It’s been well over a week’s since I’ve posted and high time I wrote something, before I completely lose momentum…
We’ve been in the depths of home-buying hell lately, scrambling to compete for limited Sacramento inventory while trying to sell our house to folks who don’t want to risk contingencies. Moving from a lower-demand area to a higher one is proving tricky.
Plus, I’m having sporadic panics about having to clear the evidence of two wild toddlers from our house quickly, so someone can check out our house before it re-explodes: “I said PUT THAT DOWN! Where are your SHOES… Did you just FLING YOGURT ALL OVER THE KITCHEN!?”
Momma is rapidly losing it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: white carpets are where madness lies. White carpets and white tile and white grout and white painted decks were clearly the brainchild of some bourgeois masochist, hell-bent on providing suburban disciples with a daily atonement exercise.
It’s never clean. None of us are clean. There’s nothing so decaying as the core of Puritanical zealotry. Just keep scrubbing, just keep scrubbing (I’m picturing a wild-eyed Dori in a Thanksgiving hat as I say this).
In the midst of all this, however, my husband John surprised me with a three-day trip to Disneyland for my birthday, because he’s awesome like that. I thought we were just gonna hang out at Santa Cruz.
The trip was fantastic and I’ll be writing another post about it with adorable photos. But for now, I’d rather discuss getting older, since birthdays tend to make one reflect.
I don’t want to get too detailed about it, but let’s just say I had kids older than many, but young enough not to need medical help with it. I firmly believe there are different advantages to parenting at various ages, but in my case, this was the right path. I wasn’t financially or emotionally ready at 20.
Besides, the older I get, the more I grasp the grand relativity of age. For instance, I can still vaguely remember sixth graders looking SO grown-up, back when I was seven years old.
Now, many high schoolers look like kids.
In fact, I remember being baffled when my high school teacher parents called them that: “Kids.” Kids were single digit ages, to my way of thinking, who played hopscotch and dragged around dolls.
High schoolers, on the other hand, could almost vote. Clearly, my folks were delusional.
I can also remember thinking 30 was practically middle-aged, back when I was fourteen or so. Thirty now feels very “young adult,” the soonest a person should be trusted with important decisions. Possibly it sounds infantile to septuagenarians.
My recent Sue Grafton mystery novel reading jag has put all this into even greater perspective. I don’t know why I’ve been on a Grafton kick, except that I like mystery novels and read hers years ago, back when I was younger than the main character. Back when I had to check them out of the library and hope someone had brought the next alphabet letter book back.
I have to mention, she really developed an ingenious titling system: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. Not only is is easy (she just comes up with a crime-related word for each alphabet letter), but it also activates any Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies within her readers.
You want to complete the set. You don’t want to be missing “E” or “J” in your beautifully-coordinated book set, because that would be like long division with an outrageously repeating decimal remainder. It’s a missing bicuspid in an otherwise uniform set of teeth.
Clever titles aside, it’s been eerie to reread a 80’s saga I once read in my youth. It’s world is forever frozen in the 1980’s of my childhood, with a detective who still uses phone books and card catalogs. A detective who once seemed worldly and mature to me, but is now younger than I am, locked into a world without internet or smart phones.
It’s amazing to think the kids growing up today will see phone booths as antiquated relics, the way my generation saw old-timey 1920’s phones with bells you talk into and little cranks on the side. Phone numbers that included addresses because everyone was on a party line, or something.
Even crazier is the idea that someday, Millennials will be the old farts. Whatever the next generations ends up being called, they’ll eventually be making fun of Millennial music and pants styles, pointing out how dated it is to tattoo your arms and cringing whenever someone born “way back in the 90’s” mangles the current slang.
Sigh… it’s all a big cycle, isn’t it? I’ve never understood the point of fixating on age (you won’t find me posting commiserating “age test” memes on Facebook), since we’re all alive on this planet for one brief lifetime (probably) and better off living our lives than complaining about unchangeable details, but there are a few points I’d like to make after all this reflection…
Every generation, probably since the dawn of time, thinks the next one is going to Hell in a hand basket
Right now, it’s Generation X complaining about Millennials: they’re entitled, they’re materialistic, they’re lazy, they have bad manners… blah blah blah. But a thousand years ago it was Socrates, saying:
The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.
Funny how everyone seems to think the world happened to reach its greatest potential within their lifetimes.
On everything: common sense, manners, the right amount of technology before people become socially-impaired…
And music, of course. Music just happened to be awesome until right after your college years, whereupon it went straight into the toilet. The world’s collective creative peak just happened to zenith along with you before sliding into another Dark Age.
I don’t know if it’s because we forget the follies of our youth or just resent the world going without us, but I have no doubt the Millennials will be making the same arguments in another 15 years.
2. We’re all convinced we were tireless gods in our youths, before our bodies betrayed us
“I used to stay up partying all night long, throw back some coffee, get into work early, and keep going like no one’s business. Can’t do it anymore, but boy, I used to be unstoppable.”
That’s roughly what I’ve heard thirty-somethings-or-more say about sixteen billion times. They never used to get tired. They could get by on no sleep and just keep going. They used to get up an hour before they went to bed to run seven miles, hungover, before partying all night long.
I don’t know… I don’t remember it quite the same way. I remember having 8 AM classes every morning before doing a work study job then sabre fencing until 2 AM, night after night…
And I also remember being EXTREMELY TIRED.
I was late to that 8 AM class, more often than not, and downing as much caffeine as possible while I dragged myself through my days, sneaking naps whenever I could get one.
I remember eating candy corn and pounding Jolt cola while pulling all-nighters to write fifteen page papers, walking in circles to stay awake and eyeing my bed with incredible longing… How sweet sleep sounded, to just lay down and close my eyes into restful oblivion. I’d get the paper in and come home to pass out for the next ten hours.
I’m not saying we don’t have more energy in our youth, just that it’s not as extreme a difference as people claim. We view our youth through the Golden Good Times filter, much like we view relationships in the first days of their disintegration. Suddenly you’re remembering all the special songs and inside jokes, forgetting all the zits and jealousy.
We were tired back then TOO, we just did it anyway. We didn’t care. We wanted to hang out with our friends and had breaks in-between classes. We weren’t about to to get fired and lose the house.
We’ve grown soft, that’s all. We have cars, regular schedules, and expect more for dinner than microwaved Hot Pockets and creamed corn. We’re tired and bored, because making spreadsheets in a cubicle is way more monotonous than discussing the philosophical implications of Family Guy.
3. You’ll eventually view your younger self as amazingly attractive, but stupid
I’m exaggerating a little for effect, but this is generally true.
While growing up, you’ll probably have a list of “flaws” you worry about: your chubby thighs, the shape of your nose, your zits or lack of six-pack abs, or whatever.
Ten years later, you’ll probably see an old photo of yourself and be amazed at how much cuter you were than you thought at the time. You may even want to reach through the photo to slap yourself, just for wasting so much time being insecure about nothing.
I think it’s a question of perspective. High schoolers spend most of their time around other high schoolers, so they don’t appreciate all the physical gifts that come so easily then… the fast metabolism (despite eating crap), the shiny thick hair (despite flatirons and bleach), and shadowless skin (despite stress).
They compare themselves to photo-shopped models, expensively-groomed Hollywood actors, and the select set of fresh-faced youths they run around with. Not the real world, the larger world of all times and ages, rush hours and cubicle jobs without exercise.
You’re so much better-looking than you realize. Even now, I look at “before” photos from five years ago and wonder why I felt so fat. Why I thought raspberry lipstick would look any different than fuchsia delight.
What a waste of time.
On the other hand, you’re probably deluded about how smart you are. I mean, you may be very clever, especially for your age, but you haven’t had the life experiences that will end up granting you wisdom over your next few decades. You’re taking things for granted you will end up appreciating later. Opportunities that you’ll wish you still had.
Because you’ll have some regrets. We all do. We all make mistakes and some of them stick with us.
And when you look back on your life, you see yourself heading into those mistakes, over and over again. Like watching Titanic and hoping the boat won’t sink, even though you know it will.
You may wonder how your life might’ve turned out differently if you had only done X or Y, wishing you had a time machine to see how it would’ve all played out. You want to impart this wisdom on another kid, hoping to spare them the consequences of your own idiocy.
But you can’t, because the story has been written.
Maybe that frustration is responsible for our tendency to remember the past differently than it really happened, to think we bounced from party to party, without sleep, and never had the irresponsible tendencies kids today seem to display.
I don’t know. But somewhere, faintly, I can hear F is for Fugitive calling my name.
Some things in life are easy.