Memory & Place

I woke up with a cold this morning, which was too bad, but I ended up embracing it because it meant I could have a sick day and sick days can be fun if you let them. My dog was sick today too—some stomach thing—so I got to lay pathetically next to her in solidarity. I think she liked that.

I did a number of little things today, but nothing that significant to write about. Though I will tell you something that I thought, which is that I miss living in the city. I found that living there can make the mundane tasks of every day life seem less pointless. I could water my plants and look out the window at a city also in the midst of the mundane. And “going out” was as easy as stepping out my front door. When you’re in the city it doesn’t feel like you have to leave to find the world because you’re already in it.

Here in Tacoma I live in a neighborhood about fifteen minutes from downtown, which is far enough from the city to feel alone. It’s not my parents’ fault. It’s a really nice home and a pleasant neighborhood. We’re on top of a series of hills tucked away from the elementary and middle school, the golf course, the corner store and the old Blockbuster that’s parking lot is now a place where kids skate and smoke weed.

I have no friends here, although I used to. He used to live across the street in that mansion. I always felt a little less cool than him mainly because of their house and how young and trendy his parents were. We’d call each other on our home phones and hang out usually at his house, for obvious reasons. We’d skateboard on our quarter pipe that our dads built together.

I had another friend the next street over. I’d walk to the street, then I’d crawl through the brush to top of the hill that marked the end of his backyard. I’d slide down and make my way to his back door and I’d knock and wait. Most days he’d answer and we’d watch scary movies and skate in the street. If we were lucky we’d convince his mom to drive us to a skatepark and we’d just skate for hours.

I miss all of that. That’s when living here made the most sense. That’s kind of when my life made the most sense. It wasn’t so complicated. Now it’s all about finding some job that’ll give you enough money to do the mundane, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy your work. Now without a job, I spend lots of time watching nothing in particular from my window feeling nostalgic and remembering all of those things. Nowadays this street is pretty deserted during the day, but maybe it’s always been like that. I think most of them go to work around 6 in the morning. Sometimes I’m finally falling asleep when they pull out of their driveways.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I really don’t. I’m twenty three. I don’t have a job. I’m living with my parents. I’m in this stagnant pool of young adulthood and it’s like I’m just learning to swim all over again. All I want to do is have fun with my friends, but I don’t have friends here anymore and the friends I do have are busy living their lives that look nothing like mine. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so alone in my entire life. It’s partly this amazing privilege to be living here with a mom and dad who are willing to put me up until I figure out my next steps, but it’s also this incredibly lonely experience.

Before dinner tonight I took a walk back to my middle school. The school is a ghost town at night. The detritus of Halloween night litter some corners of the school property and remind me why it’s a holiday that I mainly avoid aside from rarely getting invited any where. I started tracing the perimeter of my school counter clockwise. I looked into the gym. The lights were on and I could see it was remodeled now. But I could still make out the area that me and my first girlfriend sat during PE. I thought back to that one day after band class when her friend dumped me because she was probably too afraid to tell me herself. It’s funny how it felt nothing at all like being dumped the next time in college.

I went around and found the stairs and walked up to where the library is located. I peered in the windows of the dimly lit library. Everything looked nicer now. I wondered to myself why my schools always get better looking once I leave. This looked like a library I could have spent hours in, but back then it wasn’t anything to retreat to. I walked down to the basketball court that I mainly avoided because of the assholes who felt the need to pick on me during lunch and in between classes. I didn’t stay there long. These weren’t memories to dwell on. So finally I went around to the entrance of the school and found the curb I would sit on to eat my lunch alone. I just stood there for awhile taking it all in. It was dark now.

I remembered how alone and unlikeable I felt as a seventh and eighth grader. I remembered all the friends I lost. I remembered the time I came home from my first school dance in tears. I can usually find it somewhere within me to see the humor in the past, but as I was standing there in the deserted school yard I never once felt like laughing at these old memories. The pain was still too real. It’s manifested itself in different ways over the years. I’ve felt alone all my life. But I also remembered how so much changed for the better once I moved on to high school. I made friends. I got a better haircut. A couple of girls liked me. I got asked to my second school dance with one of the popular girls and I actually had a good time. In high school I finally felt like I was worth something again. Then I thought about where I was now, in my twenties and once again lost and confused and lonely, and I knew in my heart that this too would pass; that I would move on from the ambiguous space of feeling too old to skateboard all day and too young to give my time to some boring and meaningless day job. This too would turn into something beautiful and unexpected just as everything else has. The secret was to just keep walking, to keep taking chances, and to never stop learning from all the past has to teach me.