In 1996, I was about to graduate from college and with diploma in hand I was preparing to take on the world. Oh, I had so many plans in play!
First, I was going to disappear, six week or so, into Europe, solo. Then I was going to apply for graduate schools around the country. I wanted to study literature while focusing on my writing (the end game being either I make it successfully as a writer or I end up as a Ph.D. in English Literature). I could see it all in front of me, so solid I could have touched it.
The strange thing is that this year is I seem to be having a lot of flashbacks to that me, that time in my life. It’s like I can’t escape that guy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that version of me. Yeah, he could be a little too over the top in his sarcasm and his opinion of himself, but he was still me.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly where this began. The obvious answer is my high school reunion last year, But to be honest, that really didn’t hit me that hard, I would have rather just spent the weekend someplace with some of my friends than take part in what felt like an awkward reunion special for a TV show.
Maybe it could have also been the death of our first Beastie Boy last year? From the first time, I heard the Beastie Boys, they represented something for me and my friends. We didn’t listen to them all the time, but when we did it was because of a certain mood or a certain feeling about being young dudes we wanted to capture. And now MCA is gone, so when I listen to the music now (which is a lot) it feels like unbottled memories, and the energy is a shadow. A great shadow, granted, but a shadow nonetheless.
Or maybe this is all just related to the fact I turn forty this year. The possible halfway mark. The turned corner. The end of youth. A whole new smack of drama I had not considered before. It’s like in politics when a president starts their second term and the newspapers start talking about how the president needs to think about legacy.
That’s me… I guess I am on legacy time now.
While I happily had more hair than most of the people at my reunion, the fact is I know I am not that young kid anymore. I’ve gone from the point where I get asked for an ID when buying a bottle of wine, to the cashier just not bothering to ask anymore at all (even though they are supposed to).
And, I have noticed when I have been sitting in a chair for a while my back doesn’t seem to have as easy a time as it once did by the sudden shift to get up. A few days ago I got up from the couch after watching a movie and had to stretch my back. My wife asked if I was okay and I realized I was hunched over like an old man.
In a few weeks I will be seeing Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds Five in concert together. I cannot wait! The old CDs are out and dusted off. I almost wish I still had some of the posters I used to adorn my walls with.
I was a fan of Barenaked Ladies before everyone else was in the US. Yup, that is how I am going to look at it. I was the first!
I was throwing boxes of Mac and Cheese at them during their small live shows after the first album (before even the original piano player left). I think I saw them about five times in concert (only saw They Might Be Giants more) and at each show the crowd and size of the theater grew and grew… and then “One Week” came out and all bets were off. They were no longer my secret, my band to take unsuspecting friends to for a fun evening.
The band now is a different band. Steven Page is gone (which still depresses me) and the rest look like me in the mirror, save with more gray hair than me. (Did I mention already my great hair?) Their last album felt a lot more “pop” than the albums I always lean towards as my favorite, but they have gone that way for quite some time in their music. Whatever the case they were always a fun band live.
Now Ben Folds Five… I cannot be more thrilled that these guys are back together. I have seen Ben three times in concert, but never with the full original band. Their first CD (self-titled) was probably my favorite of theirs, but there are songs on “The Autobiography…” that still emotionally move me (for example, “Don’t Change Your Plans”).
One of my all-time favorite concert experiences was with Ben. Through a Ben Folds website, I learned he was giving a small private concert at a bar outside LA (I was going to USC at the time), and my brother and I made a drive down. We sat at a restaurant right near Ben (who was having dinner with Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket… another 1996 flashback! And they are back together too!) and then watched the show.
The funny thing is after the concert, my brother found a bootleg MP3 of the concert. It must have been recorded near us, because I could hear my brother and I singing along to every song. My brother was the one in the right key.
So my music selection is from the past, and in my spare time I watch old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which I wrote about in a post here) and they are twenty years old now too.
So is this how the midlife crisis begins?
Does it begin in waves like this as I struggle with the idea that the end is closer than it was before and now it’s even closer (a slight They Might Be Giants reference)? As pieces by pieces from my past keep coming up to the surface until I am drowning?
Last weekend, I was honored to give the toast at a wedding for some of my dearest friends.
I had known the groom since I was in 6th grade and the bride since I was five and we took swimming lessons together at a pool. (She likes to tell people about the dog at the pool that ate my Boba Fett toy. Seriously, It would be a major collector’s item today! It shot the missile and I had to collect boxtops for it.)
After I gave the toast I was sitting with another friend and I noted offhandedly that the next time I give a toast like that at a wedding it will probably be for one of my kids. Of course, that will be years off, my oldest is just starting Kindergarten, but a personal milestone had passed and I felt it.
I immediately wondered what that Scott would be like? Would he still be healthy? I’m sure he would be an emotional mess, trying his hardest to remember what it felt like to hold that child as they fell asleep. The only thing I can be certain of is that that Scott would have great hair.
…And then I had to go chase my son around the reception.
Every day I can I try to get on my mountain bike; this is also very old school for me. When I was living in apartments and in LA, I never had a chance to do this (or the courage in the big city); but here I am, in a house with a bunch of young kids, a happy wife, and I am biking all the time, listening to the songs of my past (The Beastie Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, and They Might Be Giants) on my headphones.
So here is the question I struggle with, if that version of me from 1996, the real version, saw me… What would he think?
Well, he was all about his writing and life experience, so he would be happy with the books I have written. He would probably be particularly happy that I broke the conundrum of A Jane Austen Daydream and written that one, that book was always on the horizon for me and mammoth in proportions.
He would be happy that I did the LA scene for a bit. I think he would totally love my wife. (Of course, there is the different question of if the 1996 version of my wife would have liked the 1996 version of me…) And my kids are cool and hilarious.
There are probably little things he would nitpick me around (I’m not a Ph.D. or a professor, and my writing career is still a work in progress), and I would have to probably explain slowly exactly what a blog or Twitter is, but I think overall he would be pleased… And really, that is a relief.
Yeah, for as much as I feel like I am living in the past right now, I don’t believe it is because I have lost anything really, save time…
But we are all losing that, right?
If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my published books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, the new A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or Doors and Megan as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!
Since I decided to stop having birthdays at the age of 19 I’m with you. Perfect post!
I turned 50 this year and it has been the one that has me thinking of the past me. My 40th birthday I blew out of the water with 2 Scooby Doo parties and a bowling party. I sailed through it but when 50 hit and I also became a grandmother, wow, what a realization of years passing! Keep writing and enjoy that family of yours! You did good! 🙂
The 40’s…ahh…welcome to the group. Actually it’s great because all those things you just thought you knew in your 20’s and 30’s you actually now know.
That’s a relief. LOL. Cheers!