If my teenage life had a theme song it would have been The Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. Maybe I listened to too much new wave music or maybe it was just my adolescent hormones raging, but I was, on even my very best days, an angry wild child with a penchant for bad behavior. This is probably why my favorite statement when things aren’t going my way is still, “That’s it. I’m off to hang myself in the shower.” It’s a generational thing. We were raised on railing against the system. Still, against all odds, I’ve evolved over the years (much to the delight of my parents and childhood friends) and have grown into someone who is cautiously, and sometimes forcibly, optimistic.
While sifting through old writings recently, I came across several random thoughts from different periods of my life. These were written on scraps of paper tucked into old journals or napkins from the bar and were probably crafted (with the exception of the last one) with a cigarette in one hand and a stiff Belvedere and soda in the other. They illustrate perfectly the stages of my life and I’ve included them here for your reading pleasure:
Fatalistic teenager: There are some things in life, I think, that no matter how badly you may want them just weren’t meant to be. Never the right time, never the right place. Something steadfast and ceaseless standing in the way of that thing you most desire. Fate, kismet, whatever sweeps in and brushes away your dreams. Life is full of these untouchable dreams. Look around you on the subway, in the mall, wherever the daily grind of life takes you. You’ll see it in the eyes of men and women as they stroll by. That longing stare, that dream hidden just behind those vacant eyes. The same momentous thought playing out in each of their minds, “Whoever said, ‘Life is what you make it’ was a fucking liar … life isn’t what you make it … life is what happens while you’re caught up in a daydream.”
Philosophical 20-something: There is no absolute truth, only individual perceptions of reality.
Optimistic adult: Sometimes the best things in life aren’t the things you’ve known you wanted all along but the things you happen upon along the way.
There is no grand lesson here except maybe that teenagers suck and, as people, we only get better with age. I know I did. I encourage you to dig out your old boxes and see what nuggets you uncover on your walk down memory lane. You may just find a new version of yourself you didn’t even know existed. Hell, I wouldn’t have called my current self ‘optimistic’ (even cautiously) until reading the old writings. I guess sometimes it really is about perception of reality after all. Thank you 20-something me for that valuable lesson.