I felt old, just now. A friend of mine from junior high sent me a message, and it occurred to me that I am now more than twice the age I was when we met, more than a decade ago. Which is weird, because that was just a few days ago, I swear. I still remember the horrible awkwardness of walking into a room where I knew no one and where I had no idea what the rules of fashion and social behavior were. Fortunately, I had the good luck to be dragged into a group of people who didn’t particularly care what the rules of fashion or social behavior were, and I was encouraged to be my own odd self.
I remember, back then, thinking that it would be nice to be a grown-up. I had it in my mind that grown-ups were automatically freed from this thing called “peer pressure” that teens were warned so strongly against. How great would it be if everyone could be free to be his or her own odd self? Wouldn’t the world be marvelously strange?
I’m still waiting to grow up enough to enter that world. Sure, I’m perfectly comfortable being the strange duck that I am as a human being, and I know plenty of people who are as well. But more than ever, it seems like there’s some game being played by most of the world that no one quite knows the rules to. Trying to be a part of the working world is something like being a spy who doesn’t quite know what’s happening. Do “they” want confidence and experience? Fresh enthusiastic innocence? Cynicism that suggests immunity to burnout? Or do “they” want to steal your soul?
Yes, yes, I know. Melodramatic much? The trouble with graduating is that it’s bit of a crossroads, another test of how good I am at being my own odd self, and a test for determining what that self is made of. I’m not great at that kind of test. It involves a lot of waiting and imagining the future. Could I be happy in a publishing house where I am well-qualified to work but disagree with the commercializing of a child-centric process like education? Or would I be better off beating my head against the wall to get an entry-level teaching job where it is entirely possible that I will be eaten alive thirty seconds after the kids find out I have no idea how to manage a classroom?
Anyway…there’s the burning question that’s weighing down my thoughts at the moment. Fortunately, it’s not weighing nearly as heavily as the heat. My mind is in this humid, boggy place that is making me feel detached from almost every concern except that of how heavy my robes are for the ceremony tomorrow (answer: too). Impending pomp and circumstance is a strange torture ritual that is somehow highlighting for me the paradox of being able to feel both old and yet not grown up all at the same time.