Monday, June 14, 2010

Winds of Change

That's me from 2001, almost ten years ago. Young, dumb and full of, well, you know.

Thing is, I never had to exercise back then. I ate crap, I spent money like I had a tree somewhere, I traveled, I had a car and a girl who loved me. I suppose that's what everyone has when they're 25. What no 25 year-old realizes is where it all goes. Same place as all that hair I had in this photo?

It's easy for me to look back and think, "What a total dork I was." I mean, utterly clueless, no perspective, arrogant, and that girl I mentioned who loved me? Yeah, she had me whipped. I really had it all.

But it's also becoming easier and easier for me to look back at that guy and wonder really if he had it better. I used to think, "Hell no. I've got it all over that guy." But looking at my scarred body, my fading looks, my shaved head, I have to ponder. Sure, I have that all-important perspective, and at least the arrogance is long gone, but so is the money I used to throw around, the girl and the cocky smile you see there. The young man in the photo is dead, replaced by a grizzled veteran, tired and bitter.

This is how it is, I guess. Maybe this is why people have children, so they can hang on to their youth a little bit longer by living through their kids. I'm not going down that road, so the question is how to stave off this inevitable? Or more importantly, how not to care when it does happen.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Friend Indeed.

I'm not going to get all preachy here (I hope), but I think the term "friendship" has taken on different meanings in the last few years, with the outbreak of social networking and all that. Really, who would have imagined that the word friend would become a verb? As in, "Friend me," or "That creepy guy friended me on facebook." Like love, the word has lost a lot of meaning due to this overuse. Let's face it, how many of your facebook friends are people you feel affection or personal regard for, or would even buy lunch?

Well, personally, I have affection and personal regard for a select group of people whom I consider true friends, a distinction they have all earned. However, one of them in particular fits my definition of what a friend should be perhaps more than the rest. This person would no doubt jump in front of a bus for one of her friends, although thankfully, that's never been proven. She is someone with the willingness to help anyone in need, and the passion to get it done. In fact, she probably has more passion for life in her pinkie toe than I have in my whole body. She is cute and funny and smart and driven and very, very concerned for those less fortunate and people who don't wear helmets while biking.

And she's moving away.

In the summer of 2003, when I was going my lowest point in life, Melissa started working in the main office of my building. I learned that she was a Quincy resident, but when I informed her of this (slightly excited to be living in my own apartment), she said, "I'm sorry." Bubble burst, for sure, but she was right.

Years before social networking, Melissa and I became friends. It was a time I surely needed it, but I won't take any credit for it. The reason we initially became friends was because she kept including me in all of her stuff (which usually involved drinking). It was a new thing for me, having just come out of an insular long-term relationship. It was just through the benevolence of Melissa that I had any life at all. I shudder to think how I would have gotten through that rough patch if I had to sit around my studio every night.

And those are true friends for you: they are there when you need them most. All it took was her saying, "Want to come over tonight? We're watching the game." or whatever, but it meant a lot to me. Those late night drinking sessions at the Sunset Cantina will always go down as some of the best times of my life. I watched Game 4 of the 2004 World Series at her apartment. I went on my first camping trip because she invited me, plus my first canoe trip, my first U.S. Open, winery tour and my first protest in support of same-sex marriage. An eclectic list, to say the least. Some of my fond memories:

* After a particularly epic session at the Cantina, no one in our group noticed that the gratuity was included on our bill, so we ended up doubling the tip. Melissa went in for lunch the next day, and our waitress from the previous night said, "Nice tip last night." Slightly embarrassing, but I'm sure she earned it.

* When Melissa invited me to go with her to the State House to support the same-sex marriage bill, she asked me, "You know why gay people want to get married, right?" I said, "Melissa, I don't know why anyone wants to get married, but I'm all for freedom." It was a cold, crazy day out there, and an interesting experience to say the least, but the best part was later that night, Melissa e-mailed me to thank me for going with her. Truly, I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

* When Melissa and I lived near each other in Quincy, she was out sick one day, but called me to ask if I would bring home a package she had delivered to her office. I was shocked to discover that the package was from Good Vibrations, goodies she had ordered when she had hosted a sex-toy party. I just knew that was the day I was going to get hit by the bus on my way home, and they would give my mother the package, and she would be horrified. believe me, I taped the Hell out of that package before I left the building.

Obviously, there are many, many more. It's been a great seven years. I know I had some sour moments in there, when Melissa wasn't exactly pleased with some of my immature comments, so I apologize for all of that. But overall, I think we've both come a long way over the last seven years, and I know Melissa will do well in her new job and new life. I'm fairly certain we'll see each other again, but it will be destination programming, which will hopefully make our times together that much funner. But knowing that she isn't right down the street will make me sad. Someone like her only comes along every thousand lifetimes, and I feel fortunate to have shared a few beers with her. Although, in retrospect, and mostly due to her outgoing, unrestrained, downright spazzy passion, I think we've shared a lot more than that.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The System

I don't want to get too much into other people's biz, but a lot has happened in Academic Year 2009-10. Not to me, but it has happened. Back in February, I wrote this:
If Future Me came to Present Me on February17, 2005 and told Present Me (who is Present Me 2010, if you follow Me) that the people that I know that are getting married would be getting married and the people that are splitting up are splitting up and the people that are having children would be having children, well, I'd think that Present Me had to lay off the booze because Future Me is obviously feeling the effects.
That is all still true. The marriages and the break-ups are on-going. And I think Old Me (Or perhaps, more accurately, Young Me. Old me and Present Me are probably more alike than I want to believe.) would have claimed that these break-ups were inevitable. That all relationships are doomed to failure. I might have even felt slightly vindicated.

Well, I don't feel those things. I'm not happy, about the marriages or the break-ups to be honest. Even with this new evidence that maybe Young Me was right, I don't feel vindicated, merely confused. Should I feel happy that my friend tells me he's getting divorced, and may not marry again in his life? In fact, a couple of my married friends have told me that, if something were to happen to their spouse, they probably wouldn't get married again, either, and not because they would be mourning their loss. They don't know what all the hullabaloo is about, I guess.

I don't really even know what to feel. For years, I've ranted and raved about the pitfalls of relationships and marriage, and screamed to the heavens or anyone who would listen that it would never be me. meanwhile, somewhere deep in my psyche, I assumed it would, and I probably wanted it to be. Why else would I continually put myself out there? I'll tell you: because we were raised to believe it, and deep down I wanted to believe it. Now, I'm not so sure.

Maybe the whole system is just fucked up. Maybe the whole idea is just old-school, like VCR's or the Catholic Church. Maybe it's people over-thinking, or being selfish, or not compromising, or being cynical. Of course, those all can also describe me, and Young Me, and Present Me, and probably Future Me. But maybe they can describe other people, too. Maybe we're all a little too Me-centric to have successful marriages and be decent parents. Obviously, not everyone is like this, but at least some of the divorcees and breaker-uppers are. And maybe that's not a bad thing.

let me climb up on my soap-box one more time here and posit this; I think, as a society, we need to re-evaluate our expectations. Most of us were raised to believe that we had to go to school so we could get a job and become respectable people and bring home a decent paycheck so we could provide for our loved ones. I've heard people say they feel they were put on this Earth to have children. I never got that. first of all, I don't think anyone was put on this Earth to do anything. We just happened, randomly. So, why the expectations? Is it just because we like to have things? "This is my wife/husband/son/daughter." I really have no idea.

I think we must take the advice of Yoda and unlearn what we have learned. My boss likes to joke that the concept of marriage was invented when people only lived until their forties, so no one really had to live with another person for that long. It's cynical, but true to an extent. I think the reality is that society doesn't work the way it once did, and we need to re-evaluate why we do the things we do. Times have changed, and we need to change with it. Or risk being turned to the Dark Side.