Longing For Adulthood…Or, WTF Was My Hurry?
I spent most of my high school years yearning for an all access laminate, a cherished back stage pass into the adult world. It held such mystique for me. I was bored with school, tired of my own voice, and longing to get out from under what always seemed to me to be the yoke of adults trying to control me. I wanted to drive the chuck wagon. I ached to hold the reins, to feel the freedom that I felt every time I LEFT a classroom. Like Andy escaping from Shawshank, I would have crawled through hundreds of yards of foul smelling fecal matter to get out of there.
Anyway, I was sort of privy to what adulthood entailed. I watched as they drank with impunity, smoked cigarettes, cursed without fear of reprisal, and otherwise behaved in ways that would get me, at the very least, reprimanded. For lack of a better word, their world looked ‘cool’.
I remember standing outside on a misty, foggy afternoon behind the boys locker room in high school, as two upper classmen who’d kind of taken me under their wings, skipped their P.E. class to go to their jobs. Jobs. It sounded so grownup. Their particular job was, upon reflection, hardly stimulating. They tooled around The Green Grocer, Joe Carcione’s San Bruno warehouse, cruising forklifts over the polished floor, loading and unloading fruits and vegetables. They spoke in the locker room as if the job was a pain in the ass, but it was clear they wore it as a badge of responsibility and adulthood many 17 year olds did not have. I was envious. San Bruno may as well have been Shangri La for all I knew. For however many hours, these two peers were escaping the jail known as school.
There is an irony folded into this. The adult figures in my life were not people that I admired. Many were underwhelming and disappointing. Why would I want to join them?
It was their environment that lured me. I figured, accurately as it turned out, that I could make my own way, carve my own path, choose my own drink and double up on my own choice of swear words. If I bumped into a so-called adult who was worthy of hanging out, even then as a teenager, I was cynical enough to realize that would be gravy.
One summer before my junior year, a group of seniors let me hang with them at their parties. A couple of these guys saw the potential I had, knew I could keep my yap shut, and perceived an opportunity, given that I was the statistics keeper for the varsity basketball team, of possibly gilding their own lily. And yes, I gave all of these guys the benefit of the doubt when tallying their accomplishments.
My idealistic, and ultimately naive view of what adulthood entailed was revealed to me quickly. I so wanted independence, I graduated early, moved out at age 17, got a job and an apartment, and realized almost immediately some rather unsettling things.
Having a job wasn’t all that different from school, except the money. There still was “The Man”, now known as boss instead of teacher. There still were the time constraints of having to be some place at a certain time, or else. The yoke was still there. The cage may have been slightly bigger, and the bones a little tastier, but I was still a kept hound.
The clipped wings of my childhood were not growing back.
Falling in love and quickly moving in with an older woman proved to be lovely and frustrating at the same time. I had no tools in my belt to navigate through the choppy waters of young love. My holster was empty when it came to the give and take that is necessary in any relationship. She was, is, a lovely lady, now back in my life thanks to the internet. But we were fish out of water in those 3 years we stayed together.
I remember waking up one morning and thinking, bleakly, “THIS is what being a grown up is? This sucks!”
Part of me thinks this can be simplified as the typical youthful, ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. I had no sage counsel as a teenager to intone quietly behind me as I watched those two boys drive off to haul fruit, “Be careful what you wish for, young man. You might just get it”.
Adulthood, like childhood, hell like life, is a series of compromises. No one gets the brass ring all the time.
So, I just sip my martini, light my cigar, look at my lounging hound and raise my glass.