…The National, you should check them out. They’ve been in perma-rotation on my iPod for a few years now, and “Green Gloves” is one of my all-time favorite songs in the world. No matter how many times I hear it, it still gives me the same shivery feeling. Matt Berninger’s voice is killer, and I wish he could sing me to sleep every night. All of their albums are equally great (in my opinion), so pick one, and enjoy. You’re welcome.
I read an article this weekend, and it honestly escapes me exactly where, about a workshop held for teenagers regarding healthy breakups. I thought this was a pretty novel concept, given that I had no idea how to handle my first breakup, at seventeen years old. I treated it as some sort of death, walking around in a haze, assured my life was over. Given, I know now that this is how most young people treat that first experience, having nothing to compare it to. But how nice it would’ve been to have peer-driven dialogue and objective facilitation on the topic. I would’ve loved to have known that it was normal for me to be reduced to snot and tears at the discovery of a left-behind t-shirt (tie dye, by the way-ew), or to feel like my stomach was going to explode at the inadvertent eye contact made in a high school hallway with the Dreaded Ex. But these feelings blindsided me. I had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you, it sucked.
However, the Dreaded Ex became less dreadful, and eventually, an acquaintance. And the stinging memory of it became sort of laughable, in that God, I was ridiculous sort of way. And, on life goes. But man, do kids now have so many more tools at their disposal, when it’s time to cut someone loose. Or, to simply torture said partner with, until they are driven to end the relationship. I would have never, EVER survived high school, if texting and facebook existed. I mean, how do kids focus on anything besides the intracacies of electronic high school relationship betrayal? One boy interviewed for the article said that when it’s time to dump a girl, he simply changes his facebook relationship status to “single”, leaving the young woman in question to discover this on her own (unless a
meddling concerned third party discovers it first, during which time he/she will eagerly share the information). A number of the kids felt it was completely appropriate to end a relationship this way, or via text message. Are you kidding me? Look, I’m as non-confrontational as the next person (perhaps more so), but I feel like this is one of the times in life when you DESERVE to be uncomfortable. After all, you’re about to inflict emotional pain (and possible weight gain, depending on whether they decide to eat their feelings) on another person, so a few minutes of awkward, frank conversation is a fair trade, I’d say. People are owed that.
As I read along, I realized-kids don’t need a healthy breakups workshop, they need a healthy social skills workshop. And tech-savvy adults need a refresher course. Life is so embedded in electronics and technology that people are losing their ability to connect in real life with the people on the other side of the screen. And that extends way beyond childish breakup moves-these are practices that are becoming ingrained as normal and more or less universally acceptable. I myself am even guilty of it-I admit that I would much rather conduct a conversation via email, than telephone. It’s something I have to constantly be aware of, and move past. And don’t even get me started on the feelings I have when I misplace my iPhone. It’s shaming.
So, my thoughts are this: look away from the bright light (of a backlit screen) once in awhile. Make some eye contact, have a conversation. Read social subtleties, instead of trying to piece together someone’s tone via text. I think we’d be surprised to discover that our counterparts on this earth are (mostly )pretty amazing in real life. And kids-as hard as it is, take the time to tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you’re making out with their best friend,face-to-face. It’ll make you feel like slightly less of a dirtball, and will provide you with the right amount of conscience-battering you deserve. Don’t make them wait to find out until they update their status feed.
“I have come to the full-on decision, Dad, that I don’t think I’m going to have kids. Ever. It’s just not me,” I said to my father, slowly, anticipating the But-I-need-more-grandchildren! response. Both of my parents have always communicated this idea that life is much more valid with children. I happen to find it much more valid with free time, quiet, a flexible schedule, and only one giant, stubborn ego to battle with (my own). So, agreeing to disagree has been the name of the game.
Steve’s response was this: “That’s fine. Kids aren’t for everyone. Besides, you’re too old to start having kids now, anyway.” Totally serious. Whaaaa? If this is some sort of reverse psychological move, this attacking my age, in order to trick me into having a child, consider yourself denied, Pop. BOOM. DENIED. But no, he was serious. I don’t know what motivated this change in thought, but I’d venture to guess that these proclamations of desiring a child-free life carry more weight coming from your 30 year old daughter, rather than that same daughter at 20. Life is a bit more figured out, you know who you are. I think he recognizes that.
It just doesn’t seem like anyone else recognizes that. I have entered the space in my life where, when talking to someone that happens to be a parent, I hear-“So, when are you going to have a little one?”, “Time’s ticking!”, or “Don’t you want one of your own?”, almost weekly. I DO have one of my own. She weighs 80lbs, sheds hair all over my house, eats paper towels, and chews my glasses under the dining room table. That’s enough for me. As much as I like to say that this incessant focus on children doesn’t bother me, it does. I don’t like being made to feel bad, or somehow selfish, for not wanting children.
Look, I love kids. Adore them, even. And because I love kids, I elect not to have any, because I also love my life, and it’s a life that isn’t conducive to properly nuturing and raising a child, at this juncture. It’s something I never envisioned myself doing, and I just don’t know if I have the capacity to be THAT responsible for someone else. Whenever I encounter a tantrum-throwing toddler, my anxiety instantly ratches up to 1000%, and then I hear the inevitable, “Yeah, but it’s different when it’s your own child.” This isn’t a comforting thought for me, because all I hear is, “Yeah, but it’s WORSE when it’s your own child, because you can’t safely give it back and walk away.”
I know the response that this is going to elicit in some people, and so, what I need to make clear is that I am in no way saying that choosing to have children, and raise a family is a somehow less valid way of life. I respect and admire people who choose to be parents, and are doing amazing jobs at cultivating these outstanding, loving, socially-responsible little people. I think it’s one of (if not the most)important roles that people will ever play in life, and also one of the hardest. I, on the other hand, cannot even properly iron a crease into a pair of pants, let alone handle the pressure of raising well-rounded, emotionally mature children. I can, however, walk my dog semi-sporadically, feed her everyday, and forgive her (begrudgingly) for eating yet ANOTHER possession of mine (RIP, laptop power cord). I guess family looks different to everyone, and the one we’ve created looks pretty good to me.
Henry and I were snuggled up this weekend, watching the parade for a local community festival, when he yelled, out of nowhere, “It’s raining men!” Andy and I looked at each other, and I said, laughing, “No, Hank, it’s not that kind of parade.” So, of course, he asked, “Well, what kind of parade would you say that at?” You would think by now that I’d know not to make dismissive jokes in front of this child, assuming he won’t pursue the issue. Andy, matter-of-factly, replied, “At a pride parade.” Hank turned to me, and said, “What’s pride mean?” I told him, “If you are proud of who you are, then it means you have pride in yourself. And a pride parade is where groups of people celebrate being happy about who they are, and about who others are.” He thought for a minute, and then said, “I think EVERYONE should be in a pride parade, and be happy about themselves. Why not?” He shrugged, and turned his attention back to the events at hand.
I wish everyone had that kind of open heart.
So, Friday night, I’m sauntering up to bed, checking out facebook on my phone, and a photographer that I follow posted this video. Of course, anytime I see the words “Ira” and “Glass” together, I’m instantly interested. Everyone knows how much I adore Mr. Glass, and the work he does. I listened to it, and it was like he was speaking directly to me. This could not have come at a more critical time, because what he spoke of is precisely what I’m experiencing. I’m up to my eyeballs in creative ambition; namely, photography and writing, and storytelling via those mediums. It’s so much of what I think about everyday. But those disconnects he speaks of? I’m the physical embodiment of them. I feel like I’m on this perpetual ledge, forever wanting to step off, jump off even, into this world of creative work, but I’m practically paralyzed by the inability (in my mind) to develop something compelling. *I* might find it compelling, but will anyone else? The (brief) forays I’ve made thus far into these worlds feel..disappointing. I may take a ton of pictures in a given day, but only 6 make the cut, and of those, I’m only mildly happy with 2. Or I spend all this time writing, only to post, or re-read it later, and say to myself, “What the hell was I THINKING?” I want to create photographs that haunt like Darcy Padilla’s, write words that are quiet, yet powerful, as Joan Didion does so gracefully. I want to give people and places a voice through my work. But it feels like a space I’ll never get to.
But Ira Glass, in all his geeky, warm splendor, made it so simple for me: it’s going to take awhile, sister. Get comfortable. Push through it. Even if it’s not so pretty. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Keep on going, until I create something beautiful.