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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The End of a Decade and the Passage of Time

I was born at the beginning of a decade at the end of a year. I think this has greatly shaped the way I view time and my passage through life. Individual years and decades hold greater meaning, I think.
I often view 1999, the year before I graduated high school, as the best year of my life. I feel like I came of age that year. I remember being in a funk at the end of 98 and spending much of January of 99 sitting outside and listening to the wind. The next month I went to a church Valentine's banquet. There was singing and dancing and games and all kinds of other stuff I hate, and everyone was dressed in their finest suits and ties or dresses. I wore a ratty polo and khakis. At one point the pastor came up to me and chewed me out for not dressing nicer and carrying myself better. Suddenly, the shells of a seed within me cracked open and some little green shoots peeked out. I squinted my eyes at him and sat. A few minutes later, as all the well-dressed guys and girls took photographs together, a friend who was supposed to stay at my house that night told me he wouldn't be coming.
Fine. I thought. Screw all of you. Screw everybody.
I went home to my room and played video games until I thought of a videocassette another friend had loaned me a few days before that I had hid in my booksack. It was one of the first episodes of a newly premiered show called The Sopranos, and this friend had recorded it, thinking I would like it. The episode was "College." I had kept the tape hidden because at the time my mother was famous for watching a show my sister, brother, or I might enjoy, then outlawing it from the house.
After popping the tape into my VCR, I sat enthralled. Suddenly, I realized something: I liked this, in fact, I loved this. This was the opposite of everything I had encountered earlier in the night. This was good. The show had an attitude that I just identified with, even if I didn't identify with any of the characters. Everything that had been hindering me sprang up in my head and suddenly seemed so ridiculous.
I was me. People couldn't make me not me. They couldn't make me act like I wasn't me. Anyone who wanted to do that could kiss my butt. There I was, just starting a real job, and just getting my own car and resources, and no one, not even my parents could tell me who I was or was not. I felt like I was flying. I think that letting other people determine who you are when you have the ability to be yourself is ridiculous.
I have most likely written here before about how I also thought I was dying that year. I had a cyst on my lower back that I was sure was cancerous and going to soon kill me, and I told no one about it until late in the year when it was no longer possible to hide. This, coupled with the epiphany above, gave me the will and desire to live my life to the fullest. I am really glad I did not die, though, because then I could never have had this current year.
Ten years later, at the end of the decade, I feel like I am so far having a year to rival my favorite. Everything seems to be falling into place like it did then. All of the music I am listening to seems fresh and new, as well as the television and films I've been watching, and the books I am reading, just as they did that year. I have picked up new hobbies, and brought back several old ones I lost along the way (fishkeeping?), just as I did then. My wife and I have thankfully had the opportunity to drive long distances across the country, just as my family did then.
Most important are the changes I am looking forward to. In 1999, it was either my oncoming death, or if not that, graduation and college, the escape from the small town life, people, and situations I had been born into. Now (haha, and much less macabrely) I am looking forward to the birth of my first child and the changes that will bring to my wife and me, and our God-Blessed marriage.
In other words, again I feel blessed to be alive, and that I will be starting the next decade (God-willing) just like the previous one--in a much different place than I was ten years ago.

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