[BGmusic: Soft Shock by Yeah Yeah Yeahs]
Quote for the day:
Oh, my weeping willow,
Let your leaves fall and return,
Oh darling, the seasons are your friend.
- Sia, Death by Chocolate
You know what I need right now? I need me some perspective. If I could, I would schedule a rendezvous with myself[/selves?] at ages 11, 13, 18, and 30.
We’d meet up at a pizza place, because, you know, everyone likes pizza. 11-13 will have pepperoni while I look on in disgust. 18 will be awed by my ability to abstain from land-animal meat. [That's all I have to impress her. But more on my underwhelmingness later.]
11 likes to break out into Andrew Lloyd Webber songs when she thinks no-one is looking. She daydreams of running away to the wilderness; of shrinking herself and riding her pet hamster James like a horse; of waking up one day with superhuman abilities; of gatecrashing teddy-bear picnics. 11 knows everything in the world yet has experienced nothing. She feels perpetually underestimated by grown-ups, and will be determined that her opinion – solicited or otherwise – be heard. She will comment on 18’s graphic t-shirt: “I don’t get it.” She will like my hair. And we, the weather-worn, will look at 11, see her self-awareness and misplaced sense of invincibility, and envy.
Except for 13. Frizzy-haired 13 will kick 11 under the table for butting in. Ah, 13. I will pat you on the shoulder and whisper in your ear, “Lighten up dear, everything will be okay. This will pass.” And 13 will look up, see what she becomes in ten years, roll her eyes and sigh. I will try to impress her with how cool I’ve become, then quickly realize how insufficient [read: lame] my deemed coolness actually is.
She won’t be the only one disappointed with me.
18 will be disconcerted at my appearance. She will sidle up to me and preach, unblinking, “23, remember the height from which you have fallen. Remember what I stood for. Remember my optimism. You can deal with this the wrong way and destroy yourself in the process, or you can do as you did when you were me, and build yourself from the heartbreak and grow. Remember being alone but unlonely. You can be that again.” I will try to keep my voice steady when I say, “You don’t know where I’ve been, 18. You have no idea how hard it is to…“ Then, right when our eyes begin to well up, 13 will disrupt the conversation with a loud OMG-I-can’t-believe-this-drama sigh, and we’ll quickly change the topic, proceeding to gush about boys while 11 and 13 make retching noises.
30 does not gush about boys, but will be amused by the conversation at the table. We’ll all want to know: What does she do? Is she married? Does she have kids? Pets? But 30, like most imagined future versions of selves, will hold back on the spoilers and not entertain these questions. She will say that she has seen the world, knows what she wants and is on the path to getting it. As I will have done with 13, she’ll reassure me with a “don’t worry, you’ll get there.”
Recently, I learned that the root word of education is educere, which means “to bring out.” Real learning isn’t about putting ideas and skills into someone, but fleshing out the muck to reveal the whole human being underneath. And I wish that this process can be pleasant and smooth-sailing all the time, but I now know that a lot of it involves painful pruning.
I sometimes think that this post-formal-education period has been my lowest, that I have devolved, that I have drifted off-course, and as 18 might say, fallen. But a week ago, a friend of mine told me that I had grown a lot since our first meeting a couple of years ago. I don’t see it, of course, but I hope that he was being sincere and that he’s right.
Some people don’t need a lot of pruning, some can flourish wherever they are put. It would save me a lot of grief if that were true for me, but obviously that’s not the case. I grow slow and not-so-steady, but the bottom line is this: I grow. I need to accept this season, because what if this mess is what I need to bring out the real person?