My given name was a great source of comfort to me as a boy, a blank canvas given to me where others were saddled with limits and borders from the first moment they drew breath outside the womb. Kevins would always be Kevins; Daves never not Daves. Guy? Guy could be so many things. Every boy and every instructor in that boarding school was a Guy, but, through some wonderful magic, I was not them. It was though my name was He Who Has Sentience And Free Will Fieri.
Much later, I learned what I thought was freedom was actually a trap. Those boys had coloring books for lives, handed a picture of the future that only required them to add the vibrant finishing touches. My blank canvas offered no guidance, no direction. Even rebellion was beyond my reach. How can you lash out against a destiny you do not have in the first place?
“Hooboy, can’t wait to see what dish you put these bad boys in!” I can’t tell if the clerk is joking, and it doesn’t matter; my mind has already perfected the Apollo Thirsteen before the sentence is out of his mouth. It’s a solid block of Kahlua and condensed milk frozen around a bundle of bottle rockets that are lit at the table. I have already signed the settlement papers that will come across my desk in a decade.
You see, once I realized Fate had not assigned me an identity, I took it upon myself to mold one - and, like six pounds of ground beef mashed into one patty, the resulting identity was a sight to behold, equally impressive and horrible. I was both Frankenstein and his creation. Having abandoned any preexisting paths, my life had blazed a new trail in the world. Surely, this was freedom.
“Lemme throw one of these bad boys in there for you, chief!” That would become the Doughman Candle, a pyrotechnic that cooks frozen pizza rolls and fires them into the sky. I don’t want to make this affront to food and firework alike. I just don’t have any other choice. These are the expectations that come with being Guy Fieri; these are the shackles I forged for myself.
And so I have come to the only truth I believe any longer, that life is a tree which grows in reverse. We start on the furthest branch, faced with an endless multitude of choices. For every single turn we elect to take on the path, we close off five others without even knowing it. But it is folly to mourn these lost avenues, because they all lead to the same dread destination. We are merely more evolved lemmings, arguing about which route to the cliff’s edge is more fulfilling.
Today, I will not raise a Bud Light Lime to independence. My toast will be to the fireworks, spiraling irregularly through the night with varying color and brightness. They know what I do: that though we think of ourselves as unique boats exploring the oceans of time, the journey can only end in fire.