Let's start with my take on this story of mine FIRST. After that, you can decide if you want to stick around if you like. Here it is: Perspective is everything.
Not long ago I started a new job. A step in the right direction, for sure. My first day also coincided with the first day for all fall interns...nearly twenty of them. They were nervous—-disarmingly charming—-and while waiting to get our security badges I did my best to blend. I made no mention that I wasn’t here for any other purpose other than to work shit hours for shit pay and for a while, it was good. My cover didn’t last long, though. Into the security room walks an intern from my previous job. She unwittingly blows my cover and reveals it's my first day at the manager level.
No longer did I have a group to share the nervousness of the first day with. No longer would they trust me with the knowledge that they too were scared, for now they had to impress me. It's funny how the pressure of an interview actually hides the true personality. Now you’re probably saying, “Who cares!? You have a position that pays! You’ve got more experience...status!” But I see it as having so much more to explain, understand, and be responsible for. More painfully and personally, it means I am OLDER.
I guess you could label the defensiveness and nostalgia as a quarter-life crisis (my third or fourth in as many years) if you want, or too much transition too fast (new apartment, new roommates, new job all in the same week), but I have long felt much older than my identification claims...and not in the wise sage sense. Between all the terrible habits I’ve battled—-the rehab-worthy partying I did for a decade, the above-average intellect that I squandered and dissolved, the complete lack of respect I’ve held for some and for myself—-I've eroded the youth with which I was born. I felt jealousy when I saw the interns and their bright, excited eyes. And to paraphrase James Baldwin, “It’s always at the hour of need that the missing limb aches.”
For a while now--months, I would guess--to compensate or make reparations (I haven’t figured out which one it is yet) I practice a number of self-improvements. I read voraciously, moreso than my highschool or college years, to reclaim a grasp of language. I force my nearly-agoraphobic, damaged brain into social skydiving. I cook. I practice honesty more often.
I also think about the early years. However SUCKY high school was, snapping beans from the garden for hours, or how much I hated my family situation at times, there was always an escape. Living on a farm and being essentially an only child grants you many opportunities for creativity in solitude.
Back to the story: On that first day of that great new job, walking down the hall to my bright new (shared) office, I couldn’t stop thinking about one thing: I just want to be a kid again. That's all I ask for. Start me over but of course don't forget to sprinkle me with just enough bacon bits of wisdom to avoid repeating the big “uh-ohs”...the ones where it's evident I didn't respect my body and emotions with the same respect I [should more often] demand from others.
When the body expires, I predict the last flashes of memory and electricity zapping across my synapses will be from my childhood, deliberatly lost for hours in a grove of trees. Perhaps those solitary beginnings explain my separation anxiety or why I avoid being alone as an adult...I'm sure different schools of thought could argue endlessly. And I would definitely want to have back that sun-bleached-white and full head of hair back...though that too darkened around the same time that I was learning life, a lot of the times, just isn't that easy.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s a unique perspective on our universe. I agree with the author that it's a "best" short story (for me, second only to Doerr's The Hunter's Wife). I wish everyone on this planet could read it, and not just because it has a you-involuntarily-gasp-as-you-comprehend-the-final-sentence ending. So turn off the tv, settle into the comfy chair with your laptop, and get ready for a mindjob. For those of you who have read it, f-you for not telling me about it sooner.
Images: Above: Me with my orange hat that, if I still owned it, would be worn on every cold morning commute! Bottom: I took this photo of Sean Carroll, physicist and theorist from Los Angeles, giving a lecture on dark matter at a ranch in northern Wyoming.