Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You Kids Get Off My Lawn

I was originally planning on writing about the subject of the paths that life takes when I returned from Arizona several months ago. In some ways I’m glad I didn’t have the time because so much has happened since then that has broadened the subject and given me much more to think about. In fact, it’s blended with another subject; that of growing older.

These subjects are something I’ve rarely thought about over the years, but they finally seems to be forcing themselves on me this year. I turned fifty-five years old this last June. Growing older never really meant much to me. I knew it was happening, but it never really felt like it to me. With the exception of a few aches and pains I never had when I was younger, I still pretty much feel like I did in my early twenties. I still go to clubs to see indie rock bands. I still love roller coasters. I still love to drink and eat too much. (To be fair, I don’t drink as much as I did in my twenties and I’ve completely stopped taking any drugs, which is probably the only real change in my lifestyle from back then.) But for some reason, this is the year I started really realizing that I wasn’t a youngster anymore.

All this introspection started when I went to visit my family in Arizona. During one conversation with my Mom and my two younger brothers, high school came up. When IQ jumped into the conversation, my brother Steve said that they all figured that out of the whole family, I was probably the smartest of them all. This statement alone caught me by surprise, but I steered the conversation towards the fact that I hated high school. I just never felt I was accomplishing anything in school. I was always bored. I was just seemingly uninterested in most of the subject materials. That was when my Mom said that the school teachers had told her the same thing. They told her they felt I wasn’t challenged by what they were teaching, but they didn’t know what to do about it.

This came as a complete surprise to me. I had never heard any discussion at all about this in my family. At first I was pretty pissed off about it. It never dawned on me that the fault wasn’t mine for hating school. I’ve spent my whole life wondering what was wrong with me. Why was I so lazy when I knew how important education was? Even when I got to college I was bored and only lasted there for two years. My whole life could have been different if someone; anyone would have just talked to me about this.

Now days, this is a recognized trait in kids and teachers know how to handle the situation when given the right tools. Kids who aren’t challenged in their school year are now sent to advanced classrooms with other kids like them. Or they’re moved up a grade or two to put them where they feel they’re challenged and have something to learn. I wasn’t given this opportunity due to either adult ignorance or the fact that someone just didn’t care enough. So I just turned inward and became rebellious. My last couple years of school were spent in a drug haze, although I still managed to pass my classes and graduate high school.

Now, given time to think on the subject, I can’t regret it any more. If I would have received the help I needed to succeed in school, my life certainly would have been different. I would probably have a degree and be making much more money, for one thing. But thinking about it, would I have been happier? Despite the dire financial straights I find myself in these days, I’m pretty damned happy with my life. I’ve been able to travel a good portion of the world. I worked closely in the music business, which was a life dream. I’ve eaten and drank some of the best food and wine in the world. I’ve met so many wonderful people, including the love of my life. I don’t know if any of that would have happened if my school days would have been handled differently. And to tell you the truth, if I could go back in time to change things, I don’t think I would choose for any of it to be different.

So while I can wonder about where I would have ended up, I have no regrets. I got the education I needed by teaching myself for the most part. I read all the time, taking on any subject. History didn’t interest me in school, but I loved reading books about it. I found I could do anything I wanted to, although I couldn’t always convince other people of that. (One incident that comes to mind was when I applied at one company to work in their shipping and receiving department. They told me I didn’t have any experience and eventually hired me to be a part time filing clerk. Six months later I was running their shipping and receiving department.) My life has been great. I’ve gotten by and I’ve come to realize that even a formal education couldn’t help me today with the world the way it is. And to tell the truth, I don’t even know if a formal school education would have changed the way I feel about the world. I have little taste for the business world and I really can’t see where I ever could have succeeded in that. The cut-throat attitude and greed I’ve run across in business just leaves me cold and I would prefer to starve to death than join those faceless emoticons in their back-stabbing and money grubbing. I think I’m exactly where I should be.

So that’s what started the process. My birthday brought new focus to it all. Then I saw a couple of events that helped keep the introspection going.

The first was seeing the stage play “Big: The Musical”. Anyone who has seen the movie knows this is the story of a boy who, fed up with not being taken seriously, gets his wish granted to become an adult. The movie was great and so was the musical. The overall theme of both is not only that you should think about what you wish for before you wish for it, but that a young outlook can be a great help negotiating the adult paths of life.

I also saw the new Pixar animated movie, “Up”, and that affected me strongly. The story is about an old man who, having just lost his wife, realizes that they wasted their lives away by not doing the things they dreamed about. Instead they just kept working away and making excuses for not taking the time to search for the adventures they always wanted. So he sets out to rectify that mistake by flying his house to South America, where they always dreamed of living. He accidentally takes an insecure, young Scout along with him and through their adventures, they both learn their self worth and their places in life. It was a wonderful movie that meant a lot to me, mostly because I have always refused to let the realities of life keep me from doing the things I dream about doing and enjoy tremendously.

Thinking young has always been important to me and I’ve tried to never forget what it was like when I was a teenager, and even when I was younger. I’ve tried to relate to younger people, without being the creepy older guy dancing in the back of the club, and without being condescending. (I was always afraid that I would turn into that dancing old guy in the back of the club and that helped me focus on not becoming him.) I don’t always succeed, but I get along with kids and younger adults well enough that I feel I must be doing something right.

I realize now that I’m no longer young, but I also don’t feel that I’m old either, at least not yet. When I was a teenager, I always thought I would be dead by the time I was thirty. When I made it to thirty, I was sure I wouldn’t see forty. Then I thought there was no way I could allow myself to be fifty. Now I’ve given up all those thoughts. I know I can be any age and still be as young as I feel. And as long as I continue to enjoy life and refuse to give up, I don’t think I’ll ever feel old.


Thanks for reading. I’m going to try to get back here in a week’s time. I think what you’ll read is a history of my involvement with The Furys, the first band I managed at the dawn of the punk era. Comments about any subject are always appreciated. Please, don’t be shy. Take care and always have fun. -ML

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