Somewhere between grades eight and nine everything changed. I mean, things had changed a lot already. Dad was gone, a few years gone, and Mom had turned home into a group home, and I was living in the shed, and I was still awkward and happier in my own company than anyone else’s.
And then the summer of 1979 happened and everything changed. I’d been a straight A student, accelerated classes and all that shit. Somewhere in between June of ’79 and September of ’79 my priorities shifted in ways I didn’t understand. I had my first job, I made a couple friends, and I became aware of a sense of expectation, from Mom and from teachers, that I would just be the same awkward, well-behaved, academically successful, boring kid I had always been.
I learned to resent that expectation, or the sense I had of it, with a hatred that was palpable in everything I did. I was slipping into a depression that would last through every last day of my teens, and would come back for more after the accident until I actually admitted it was there. I was full of rage – at my Dad, at a God that I didn’t even believe in, at Mom for making me live with crazy people, at teachers and principals for being completely obtuse and blind. The angrier I became, the quieter I got, the more I withdrew... The progression was very dependable.
I spent over half of grade eleven and two times through grade twelve in my bedroom or coffee shops, reading, escaping. My escapes into books were at least as profound as any drug trip I’ve ever experienced. Mom always said I lived in a fantasy world of my own, always in my head.
I learned to not finish things as a way to punish those who expected things of me. It was my form of rebellion and individuation. That it was (and is) an ultimately and completely self-defeating form of rebellion was lost on me at the time.
And the problem was me, not anyone else. Mom was doing all she could, Dad was dealing with his own sit, being mad at God made as much sense as being mad at Santa, and teachers and principals deal with common denominators, not individual cases. It was me, and in time I figured that out.
The point is, I didn’t enjoy my teens.
Except grade 12, the first time through, when we put on a production of Cats in drama. I made all of those classes.
Thank Joe Pesci that life begins at forty these days…
The last month or so has been so busy. I won’t apologize. If I was sorry, I’d have posted a note to say, “I’m busy, but I’ll be back.” I knew I’d be back, and surely, after the mild to profound neglect I’ve heaped on TOL from time to time, you’ve come to expect it. Right?
Anyway, there was hockey season to finish, and a tournament, and Gena moved in which meant packing and moving truckloads of stuff, and tons of yoga to do.
But the novel has been collecting dust. I’m within sight of the revision finish line and the process has stalled.
And suddenly I’m concerned that I’m acting like teen-me. Which, in some ways, I am. I’m apparently still learning to re-program the self-sabotage subroutines that I established at age twelve. Some writers call them demons, but I know it’s just me.
So I’m verbalizing my intention, for whatever that’s worth. Revisions will be kicked into gear again, starting now, and I’ll be up for air when I have a manuscript to represent. I am encouraged by the truth that we can learn until the day we die. Yesterday, talking about optimism, Gena noted that our cells are constantly dying and replacing themselves. Constantly. It takes time, but anything can be learned. Or unlearned. We literally become new people every day.
So I’ll be focused elsewhere for a bit. Doesn’t mean I won’t be back before then. Just means I’ll be inconsistent. Like usual, but this time I’m warning you. I guess it means that I’m actually sorry this time.
There came a point in my late twenties, as my marriage was slowly, finally sinking under the waves, that I came to grips with the concept of my own tendency towards metaphorical self-immolation. That realization was one of the last coffin nails in the tragi-comic farce that was my marriage but, obviously, I’m still working on the getting past it thing. There’s time.
Destinations are for amateurs, after all. It’s all about the journey.
P.S. ‘Cept for spellcheck, this is as unedited as it gets. I had to do it this way, get it out and down and let it go. If it’s disjointed, I accept full responsibility.
Also: Then… (holy, they were so young… this is utterly classic)
…and, just for reference, now, because time makes a difference: