So we've moved and unpacked (mostly). The thing about unpacking is that you get to review your entire life in a few days. I just opened up a box of crap that I haven't touched in probably four years. The stuff inside perhaps more. It somehow managed to move with me all this time and I never saw a need to do anything with it. As it turned out it was a bunch of pictures, cards and things from college and high school.
It's amazing when you think about it. Although I graduated almost ten years ago from college, it seems like yesterday. Perhaps it seems that way because I've kept in touch with so many of my close friends from those years.
My father once told me that the friends I had in high school won't be my friends once I'm an adult so I shouldn't make such a big deal out of all of the drama. Perhaps it was his way of telling me to look at the big picture. In some respects what he said is true, but I still have a handful of girlfriends from grade school and high school that I see more than I see most other people. They're visiting for brunch tomorrow, two of them with their children. I can't imagine my life without them. We are, of course, very different people who lead very different lives now but something about the time we spent growing up together keeps us together. The boyfriends we've lived through, the stupid things we've done and somehow managed to come out alive or at least without any permanent damage and the raging wars we've had between the four of us. The letters we mailed each other while we were in college (yes, letters….email didn't really exist until later in our college careers) were quite humorous.
It's also impressive the amount of crap I've kept. I know what I was thinking when I kept it. I wanted to remember small pieces of the life I led, how I felt at that exact moment in time. Sometimes the reality is shameful, sometimes happy, sometimes a bit bewildering. I don't think I would want to go back but it's nice to remember because it helps me understand how I ended up where I am today.
I am notorious for not remembering anything. My friends like to tell stories about things I did, I rarely remember them – maybe I was drunk, maybe I just have a bad memory (I would like to think it's the former). Perhaps that's why I save things; the moment I look at a picture or read a letter it all comes flooding back. I went through a picture drawer and started sorting. I can't believe that in the four years I spent in college I only took less than eight to ten rolls of film. I can only guess it's because film and developing was expensive (yes, film and developing….digital cameras came after college). I wish I had more, then again, maybe I don't. Perhaps the memory in some cases is far more glamorous than the reality forever recorded in a picture. My one college girlfriend recently said to me, "I remember we looked good in college but when I go back and look at pictures I think we look kind of beat-up.". I would guess it's all relative. Of course we look much better now, that's what having a job and money will get you – regular hair cuts and color, massages, pedicures, facials, real make-up, better clothes, etc. I think we looked pretty good for people who drank heavily four to five days a week, didn't sleep and ate like shit.
One of my closest friends just moved to London with her husband and I'm quite sad. I know I'll get to see her more than some other folks she left behind, but as she put it, "it's not the same as just stopping by for a drink.". It's hard when people move away but the beauty of this electronic age is that you can keep up to date with people very easily. Email, webcams, digital pictures, etc. But is it the same? I know basically what's going on with my friends but we're not necessarily making memories together. We're not creating the stories that we'll tell in ten years or at least not with the frequency we once did. Are we just maintaining the status quo? Maybe this is what the next phase of our lives is about. We get married, we have families, we start to create our memories together as a family and we let outsiders in every once in awhile.
I recently read the cover story of Philadelphia Magazine about over-parenting. While I doubt I will ever have the money (or the bad sense) to over parent as it's described there, the basic idea still applies. People are making their children their world and losing their own lives. Perhaps our parents didn't have time to cart us around to fifty thousand activities because they were busy having cocktails with the neighbors. They were still making their own memories. I recall being dropped off at stuff a lot. I remember running wild around the neighborhood with all the other neighborhood kids. My parents hardly ever came to my high school sporting events. Guess what, I'm not emotionally damaged and I probably have a better relationship with my parents than most people. We actually like spending time together. I think I am the person I am because my parents gave me enough rope with which to hang myself. I was allowed to screw up my grades, my college applications, my health, my relationships…geez, perhaps I am somehow damaged? But through all of this they continued to drill into my head the things they thought were important. Be someone that keeps their word, honesty is important, work hard and respect yourself, respect your elders, be thankful for what you have because other people don't have the luxury of the things you take for granted, don't spend money you don't have, life is not a destination; enjoy the journey, get an education so some man doesn't leave you with four children working as a secretary on welfare some day…I think I just channeled my mother for a moment there….
Here's my point, and this is best said through cliché, I think they were trying to teach me to fish. Not that I don't still screw up on a daily basis, but I like to think that they gave me a good foundation based on their own success and screw-ups. I only wonder if I'll someday be able to attempt to parent the way they did. Growing up I always knew that if I screwed up I would be grounded or cracked with the back of a hand. That'll put you in kiddie court these days. Then again, like everything else, I'll have to figure it out when the time comes.