Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Growing Up

The last year has been a lot of change for me. First time having my own place (correction: our own), first time owning furniture, buying dishes, pots, pans, a vacuum cleaner, a new mattress, a car, becoming a manager at work, applying to grad school. Lots of adult-like things involving such abstractions as logistics, money and responsibility. Let me say this is a process I've been engaged in. That this is happening because it is what feels and seems right at this point in my life. It is the place I've ended up 5 years after following out the ideas I left college with, seeing where they went, seeing their fault lines, contradictions and failings and... going deeper? Anyway, becoming an adult. In what I'd like to emphasize is a continuation of a process of living intentionally and trying to be honest with and true to myself.

The thing about right now that is strange is I am in a very different position than many of my friends. I have a lot of friends from college who are very much living creative, loose, traveling, working a little here and there, no health care, making art, being wild, playful, creative, feeling-oriented lives. I love these people, and the time in which I was living that life with them was the best I've ever felt. It was nothing less than salvation. It was an answer to the stiff, soulless suburban world in which I'd grown up. I place an enormous value on these friendships and want to maintain them, but, for the last year, every time I see an old friend, I end up feeling sad, disoriented, frustrated, inadequate and ultimately just confused.

I have no idea how to balance these forces in myself or the world. On the one hand, I feel almost stupid, in retrospect, for taking this long to take a more active role in my life, to realize I have abilities I can exploit to improve my position and live the life I want to live, and to leverage my education and privilege to make this happen. I feel silly for going to an extremely expensive college in the first place and willfully denying any thoughts about the future. What are you going to do with a creative writing major? It didn't matter. What mattered was that that was what I was feeling then, what I wanted to do. Are you going to go into journalism? I hated that. People who had no idea what creative writing was grappling for a practical application, desperately trying to give you a way to seem respectable, showing their embarrassment for you with their confusion. I sort of wish I had thought seriously about journalism now, but no, I was writing weird subconscious poetry. And learning about life. I don't regret it, but it was an expensive opportunity that most people aren't granted.

So there's that. The why haven't you made something of yourself sort of track. The time spent going around and around in circles about not contributing to the destructive economy, being militant about not living in ways that destroy the earth, not owning a car and spending half a day just to get groceries, all the hours and hours spent in the kitchen and in house meetings arguing about something - whatever - who can even remember now? And then there's wondering if I'm slowly slipping back into the suburbs through the back door. If my desire to have a family, make a middle class income, have meaningful work, have health benefits, have good quality material possessions, etc is leading me into a logical chain that will put me right back where my parents were, wanting the best for their kids, raising kids that were depressed and couldn't wait to get out of the suburbs.

I feel... flat, empty compared to how I was college. It was a wild, exciting time, and I gave myself over to it completely. Oberlin was this magical little snow globe completely removed from what you would normally think of as reality. Who would have known an otherwise uninspiring town in rural Ohio would be the perfect place to just explode? I have such stories. Dropping trou in the middle of lunch to streak prospective student tours going by, the late night naked kitchen crews, the whole semester where we coordinated outrageous and extravagant events to coincide with prospie tours, Kayle hanging upside-down in crab position from the ceiling in Harkness throat singing at full volume and looking like a giant alien frog on the living room ceiling, covering all the windows in the dining room with cardboard, playing black metal full volume and serving trays of broken glass for a special meal, shouting out loud the entirety of Ginsberg's Howl in public space several times, staying up 80 hours straight to see what would happen, climbing every climbable building on campus and breaking into pools, abandoned buildings, HVAC tunnels and anything else we could find, traveling most of the way to Niagra Falls in the trunk of a car (too many passengers) to arrive at 5 in the morning and begin the return trip, so many conversations about art and life and figuring ourselves out, almost none about politics or ideas in the classical sense. Just all these things that I will carry with me forever, that are in no way a part of my life right now.

And I wonder if I'll ever make new experiences on par with these. I wonder if it's possible to become an adult and do such things. It seems to me that my friends are living in denial, ignoring some of the hard questions about the future and life to continue living in the way that feels the best. But this doesn't keep me from feeling somewhat lonely for it, and disoriented. I know this is a very different set of conflicts than most people are presented with. I think most people aren't even aware that this wild, radical world exists. The Burning Man, Rainbow Gathering, dumpster-diving, co-op house, consensus model, vegan, anti-capitalist, buy nothing, gray water recycling lifestyle. I think a lot of people accept the apparent reality that life is boring and lonely and the best we can hope for is to have a couple good friends who understand us, a nice phone with a lot of apps, go out to the bar a couple times a week, get laid once in a while, and numb ourselves with alcohol and TV. I feel grateful that I've seen what an alternate world can look like. But I can't deny that I'm living in this one, and it's just so hard to reconcile the two.