Hot off the heels on the last one, let’s keep going. I was thinking earlier about something my wife said. She was doing the dishes, and she seemed exhausted, and she remarked, “Life is just so endless.” And I found that to be a funny statement, because we know intellectually, right away, that it’s not true. The main feature of life is that it’s fleeting. All life inevitably dies. Our moments on Earth are incredibly fragile and short-lived. But they’re simultaneously the longest things that we’ll ever know, in terms of time. It’s a tasty little paradox, and one that we can keep contemplating until we eventually can’t.
I was thinking about what endless means, what endless looks like. I’ve been writing these vomits since late 2012. It’s now almost late 2017. It’s been five years. But are these vomits endless? Scrolling through them, you might get that impression. They do seem to go on and on. But there’s a definite endpoint. I’m writing 1,000 of them, and then I’m stopping. I’ll be done. I’ll move on to other things. I’d like to switch things up and start writing essays and novels and short stories. But in the moment of writing them, sure, they can seem a little endless.
I remember when I was a student. It seems so long ago now. A decade ago. But at the time, that was my life. Almost every day (excluding the weekends and holidays), I would wake up in the morning and I would put on my school uniform. And I’d go to school. And I’d go through that numbing daily process – singing the national anthem, taking the pledge, going to the classroom, saying “Good morning, <teacher’s name>. Literally a decade of this. If I ever find my life a little tedious, frustrating or lacking in some way, it would do me good to remember just how vacuous school really was, how lifeless and superficial and false.
As I wrote those last few phrases I wonder if I’m overdoing it. After all, pretty much everybody goes to school. It’s a part of life, isn’t it? It’s a rite of passage. It’s a common experience that almost everybody has. And we all relate when we see movies about school, tv shows about school, when we look at schoolchildren on our buses and streets and we feel some nostalgia, some memory. We get to choose the stories that we tell ourselves about what we have experienced. I could just as easily write something about what a wonderful carefree time school was. But that’s not the story I’m writing right now. Why is that? Why don’t I change it?
Two threads to follow here. What was carefree about school? And why am I writing it differently?
Let’s start with the carefree bits. Well, there were no bills to worry about. My parents gave me pocket money every day. And while I did sometimes run out, I knew that I could always go home. There would always be food at home, typically. If I ever needed a little more money to go out and buy dinner or something, I could count on that. My biggest worries were supposed to be about my schoolwork. I remember my parents and other adults saying that a lot. “All you have to worry about is doing your homework and doing well for your exams”. And yet at the time that never really seemed anywhere as important as… something else. What was that something else? If it was so important, why do I not remember it?
I think I’ve begun to catch a glimpse of it by observing schoolchildren now. And I think the most important thing for young people is to develop socially. I don’t hear people talk about this very much. People don’t talk about their own social experiences as schoolchildren – I don’t mean the general things like simply having friends, going to McDonald’s after school, watching a movie together during the school holidays, having birthday parties in classes and things like that. I mean more subtle things about friendship. Like figuring out who’s who and what’s what. I’m probably not going to get this right right now, but I think it’s worth exploring. Where do you learn to socialise? If you’re lucky, you might have other contexts other than school – you might have a large extended family, you might go to church on the weekends, you might have some sort of activity group – sports, concert band, something. Lots of boys spend it playing video games or card games. What do girls do? I realise I don’t actually know. I’ve been thinking a lot about this for some time.
I guess these days they spend a lot of it on social media. In the past they might have been on the phone. I really need to get me a copy of Queen Bees and Wannabes. I don’t want to be overly obtuse and say dumb, assumption-ridden things about makeup and fashion and boy-watching – in fact I am aware of some girl-peer-crushes, which is something that boys don’t do at all. Girls write notes to one another, which is something boys pretty much never do as far as I can tell.
Anyway the point of that is – I think, in my experience, that the majority of a teenager’s life is spent worrying about his or her social context. Which I think is rational and sensible. (At this point I went on a rabbit hole on Facebook to ask people about their teenage experiences).
I should switch gears at this point. Why am I writing it differently? Well… I just feel like it, to be honest. I feel like when I look back at my childhood I am not satisfied, not impressed. And yeah, I can choose to practice contentment and forgiveness and whatnot, and once in a while I do. But I also want to play the game that I’m currently playing – which is one where I construct a narrative that I feel propels me forward. I’m roleplaying, basically.