By September 2018, one of the country’s most famous civil-engineering projects will finally complete construction, six decades after work on it began.
Interstate 95, the country’s most used highway, will finally run as one continuous road between Miami and Maine by the late summer. The interstate’s infamous “gap” on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey border will be closed, turning I-95 into an unbroken river of concrete more than 1,900 miles long. In so doing, it will also mark a larger milestone, say transportation officials—the completion of the original United States interstate system.
Construction to fix the I-95 gap began more than eight years ago in Pennsylvania, but it has now reached its final stage. This week, the New Jersey Department of Transportation began switching out road signs in preparation for the switch.
When my son was born, 15 months ago, I was under no illusion that I had any idea what I was doing. But I did think I understood self-help books. For longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve written a weekly column about psychology and the happiness industry, in the course of which I have read stacks and stacks of books on popular psychology. I even wrote one myself, specifically aimed at readers who – like me – distrusted the hyperbolic promises of mainstream self-help. Midway through my partner’s pregnancy, when I first clicked “Bestsellers in Parenting: Early Childhood” on Amazon, I naively assumed it would be easy enough to pick up two or three titles, sift the science-backed wheat from the chaff, apply it where useful, and avoid getting too invested in any one book or parenting guru.
Where the Past Begins is subtitled “a writer’s memoir”, and it’s worth mentioning what Tan doesn’t include. There is very little mention of published books; instead, she elaborates on the act of writing, the mechanics and results of her own imagination. She explains the central importance of metaphors, the stories her mind spins while she listens to music. “Spontaneous epiphanies always leave me convinced once again that there is no greater meaning to my life than what happens when I write,” she says. Tan’s epiphanies and revelations often revive suppressed memories: “as if I were seeing the ghost of my mother, bringing me a sweater she had knit for me when I was five”.