[This story takes place somewhere in the recesses of my mind and may or may not be true. I’m not sure if it involves me or if it’s simply a dream. It might be an allegory, it might be a bar joke. It might be completely disposable. Good luck.]
Somewhere around age 30 I started to become more aware of what was going on in the world. I say more, not completely because I’m still not really aware what’s going on in the world. There are a lot of things I feel I should be aware of, a lot of things I should be more invested in, I think a lot of my time might be better spent doing more productive and altruistic things. It often takes me screwing up the exact same thing several times until it sinks in, and I never catch the irony I bring into my life. But I like to claim I’m self-aware. I think most people who don’t really “get it” claim a lot of things they’re not, such as intelligence, being forward thinking, or caring, or frugal, etc. It’s those things we think we should aspire to, but for whatever reason can’t, that we try to embody without actually making the effort. If truth is subjective then you can make yourself believe anything. I try to convince others that I’m self-aware. I don’t know that it works. But after I’ve pushed that agenda for so long I guess I just come to believe it. If you tell yourself something is true often enough, wa-la, it becomes true. Only it often isn’t.
Apathy and individualism were twin beasts in my world that I’m still trying to shake. They roared louder when I was younger, and now as I quickly catch up to the heels of middle-age, they have lessened their grasp on my persona. A little. But their grip was so tight for so long that they left fingerprints, and they’re hard to wash off. I may not always see them, as we rarely notice the slow and gradual changes of the lines in our face until they’re pointed out to us by others we haven’t seen in a while, but they’re there. In fact, they’re probably very noticeable to others. They see our past, our accumulation, before them. You can’t just vacuum out your demons, your experiences or your personality.
Upon reflection there are a lot of things I’d wished I’d done in my past; I’m certain that’s true for all of us. It’s unfortunate that we don’t gain wisdom until we’re about to run out of time to use it. But then again, maybe that’s the whole point. If you finally get it when you’re down to your final decade, maybe you’ll use it to its fullest advantage. Perhaps youth is the mirror opposite of wisdom; it’s ontologically impossible to exist in the same body. There are plenty of fickle things that I’d wish I had done. Money I wish I hadn’t spent. There are plenty of invaluable things I wish I had done. Things I wished I’d paid more attention to. People whom I wish I’d spent more time with. Lessons I wish I had learned.
I inherited a thread of social awkwardness from my mom and a thread of hyper-social outgoing-ness from my dad. Quite the juxtaposition; there is often a fight to which will win out, and the pre-beast, apathy, often makes that decision for me. Now that I’m older it’s made with resignation and contentment with my place, when I was younger it was made without reflection, with ignorance, and a lack of foresight.
I was a late bloomer growing up. I was only 5 feet tall and not 100 pounds my freshman year of high school. I didn’t stop growing or gaining weight until almost my junior year of college. Perhaps because of this, I’m a late bloomer in every other way possible too. It would make sense. I just get to the party after the keg has run dry. Strangely, now that I’m nearing 40, I’ve already started to shrink, too. And lose weight. At my peak was an honest 5’ 10 and 142 pounds. I carried that weight for over a decade. Now I’m 5’9.5 and roughly 138 pounds. I’m not sure what it means. I’m late to the party and I leave early, too, I guess. It doesn’t make sense but it does at the same time. Quite the quandary.
So, it seems, I’m always playing catch up, and it appears that I’m always anticipating leaving. I’m a vector. But in my own life only. And for all the things I wished I had shown up for, and there are plenty, sometimes I wish I had shown up in my own life early on. Not that I wasn’t there for the party back then – I was, I brought the party for a while (now, just the opposite) – but for the valuable things. The people. I pride myself on some of the connections I’ve maintained over decades, even when scattered far and wide. But I also ask myself if most of them only exist on the surface? What’s the test of the strength of a relationship when the interactions are intermittent, brief and of the moment?
I’ve moved so many times that I might as well have lost count. Some with purpose. Others less so. But I have to ask myself if I was moving or if I was running. If the latter, then what was I running from or to? If it was to something, then I’m completely at a loss. Because I haven’t found it. If it was from something, it was from an image of who I thought I was and what I wanted to be. “Wait”, you might say, “You were running from who you wanted to be?” Maybe. Perhaps who we really are and who we think we want to be are so different, so incompatible, that we just can’t find common ground and we’re like helium atoms in an excited state – bouncing chaotically from one ionosphere to the next. My parents never left their hometown aside from their time in college, and both only went 45 minutes away, in opposite directions. They say the grass isn’t always greener, and I believe that to be true. So we should, perhaps, try to find solace in our station in life. I’m inspired and intrigued and motivated by vagabonds and adrenaline junkies, but apparently not enough so to follow their lead. I’m more of a hobo lacking a compass, wandering from train depot to train depot, trying to catch the Great Northern to the gold rush.
I must be desperate for the connection. But I don’t know what the connection is. I don’t think it’s a place, or at least I haven’t found it yet if it is so. I don’t think it’s a thing, because I’ve owned many and their grasp is ephemeral. I don’t think it’s an experience, because the memory fades. We’re told it is another person, but that evades me too. Maybe because I don’t try, maybe because my apathy and individualistic nature is more apparent than I admit. If we spend a lifetime looking for the connection, does it come at the expense of what we want that connection to be? Do we make concessions just to have that electricity, which in the end is at the expense of what could’ve been? Or do we just expect too much for ourselves? Is there something to be said for being happy with your role and place in life?
Have you ever been on the phone and the signal gets fuzzy or the call gets dropped and as hard as you try you just can’t get through? You’re desperate for the connection, but it is out of your control to make contact. Sometimes that’s how I feel about the whole thing, but then, in the end, always, I just try the call again tomorrow…