Underthecurrent


Meeting the Person You Wanted to Be at a Party Ten Years Later
September 21, 2015, 12:47 am
Filed under: insight | Tags:

It’s a row of glasses, never empty, but the party still veers into small talk.  Some of us knew each other way back, and the conversation gets more interesting there; years of gossip to review and compare notes on.

Recognizable, immediately (it’s been a decade), it’s her.  She’s out here, living in this part of the world.  She’s at this party, now.  It’s her. Her.

Then she was at the top of every list; she would always be one of the ones that made it.  The perfect resume: extracurriculars, references, connections, reputation.  It was obvious that grad schools would roll out the fully funded red carpet for her, that her peers loved her; everything she did just seemed right.  I was just finishing being a teenager and took note, modelling some of my own choices after what was observed, making some of the same connections.  Who to talk to, how to move in certain circles.  Before I had fully formed the conclusion that nobody gets it perfect, she represented something to become – she was one of the last people that I really remember aspiring to be like.

We started talking, she did not seem aware of my past idolization.  Thank god.

She did make it all the way through and is now working in the field I wanted to be in.  All of those gold stars really did work out into a qualification.  There was a short, sharp twinge of what if?  What if I had followed that path a little further.

“You were part of that club, right? On the student counsel?  I barely remember.  I must have been drinking a lot,” she said, unironically.

“Yeah, I switched out the year after you graduated.”  We talked about what I ended up doing instead.

“Huh, yeah.  Do you like your job now?”  She asked.  I answered honestly, which is to say, not really.

She suddenly revealed regret having ever pursued grad school, let alone all the way through.  A flurry of things were mentioned – student debt, not really liking work now.  She was deeply, visibily unhappy as she talked about it all.  I didn’t know what to say.  You were supposed to be everything I had missed out on.  She suddenly backed up, the alcohol maybe momentarily clearing to remind her that this was personal information shared with a stranger.  Back to small talk, and eventually we both shuffled on. Later I would throw up in a sink and likely secure my disinvitation to all future parties at this residence, albeit not feeling terrible about this as an overall outcome of the evening.

There isn’t really vindication in correcting these perceptions, or finding out what I had imagined wasn’t so great in reality.  When I was younger, a significant part of my time was spent imagining what things would be like – what it would be like to be other people, what it would be like to go certain places, how it would be to have certain skills or abilities.  There was a sense that there were good things just beyond the horizon.  This fell away, lost to the pragmatism of adulthood and experience.  The thing about believing less in magic is that it is the belief in magic that conjures it up.



Complicated
September 9, 2015, 10:25 pm
Filed under: when I grow up | Tags:

There was this hiatus from everything, caused by living out of a bag, for years.  Nothing could really be purchased for a hypothetical future – no giant jars of vitamins for when I would eventually be healthier and take vitamins, no clothes for places I did not know I would go yet but imagined myself in, no supply of anything to last months.  Books were read and swapped, magazines digested and shared, soap was bought in single bars.

Moving on required a careful consideration of everything going back in the bag, and generally, a purge.  Do you love it enough to carry it?  Need it enough to keep it?  A laugh seeing pictures of friends wearing things you left behind in a bag somewhere, scavenged like you had from everyone who left before.

Things here were more complicated.  Jobs that needed clothes, the pros and cons of bulk buying, a proliferation of BOGOs and limited-time offers.  Consumerism and clutter crept in, just a bit, things expanding to fill spaces.

It really reached an apex during The Costco Year.

Living close to a Bulk Warehouse of Big Food, the membership cost seemed to be amortized against arguable savings.  The problem with this is that the savings cost is really constructing and storing your own mini-warehouse of dry goods.  The problem with this is that by the 20th serving of zesty hummus, an erstwhile treat has become an unenviable curse. A  garlic-and-tahini flavoured curse.  The problem with this is throwing away some rotting excess that you have watched decay, day after day, overestimating your needs and underestimating the rate of decline.  The problem is the kilos of rice that you will forget to store properly that breed the insects that slowly start to drive you crazy.

And, then, beyond that.  Clothes forgotten about until unearthed in a laundry pile.  A backlog of non essential toiletries.  A stack of partially read periodicals.  Not as much as most, but far beyond what we were comfortable with before.

And then.

The future became real again.  The point where all of this will have to condense, where the elastic band has reached full extension.

The membership was not renewed.

Then, a moratorium on everything.  Socks, underwear, hand cream (which ought to have been subject to a ban already), pants, magazines, miscellany.  Gathering up things that must go, to put in the alley where they always will, carted away by enterprising scrappers and re-sellers.

In the end, I guess, a small bag will wheel out, the same way it came in.  Packed with things that matter, leaving things that used to.