top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeff Monday

Walking Down a Different Street

One of my favorite poems is 'Autobiography in Five Chapters' by Portia Nelson. It's a simple little thing that's deceptively bigger than it appears. Like the TARDIS but not really. I came across it back in college and have kept it in my heart ever since. I thought about it again when I was writing part of 'The Born and the Made.' In the book, there's a scene where the main character is hesitant about entering an establishment. The character hems and haws, goes back and forth before finally summoning up the courage to go in. It was a bittersweet moment to write because I was diving into my memories of going into a gay bar for the first time. I was not 'out' yet, had no one to go with me for support and didn't know what to expect on the other side of the door.

But once I summoned up the courage to enter, my life changed, just like the character's life changed afterward as well. Propelled by nothing but willpower and a desire to change, I took those fateful steps into a larger world. Not to say that I left my old life behind. We build on our past but don't need to be beholden to it. It gradually faded into history and memory and I became the person I was meant to be.

The reason the poem means so much to me is because it shows us the way to being better. We all fall down holes. We all get stuck. And we climb back out. Most of the time, we fall again. And climb out again. Over and over. Never really getting where we need to be but instead just fighting with ourselves. Until we reach that point where we choose a different street, a different path.

A different life.

I'm not going to lie; I was scared shitless that first time I walked into that bar. I was so nervous and so unsure of myself that I could barely order a drink. I hurried over to an empty table in the corner where the shadows were thick and I could disappear. No one talked to me that night, of course. But that didn't matter. Because when I walked out of there an hour or so later, I walked out a different person. I walked out as someone who took a risk, maybe the biggest of my life up to that point. Not because I was in danger physically. But because I was purposefully stepping down a new street.

Have I looked back since? Of course. Do I have regrets? Absolutely. But too few to mention. Would I trade my life for that other path? Never.

We fall down holes. We climb out of them. Just don't fall down the same hole over and over.

Take a different street.

Autobiography in Five Chapters

by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost... I am hopeless.

It isn't my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don't see it.

I fall in again.

I can't believe I'm in the same place.

But it isn't my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there.

I still fall's a habit

My eyes are open;

I know where I am;

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

54 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page