I saw an old friend on New Year’s Eve at a non-traditional rap concert (college educated white and Asian rappers). He was standing in the middle of the crowd alone.
The way he stood reminded me of an event a few weeks ago. I was driving back home from breakfast and a buck – like Bambi’s dad - was standing in the middle of the highway access road as cars swerved around him. He wasn't dumbstruck or stiff-boned, he wasn’t shaking violently inside of himself, unable to act - the way most deer do. He was just there, still, letting the wind from the cars thread between the bristles of his hair. He was a delta of confidence all the rest of us tried to avoid.
My friend stood this way and gave me one of those looks that could have either been drunkenness or knowing wisdom. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries and moved on.
Sometimes when you go home, you realize you’ve lost something without even knowing it.
You see places that had an impact on you once and now, they're just places. What is it about places and age and the inverse relationship they have with one another? Do places all of the sudden stop meaning things or do we stop looking for ways to allow them to mean something? Think of old football fields, or woods or back alleys or trees or back yards or attics or theater prop closets - somehow they seem to lose meaning with time. Somehow they lose their luster and become spaces and tracts of land and solitary locations under the same sky. Somehow they change and somehow we do as well.
Just a few years ago, it seems, we had an unconscious understanding that each impression was going to slowly become less memorable and so, innately, I think we valued them more. And when you bump into someone from your past in the grocery store, I think you both know it. Though it may not really register in our minds, I think we see the past in them. I think we see the tracks of experiences dug into their face, the way age and time and harder things have chiseled something new into the timeline of their lives. And it's easy to think that people really haven't dealt with difficult things - and, for the most part, they probably haven’t - I don't think any of my friends has dealt with hunger or life threatening danger. But then again, sometimes the world is just against you. Sometimes it's hard at you, right at the throat, and for the life of you, you can't figure out why you can't catch a break.
And I think that ages people and makes them lose a little bit of hope.
We see that slow aging in others and we're afraid to admit it. We're afraid to admit that, yes, us too - life happened to us too. We lost some of our invincibility. We lost the rubber in our bones. Somewhere along the way our tears got hot. Someplace back there it was too difficult to believe anymore. Somewhere, and who knows, maybe this happens all at the same time - somewhere back there it was easier to roll over and take it. It was easier to say yes along with everyone else.
Or, to say no.
It was easier to keep the windows up and the doors locked and it was easier to keep our eyes straight forward.
Between intelligent rap lyrics about how hard life is for us overly emotional, overly medicated and overly stressed post quarter-life crisis twenty and thirty somethings, I pulled strings on poppers to explode confetti into the air.
I wonder how many other folks ran into a high school friend and I wonder how many other folks realized that here, in the new year, despite what they think – they might willingly lose a little more of the drunkenness of youth. If they aren’t careful, they might move a little closer to the soberness adulthood. And when I say adulthood, I really mean the gradual demystification of places, interactions and moments.