Rocks and Ladders
My parents still live in the house where I grew up. For now at least. They're thinking of moving into a smaller place and they should, even though the thought makes me profoundly sad. My brother and I have both expressed our sorrow to our parents but also stressed that we support the move.
We moved into that house when I was in fifth grade (my brother was in third). My parents designed it themselves - their dream house. Its a big contemporary house with an enormous rock in the front yard. My brother and I spent hours playing on that rock, pictured below.
My parents designed a pretty amazing bedroom for my brother and I (eventually it became just mine and my brother moved into his own room). It featured a loft accessible by ladder. It afforded me a remarkable level of privacy. That was where I slept, played, created and dreamed until I left for college.
I took a picture of the loft last time I was home. Its mostly used for storage now and the room has been redesigned from "haven of an 80's teen" to "conservative guest room." Here's that photo:
That little window at the top of the ladder is the one that afforded me a fine view of an ancient tree as described in my third entry this week.
A bunch of my old things are still stored up there. Vinyl albums, cassette tapes, old photos, comic books and art work. One specific thing up there is a time capsule I put together when I was 15 or so hidden in the space between the bottom drawer of a desk and the floor. Its a bunch of personal stuff that I stuck into my old cassette player's cardboard box. A couple of years ago, I opened that time capsule and discovered a variety of items both delightful and pointless.
The pointless items included a U.F.O Candy container, a little rubber monster finger puppet and a bunch of my Dungeons and Dragons inspired drawings. There's also some items that I remember putting in the capsule at the time but destroyed in my early 20's - specifically, nude and barely dressed drawings of fantasy women with swords. We do weird things when we're young.
The thing I found most interesting was a little spiral notebook with a bunch of single page entries. I wrote down a bunch of my thoughts and hopes in that book. I wouldn't call it a journal - nothing is longer than about 75 words and I recall writing it all in a single day . It was more like notes to my future self - I knew that I was going to become an adult and there were certain profoundly important things that I wanted older me to know.
I read that list with great interest and was disappointed to discover it was basically list of grievances with specific adults. I guess I'd hoped it was going to include some deep revelations that are only accessible to the young. No, I remembered everything I'd written down - it just wasn't especially profound (or even interesting). Apparently I was aware that I was going to get older but I lacked awareness that the things that bothered me in 1983 were no longer going to bother me in 1984, much less in 2016.
There was also a list of things that I wanted to accomplish - win a Grammy, win an Oscar, win an Olympic medal. I didn't even really play a sport - what was I thinking? There was nothing about what steps I'd take in order to win any of these awards, just a general desire for glory and fame. I marveled at how out of touch my younger self was with objective reality. There's nothing wrong with having dreams, kid, but instead of dreaming of winning a Grammy, how about dreaming recording an album or even a song or just learning to sing? Instead of fantasizing about winning an Olympic medal, how about just getting off your ass and just going for a walk first?
I sometimes think of my younger self as a completely different person than my current self. This isn't a case of creating an alternate identity or developing a chameleon personality to fit in. I mean whenever I encounter stuff that I wrote or created when I was younger, I don't recognize myself in it. Was my youthful personality just a pose I adopted (even when I was writing stuff that only I would see)? Or have I really changed so much that my younger self wouldn't know me should he somehow meet me?
Sometimes, I get anxious when I think about how disappointed my teenage self would be with how my life turned out. He wanted something completely different from what I have. I've quoted Neil Gaiman on this point before, but "the price of getting what you want, is getting what you once wanted." I don't want the things I wanted when I was younger. Indeed, I recognize that my wants will change again in the future. That doesn't mean I don't have goals, I just recognize that all my goals are fungible. That's ok.
The past can weigh us down like (INCOMING FORCED METAPHOR ALERT ABORT ABORT TOO LATE) that enormous rock in my parents' front yard. The dreams we had when we were younger could, perhaps, just be general yearnings that help us make some decisions concerning metaphorical ladders we'd like to climb.
For example, I never won any of those awards, but I'm having a (frequently) very fulfilling career in the arts. That's the direction young me was aming for and, hey, my band is a finalist in the comedy album category in our local professional music awards this year. My younger self loved making funny songs and wanted to win an award, so I think he'd be pretty amped about that.
The ceremony is this Saturday and I need to get on figuring out what sort of outfit I can wear that says both "formal" and "rock star." I'm thinking something like this silver sequined monstrosity, assuming that they have it in size "tubby."
Anyhow, at one point, that old house was my parents dream. Now their dream is to not have to worry about yards, stairs and chopping fire wood. They shouldn't be held back (ALERT ALERT) as if by a giant rock either - the giant rock in this case being my brother and I being nostalgic for our youth. Nostalgia is longing for something you can never have again. That is even more absurd than 15 year old couch potato me thinking he could win an Olympic medal without ever having to stand up.
The important thing isn't the house that I grew up in. I think the important thing is just that I grew up.
Here's a photo of me from about ten years ago doing VERY IMPORTANT GROWN UP STUFF. Clearly, I still think its important to dream, even on the job.