Happy New Year! Can’t be any less unhappy than the last year, some would argue… though I already made my balanced stance on that the other day. In any case, while 2016 was pretty solid for me personally, ups and downs bundling into one are a fact of life. Nowhere did that arise more prominently than with me turning 25 years old: the big quarter-century! (DOB: 11/04/1991. Only 90s kids will remember this.)
With that in mind, I promptly set about slowly reflecting–not on the past itself, but on how I was handling what that past meant for who I am and where I’m going. I’d aimed to finish this by 12/31/16, but I realized it was more about my time than the time. And as the holiday season officially waned and the workweek peeked back around the bend, I had a feeling–for better or worse–I would realize some more to say in the fresh light of 2017.
I did. What didn’t change, though, was the new perspective I’m grateful to have honed over these past couple of years in particular. Life is full of regret and want and uncertainty, sure… but we’re only human. And other humans can be here to help.
It’s making myself remember that last part–and what it means to stay confident in the face of time itself–that I hoped to capture here.
three to grow.
A hoarder, I feel—
of lessons, stressors, and misadventures
unfit for mixed company.
Because the past is a dream come false:
Every day, we may as well be born anew,
and each second we live becomes another figment
in our children’s past.
So please, go easy.
This is my first time getting old,
and so I can’t help feeling like success
has an expiration date, and my hour to sour
is just around the cardboard bend.
You never know what’s the window
to when you’ll win, though.
I’d peer through, but it’s so hard to see
to punch out the 2D screen of my memories incarnate
and beckon forth new avenues of inspiration from under the dust—
turn maybes to musts,
just decide instead of deify
When I went home, my fear wasn’t that I didn’t belong there anymore,
it’s that I did.
And yet the posters stayed up,
pictures lingered in a padded hard drive,
and adding any new detail felt like fruitless betrayal:
The end of the world as we show it,
coming to terms with the fact that life is linear
but living hits every dimension.
I made the world
around me a story, immutable
after an arbitrary absence, as if
the repositioning of a picture, a sticker lifted, was going George Lucas—
a match dropped, to let scorch my origins for revisionist history.
Now, is writing the symptom or the cure?
Because I ask only that my fantasies be others’;
I want the worlds in my head not to wither,
whether they’re worth it or not—
a Wikipedia page people update, debate over
I need what I thought I was to survive
who nobody knows I am yet.
I may not be immortal, but
maybe I can be
part of forever.
Though, not all is lost.
I’ve improved, to be sure.
I don’t fetishize photocopies,
imprinting stencils of the hundred-and-one that got away
onto every –elle until I’m unable to feel
anything but myself.
I can’t carry a tune, but I won’t keep dragging ones behind me, either
(the kind of songs you don’t listen to
so much as use).
I see there’s a difference between what we want to hear
and what we want to know.
The perpetual emotion machine slows at last,
and I anticipate The Next:
What scents will I associate with where?
What tastes, textures, relevant where never before?
What beautiful threat will I one day want
to hide from?
Even pain can be promising if it’s a change of pace.
Until then, dressed to compress
my passions and predilections into the offtime
I can find, in this Art Deco ghetto—
As soon as I wake, I check my phone
to see what’s broken
in the world.
As soon as I clock in, I’m already gone.
It’s not resignation if you never sign on.
In second grade,
when change meant nothing
and cheering was a bodily function,
I built a Lego spaceship:
A jagged prism of wings and plastic.
I thought it was so great, I didn’t want anyone
to take it, or break it.
So I secreted it, beneath a craft-supplies cabinet,
and went about my play.
I wonder, sometimes, back to it;
whenever I’m taking stock of what matters, what I’ve made.
Is it still there?
Against all odds, it’s not,
but I need that faith,
that privilege of infinity childhood provided.
That I can look back, kneel on primary tiles
in my designer slacks, and extract imagination.
Please don’t let it be just dust and rubber bands.
I’m made for more
than a pithy obituary in the local paper.
This won’t be how I go, much less how I come
to be remembered.
I sleepwalked, is all,
more than just after heavy dinners and big tests.
I didn’t realize it was on me to know this place
I got plopped into—not just putter through
like a Disney dark ride, every day-glo whoa
and manufactured satisfaction.
I thought it made me stable, but perhaps I can’t be any more
than the next schlub with a dream.
I just pray I’m not too late
to not just ask questions
but listen to the answers.
Where are my ancestors from?
What were the Fifties like?
Where did you buy that painting in the piano room,
the one that looks like Venice is burning
upon earth’s edge?
And so on, and on and on.
I only hope, in always pressing forward,
I didn’t become the caricature of cowardly indifference
in which I painted my past loves.
A tiny tombstone, an emoji-free text,
an oath to be taken between beats of an atrophying heart:
My world is dying, and I need someone alive
to smile when I wonder out loud.
Why won’t what passes for my soul suffice?
So take my hand—callous, callused,
knuckles busted from brick-wall punches
that were only mostly accidents.
Sell me on this life, on change
in the face of bills and sense.
I’m ready to give instead of take.
I’m ready to understand.
And to learn what to do
if that’s still not enough.