the past three years. A handful certainly must be as tall as I am now. 

Reflecting on it now, it’s hard for me not to get emotional, because a special announcement was made during this small, primary school graduation ceremony that has meant the world to me. For the first time in St. Peter’s RC School history, the entire Class of 2022 passed their CPEA’s to advance to secondary school, the only school in the St. John’s Parish to do so that year.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, these were the same group of students I taught during my second year with the Peace Corps. 

To this day, and likely for the remainder of my life, this will be one of my proudest accomplishments. 

This momentous ceremony, however, did not come without an element of sorrow.

For on the stage, there was also an empty chair. With another blue, “Class of 2022” sash delicately draped across the seat back, a picture frame of a boy in a school uniform rested prominently on the seat.

His name was Zyheem. I vividly recall that he was a student whose energy bounded off the walls of the classroom each and every day. He was certainly one of those students that could give a teacher a run for their money, myself included. 

About a year after I left Grenada, I saw the news that he had passed away in an accident. At the time, I felt helpless as the community mourned his loss. Digital messages of encouragement and support can seem so trivial, so fruitless, so powerless in a moment of such devastating gravity. But as I was no longer living in the community, instead now thousands and thousands of miles away, it was all I could have done.

So I reached out to his mother, a former colleague of mine as a teacher in the preschool, to send my condolences. Other than that, I mostly kept the news of his passing to myself, carrying the burden of his loss by internalizing these complex, heart-wrenching feelings myself. Instead, I often try to think back fondly and cherish the memory of a boy who once boldly challenged his teacher to a staring contest….and won. 

Reflecting on that moment now, as he threw his hands up in exaltation and boasted to any and every classmate around him of his hard-fought victory over me, I can’t help but smile. It’s a moment that I’ll always choose to remember him by.

It’s a moment that, along with the rest of my Grenadian experience, has become weaved into the narrative arc that is becoming my life’s story.  

In the months since I’ve been back, I’ve not only begun settling into my new home, job, and life. I’ve also reconnected with old friends, and have already started making new ones. The city of Columbus has changed substantially these past few years. But if there’s anything I’ve learned how to do, it’s to start fresh with new people, in a new place, creating new memories.

It didn’t take long for new memories to take shape, however. For a few short weeks after returning to Columbus, I attended a week-long vacation with the entirety of my extended family, a rare and special opportunity to experience. During this time I had the privilege of documenting my future brother-in-law, Chris, proposing to my sister MJ as they now embark on the next chapter of their life together. 

Then a week after that, I drove up to Michigan to stand alongside an old high school friend, Sean Reynolds, as he married the love of his life. 

Then over the Labor Day weekend, I flew to Boston to spend time with some of my closest Peace Corps friends, John Lyness and Deb Campelia. It was a trip I had repeatedly promised years ago, typically over drinks as we bathed in the crystal clear waters of Grand Anse Beach. But back in Boston, we cooked out, went sailing, and attended a game at Fenway Park.

From there, I even returned to D.C. for a quick weekend visit to the friends, both old and new, that I had made over the past year. 

Most importantly, however, since returning to Ohio I’ve spent more time with my family in the past five months, than I have in the past five years.

Truthfully, I’ve once again been putting off publishing this for as long as possible. I began writing it during my flight home from the wedding in Grenada, now nine months ago. But after stopping and starting so many times over the course of the summer, fall and winter, I suppose it’s been a way for me to postpone the inevitable reality of accepting I’m now back where I started this journey: Ohio.

During all these years of traveling, when people would ask me about my birthplace, I’d often laugh and say, “Everyone has family in Ohio, it’s the only reason anyone would live there.”

Well, now I’m back. Not ironically, I guess, for that very same reason. I admit, though, that if I said there weren’t times I felt moments of regret, I’d be lying. But for every reason I might have to regret this decision, there’s three more to remind me why the time to come home was right. 

There’s a lot I wish I could tell my younger self, who embarked on his truly worldwide adventure just three weeks after his own college graduation ceremony. I’d share advice, secrets, regrets, and experiences. I’d tell him that these next few years will be beyond difficult. There will be moments of joy, moments of stress, moments of heartbreak, moments of crisis, and even moments of depression. But what outweighs them all is the moments of love I’ve been blessed to share with so many people, in so many places.

An author of a book I recently read shared that we as humans are often good at showing compassion for others. But when it comes to showing compassion for ourselves, that’s often not the case. We’re naturally inclined to be hard on ourselves, holding our individual person up to the highest standard possible. That’s why we often have difficulty forgiving ourselves for the times that we fail to live up to that standard. 

I, myself, am certainly no exception.   

So while I may not be able to share these things with my younger self, if there is anything life has taught us it’s that there are always new generations coming up the ranks. Generations that I hope will also be inspired to make their wildest dreams come true. Generations that will create their own moments, their own memories, their own narrative arcs in their life story. 

All in the name of moving the world forward.

Luckily for me, there are already new generations coming forward in my family ranks. I’m looking forward to the memories already formed, and the ones yet to come. But no matter wherever I may be, now and forever, I will always be supporting and cheering them on each and every step of the way. 

Fortunately, for now, I’ll have a front-row seat to experience this opportunity.

For I’ve already seen time stop once, but now I’m blessed to be able to watch it begin again.

Just another rinse, repeat. 


5 thoughts on “Rinse, Repeat

  1. Scott–You have proven to be quite the wanderer!! I have so enjoyed every one of your posts. Ralph Waldo Emerson sums you up beautifully: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
    Welcome home to Ohio and to more opportunities for adventure and enthusiasm!
    Mary Connors💌

    1. Hi, Mrs. Connors! I happen to remember a poster board in your classroom with that same Emerson quote. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great read as usual Scott. Proud to see my name in print and to call you my friend. Hope we can meet up again soon

    1. Yes, John! I miss our adventures as well. I’ll give you a call soon and would love to catch up!

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