I think I've read enough Mad magazine articles or lists circulating on the Internet that say, "You know you're getting old, when ..." I've reached that age, I think. A few years ago I mentioned 45 r.p.m.'s in class, and no one knew what I was talking about.
Anyway, I was on YouTube tonight, looking at a video for "Head Over Heels," by Tears For Fears. It's a pretty safe bet that if I want to start crying, all I have to do is look at videos or listen to music from my past. For me, it's like binge drinking. Why do I listen to stuff that's going to make me cry? Why does a binge drinker drink? Because we can.
The last eight years of my life have been bad, but I think it started even earlier than that, in the year 2000, when my dad died. From then, little by little, then in big leaps, my life has sucked since then. Personal illnesses, 9/11, mother dying, financial ruin, discovery of what I SHOULD be doing for a living ... I don't know. Sometimes we wish we'd find out about stuff sooner, but I believe things happen for a reason.
But getting back to music from my past. I don't know why I insist on looking back. I was miserable in high school, but certain songs can bring tears to my eyes. So why do the early 1980s seem so wonderful? Fact is, they probably weren't, but I think it's the lost innocence that I mourn the most. My conception of time is woefully off. At age 18, I was a "young" 18, that's for sure. While other people were graduating high school and going off to college, I continued to live at home, and stupidly making plans that never seemed to work out. While people were getting married, I'd barely been out on dates. While people my age were having kids, I was still at home, traveling on my precious few vacation days. It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized that time was rushing by, and it certainly seemed like I was rushing by. It was scary. Downright terrifying.
The 1990s were probably the best decade of my adult life. And listening to certain songs can trigger memories that I wish I could hug to me like a doll. Whenever I hear "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket, I see a warm summer sunset, happiness in my family, and the thought that I still had time. I still had time. And in the meantime, there were my niece and nephew to spend time with, buy toys for, and take on outings. I had a decent enough job, and there was always something to look forward to.
Then, it seems like the music started to get worse. My father died. Then, my mother died, and from then on, it seems like it was a roller coaster ride to the bottom. I felt alone in the world, and unfortunately, I really was. THAT'S when the past starting looking really, really good to me, despite the seemingly go-nowhere job, the quest for the better job, the unending debt and my bad luck with men, despite finding a platonic guy to hang out with and travel with on occasion. Trips to places, concerts, and time to actually socialize with people.
There are certain aspects of technology today that are actually really, really cool. For me, that would be the phenomenon of print on demand and ebooks. I've always written something, but I gave up writing for a long, long time. I don't take rejection well, and I figured "why bother writing" especially when it came to fiction. I was associate editor for a local paper, so I did actually get paid to write, but I didn't write fiction again until 2007, which was 14 years after I'd had a fiction writing class in college. Oh, I took a fiction class in 2006, but somehow that doesn't stand out as much as the one I took in college. Happy with my story, and filled with ego, I went on the web, something we didn't have back in the day, and found someone to buy and publish my story.
So now, it's 2013. I've self-published two collections of fiction as both ebooks, and as print on demand. Someone who reads my column in the Fort Wayne Reader called the editor, in response to the story they did on Served Cold: Tales of Revenge and Redemption. The person said she would pay to see it in print. So, I found a print on demand website, and I saw my work collected in a book. Granted, I had to do it all myself, but I had a sense of accomplishment when I got the book in the mail, and looked at it for the first time.
It's not like I've never self-published before. I published a 'zine, during the 1990s, and met some really cool people in the process. Now, people blog, and while that's cool too, nothing quite beats getting a DIY magazine in the mail.
Those who aren't old enough to remember anything before 2000 might think people like me were hopelessly deprived. Well, we didn't know what we were missing. I wish I'd saved all the notes that I passed and wrote in high school. When I knew no one would publish my rants, I simply typed them up and printed them myself, with my own money. The difference is now, you can reach more people quicker. I do have to say that uploading my work on the web is gratifying, because I've had so many positive comments and urgings to keep writing.
Wouldn't it be great if we could bring the best of the past with us into the future? I wish I could bring the spirit of the 1990s to now. Things seemed better, and I know horrible things have been going on for years, but honestly, I remember such a positive energy from those days. Life seemed FUN, in almost every sense of the word. There were things to look forward to, people to see, places to go.
Now, I am alone. Before, the house would have people going in and out of it. Now, the house is quiet. The people from my past are gone, almost as good as dead, unfortunately. While I have reasons to look forward to the future, I cry for the fuck-ups of my past. Oh, I know it could be worse. But my feeling is that my best days are behind me. The family members who meant so much are gone forever, or else if they aren't, they certainly seem that way.
And maybe I am old. I look back at the past more fondly than I ever did. When I was in high school, I don't remember longing for the days I was in kindergarten. Although I will admit, my best grade was sixth. I had two of my best friends in class, I made good grades, and I hardly missed any school because I wanted to be there. WANTED to be there. And seventh grade was the flipside of sixth. It was the beginning of hell, and how imperfectly I fit into the world. I was not unlike Scarlett O'Hara who lamented that nothing her mother taught her was of any use after the war had ended. And it seemed that way with me; the manners and courtesy that my parents taught me seemed meaningless in the war zone that was middle school and high school.
But things seem a bit clearer now than they have been. I think I will emerge from my financial disaster. I think I've found a career path that I'm good at and that I enjoy, even though to fully pursue it I will have to back to school. That prospect excites and terrifies me. Because the educational ambitions I've had in the past seemed to have crashed and burned mightily. But somehow, I think this one might work. I'm getting great feedback on my writing. Maybe, just maybe, I've figured it out and have come to make peace with certain things and people.
I have to admit, when I see teenager with varsity jackets with 15 on them, I get a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. Has it really almost been 30 years since I've graduated from high school? And what have I learned? That nothing is what it seems. Even when it seems like it's the best thing ever.
So am I old? Or have I just finally grown up? I'm old enough to look back and want the old days back again, but knowing it will never happen. THOSE were my golden years. Unless there is something wonderful that will happen in my future, I think 1989 through early 1998 are going to be the happiest years of my life.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope there are still amazing times ahead.