A quote from Death Cab comes to mind:
"So this is my ten year ..."
ok ok ok, so those aren't the words, but the sentiment is pretty much the same. More on that in a bit, though - more importantly, i've just become (practically) an uncle. Brian and Sydni have had little Erik Michael Abrahamsen and by end-of-day February 22nd of next year, i'll officially be his uncle. (in-law)
While it's certainly nerve wracking to realize that there is now going to be a small child in our group of friends (and that like it or not, everything we do will serve as an example) it's also exciting. I think that deep down, everyone wants to be listened to, looked up to, etc. Kids do that ... (for a while anyways) they look up to you. They think of you as a "grown up".
It makes me wonder just how much growing up i've really done. It almost seems like after a certain point, i just plateaued. It's like working out - if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, eventually you're not getting any stronger, you're just maintaining. That's probably where the rituals associated with different life stages are supposed to come in. An example might be the progression from high school to adulthood.
Graduate and go to college: Your first big step in "growing up". Less influence from parents, more personal accountability. You're really expected to be planning your future.
Graduate college and get a "real" job: You're held fully accountable for your actions. This is when you start living that big future you'd been talking about. Maybe you dress nicer - go to swankier parties ... show off how grown up you are and how well you're doing at it.
Reach adulthood: Maybe somewhere after 25 you start thinking about less beer and more whiskey. Less snowboarding trip, more Caribbean Cruise. Less Mustang and more BMW.
I guess it's the progression between living for the ideals you've derived from your immediate social group (ie students and faculty) and start living your life in accordance with your perception of the grander societal norms. You go from trying to fit in with the clothes you wear and who you talk to, to fitting in with ... uh ... the clothes ... hmmm ... damn. I guess some things just don't change.
"I just found out there's no such thing as the real world, just a lie you've got to rise above."
Maybe. Maybe the truth is actually that the only deception is the concept of an "unreal" versus a "real" world. Things that mattered in your youth (social acceptance, perceived success, Jolly Ranchers) will always matter. It's not a question of a different world, just a different scope.
So here i am, a couple of nights before my 10 year reunion, and i'm wondering if i made the right choice. Should i have sucked it up and gone? Would I have gotten there and realized "Hold on - these aren't the people i remember at all! They're all responsible adults who've morphed dramatically from their former selves, and we're all going to get along now because we've matured!"
Honestly, i doubt it. Not to say that people wouldn't have changed - i'm positive they would! But maybe not on the inside. Maybe not in the places that would be necessary for that kind of happy reunion. I can't imagine anyone saying "Wow ... I'm so glad you came to this reunion so that we could get to know each other better. I didn't know you or want to get to in school, but i'm all ears now!"
True, i'm adding on a layer of contempt that may mask the truth of what i'm saying a bit, but the truth is there. I'm certainly no exception! I've communicated to a few people that i remembered, who i honestly wish i'd known better, (instead of ducking my head in shame or trying too damn hard, and never finding that happy medium) but i really couldn't even imagine striking up a conversation with anyone else. Even the folks i messaged would be hard to talk to for lack of common ground.
I know i'm generalizing, but i can't help but think i'm right.
What i long for is not a chance to revisit my memories, but a chance to re-experience them. I spent so much time (for most of my life until college) just drifting through life, a willing captive to the tides of fate, that i never took the time to look around and experience what was going on.
I "fell in love" like a fool - constantly and with little cause, thinking that life was like the movies, and i was the sacrificing and ignored protagonist. I walked the paths and roads of "the lovely valley land of Kent" as if there were a camera following me around - a crowd sympathizing with my every let down, rejoicing at my every success, and wordlessly praying for my every hope to be realized. If there's anything i want, it's a chance to go back and experience every year of my life for the first time. I wouldn't want to change anything, just to actually live it, instead of just surviving it.
And how can one reconcile the youth that dreamed of a movie script ending with the thought that maybe life is just life, and there is no ultimate meaning or grand scheme?
I've dreamt of that school. I've dreamt of acceptance, proving myself the hero, and even discovering an old flame where there had never been one. All these things tell me something now more than ever: I would only go there to find my dreams, and searching for them would neither yield any results, nor better the reality of my life.
Joseph Campbell tells a wonderful story about a samurai who sets out to avenge his murdered master. The samurai spends years hunting down the man who committed the crime and finally corners him in a garden. The battle is brief and the samurai, having disarmed his opponent, steps forward to strike him down. In a fit of rage at his defeat and seemingly inescapable death, the beaten man spits on the samurai's face. He is surprised then, as you can imagine he would be, when the samurai wipes the spit from his face, sheathes his sword, and walks away.
We may well ask why he would turn away and abandon his master's vengeance. Why not strike down the murderer where his stood, spit still hanging loosely from his chin beneath his bared teeth. The samurai would tell you a fairly simple thing, but one hard for us to relate to in this day and age: If he had killed him then, it would have been out of his own anger, and not solely out of the duty he had sworn to his master.
There are MANY lessons to be learned and points to be thought on from that one story, but i think that the one i'll focus on is this: You should never kid yourself about the reasons you do something, nor the emotions you have vested in said action(s). I've tried to teach myself that life is too short not to know why you're living. It's not some invisible hand guiding you, or a path determined by fate - it's your own thoughts and desires leading you on the way.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam teach that man ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and was cast out of the garden with and by his own free will. Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, because everything including joy is impermanent. Sheryl Crow teaches that it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Catch ya on the flip side, baby.