Twelve years ago, a month or so after graduating high school, I told my parents I was going out to join a few friends in Oak Park to rollerblade. I took the old and trustworthy Toyota, picked up Kristen who wasn’t within blading distance of the park, and met the other friend Chris at the park. We killed an hour or so just toodling around the park, talking about whatever inane topic of the evening that it was, and just had fun. We were taking the last lap around and I decided to work up some speed, sending me into a knee-crashing wipeout on a downslope. The asphalt tore up my knee pretty badly; the blood was oozing down my shins at a decent rate.
We got back to my pickup, I scoured the glove compartment for some fast food napkins, and got to applying pressure to my knee (and cleaning up the rest of the mess on my shins). We sat in the pickup bed for another hour or two, continuing our obviously important conversation pieces well into the dusk. It wasn’t until the City of Minot PD car came rolling through that we suddenly realized, “oh, right, the parks close at 10pm!” In lieu of having the police officer join us in our discussion, we packed up and got into the pickup cab. We decided the night was still young, and set out for Ryan’s Family Diner1.
Entertaining our usual diner affair with fried mozzarella sticks and a glut of weak (albeit tasty) diner coffee, we proceeded to crush the night. Conversation after conversation, we meandered our way effortlessly from story to discussion to postulation. The theme of the night to this point was the inability to keep track of time, and we stuck with that plan of action, whether it be intentional or not. Six hours later, Kristen noted that the creepy-crawl of the dawn sun was making itself known over the horizon. The realization set in; nearly ten hours later, we were all still out, and morning was kicking in. Oooops…
I drove Chris and Kristen both home. I have no idea if their parents were awake when they snuck back into their respective houses. I wondered if they were fearing a reaming out like I was. I had never done anything like this before. My parents had always expected me either gone for an entire night at a friend’s or function’s establishment, or expected me back in around midnight or so. As I drove up to my own house I could see that my father was already awake and into his morning routine, as indicated by the lights on in the house2. The dread was setting in.
Turning the deadbolt and knob locks as quietly as possible, I snuck into the house and hoped that the dogs were still in a sleepy stupor. Thankfully yes, and my father was in the shower, so I snuck into my bedroom (which already had a closed door), and attempted to feign my sleeping presence. Until I heard my mother coming down the stairs, followed by a rapid rapping on my bedroom door. Oh. Shit. There she stood, no glasses, bathrobe-wrapped, and her general state of early-morning irritable.
Jamie! Where the hell were you all night?!?
*sheepish and embarassed* We got caught up after rollerblading. I skinned my knee, had to stop that bleeding, and we went to Ryan’s afterwards…sorry!” *insert gulp of concern*
The least you could have done was at least tell us where you were! *exasperated sigh, shakes head, and just goes back upstairs*
*dumb-founded look on my face*
My father finished his shower, went upstairs to finish putting his BDUs on, and then came back down to have a brief discussion with me. He’s always been the chillax parent (almost too relaxed at times), and just wanted to convey that they know I’ll be okay out on my own and whatnot, and they’ll trust that, but they just want me to check in and let them know. Help keep the anxiety and concern down, so they don’t have to worry about the unexpected if it’s not necessary.
This was when I finally learned that I was relegated into a whole different league of personal responsibility than I ever thought I was allowed into. My parents had resigned me into the ‘responsible adult’ category with some minor stipulations, and I had never realized I was now entrusted with such freedoms. I had inadvertently transitioned from the ‘high school kid’ to the ‘you’re on your own kid.’
Return to the present. I’m burdened down with a glut of mental anvils. I’m wrapping up a divorce. I’m still working my way through grad school. I’m still floundering around in relationships3, I have no fiscal reservoir for stability as a graduate student, and I have my own personal haunts associated with a bunch of these that have lingered since my college days. Every day I wake up, my head spins with everything that I’m worrying about myself, and what other people must think of me having to deal with this stuff.
Tuesday night, I got to watch Mr. Rizzo get on-stage for Kristen Becker’s Doin’ Time at Nietzsche’s. I’d be mortified to get up on stage and do stand-up comedy. Yet somehow he manages to. He puts all his insecurities aside, and gets up there to make people laugh, whether it works or not.
I’ve learned that so much of life is presentation to others. You don’t even have to hide what you’re insecurities are in life; if you embrace them and incorporate them, they come back together and make you whole. This came apparent in talking with Rizzo, Wolcott, and Callahan after stand-up, when we went to get some dinner at The Towne. Just the subtle jokes about insecurities, and how everyone is still dealing with trying to not come off as having a case of the crazy, made me realize (yet again) just how much I over-think my own issues.
I somehow got randomly wrapped into the threesome conversation of jokes, and was told “Jamie seems to know what he’s doing; he’s got it together.” This wasn’t really aimed at life in general (more specifically relationships), but it made me stop and think. Maybe I really do have it together. Not as together as I’d ideally like to think, but perhaps by normal standards it really is.
I’ve put myself on a whole different level of standards for so long. I don’t even really know what most people shoot for. Between those, I think it’s time to quit worrying about all those self-imposed standards I’ve instituted because I need to look fine to everyone else. I felt I was slipping on all those standards, but everyone thinks I’m doing fine. And really, I am doing fine. I’ve got student loans. I’m still not done with graduate school after five years. My income is low enough I have to have a roommate to get by comfortably. I’m 30, and I still don’t have a permanent career-type job.
Instead now, I’m coming to realize the following. That, I may have loans, but I know how to manage my debt. I may not be graduated, but I’m finally in that last year to allow me to graduate. I may not make much, but get by comfortably thanks to a quirky and accepting roommate. I may not have a permanent career, but I’m lining myself up (over a decade) to really do work I love: asking why things work the way they do. And I may be flummoxing around mentally in relationships, but I’ve (mostly) got my shit together for them, and improving with every little step along the way.
And so the transmogrification happens again…the realization that I’m just an unstable particle in my own life, flailing wildly about, am finally releasing my anxious energy, and stabilizing into a predictable, stable orbit that is me.
Wow. I really did end that with a quantum physics analogy. *smirk*
1Which, sadly, closed during my college years. I was terribly saddened to find this out.
2Working for the Air Force, my father got into a very regular routine of waking up at ludicrously early hours (e.g. 3:30-4am) and leaving for work by 5:30am.
3Floundering, as in thinking I have no idea what I’m doing. I never dated until college. And even once I got there, rapid-fire failures of a few quick relationships eventually scared me off from them. And now here I am, ten years later trying to find myself love once again…