Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Growing Up

I want to tell you a story. Will you listen?

I want to tell a story that is as much true as it is not, as much about me or you as anyone else.

It’s the story of growing up, which seems is one that has no end. Remember when we would look up and admire and wish to someday become the adults? Do you remember seeing them hold on weary shoulders the weight of our world? How food miraculously appeared on the table, how clothes found their way into the dresser, how the winter nights were bright and warm? It was true, was it not? The baseball gloves came, so did the bikes… not all at once and not every year, but they came. A soccer ball one year, and when we grew a little older, these magicians would produce a photo camera for us to mess with. It may not have been bought new, it certainly was not an SLR, but it allowed you to take pictures and capture the silly moments of your silly life. Do you remember little league? The basketball in winter, the baseball in summer… maybe your cleats were not new, maybe they were not the height of fashion, maybe they weren’t cleats at all, but play on the grass you did and you did not whine that it was slippery did you? You did not care whether it was the right gear. You cared that you were on a field and that at some point a ball would come hurling towards you, and no matter the sun, rain or fear of embarrassment, you were going to catch that ball! Maybe the family would be watching, maybe they would not be there, but catch that ball you must!

They can’t always be there, they’re adults, they have places to go, things to do, money to make – how else will we get the basketball we always wanted? Everything they do is so important, they can’t even take naps! They might pass out on the couch in front of the TV after dinner on Friday night. But they can’t just take a nap whenever they want. Perhaps they want to go to a show, or to a fancy dinner… whatever those grownups like to do. But they don’t go too often, do they? Who will watch you? Who will feed you? If they spend that money on dinner, how can they take you to the lake this summer? Who has the strength to get all dolled up and drive into the city anyway? By the time they get home and shower and change and feed you and make sure you start on your homework and remind you to finish it and not watch too much TV and brush your teeth… what play starts, what restaurant serves food, that late? Can you blame them if they yell, get upset over little things, punish you in unreasonable ways for actions you thought rather reasonable indeed? Can you blame them for being upset at the quality of the food they eat, when all they can smell is the grease from the industrial coffee machines they’ve been fixing, or from the saturating odor of the pizza they have been delivering, or the dry cleaning chemicals they have been sweeping, or the floor wax they spent hours buffing? Can you blame them for not having much to say to you, when they see the privilege in which you live, of which you are unaware, the method by which you attained it inconsequential and irrelevant to you? When they gave it all up, when they turned piles of pennies into dinners, when they forwent their own happiness for your sake… can we blame them at all?

Adults. Grownups. Responsibility. Consistency. Sacrifice. Selflessness. Are these words not alien to us now? How many years do we spend bobbing up and down the sea of “possibility”; no anchor, sorry, we forgot it in our parents basement. The fabric of society is not so relevant, only our happiness, our quest to “find ourselves”, is what matters. Try this – fail. Try that – fail. Go back to school. Can’t find a job? No problem. Try again, and again, and again. Fail, fail, fail. Why?

Because there are no consequences when we fail. We live in a cushion, in the center lane, in the warmth of the encompassing hearth. 30 year old children who spend freely, get hussied up, give ourselves away, expect little if nothing at all from others, uproot as easily as we switch jobs, careers, partners, images, styles. Slaves to our own desires and inconsistencies; fickle like a plastic bag in the wind.

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