Pictured above: a quiet moment from writer/director David Gordon Green’s 2000 feature-film debut George Washington. It’s a low-key contemplation of rural life, maturity, haunting regrets, and atonement through heroism (including a pivotal scene that echoes the tragedy of Uncle Ben), but the important thing at this moment is the film’s final scenes are set on the Fourth of July, which therefore means it’s a Beloved Holiday Classic. Pity they never seem to have copies on sale in every Walmart every June, but I don’t think they’re on speaking terms with Criterion.
Like anyone with a working Internet connection, from time to time I find myself completing online surveys about various companies or products, whether for fun, for freebies, or in hopes that the survey will include an essay question that you can use as a soapbox to unleash a thousand-word tirade about the last time their services ticked you off and ruined your day. “That’ll show ’em!” you think to yourself as your carefully crafted vitriol is forwarded to the survey company and assimilated into the results database containing hundreds of thousands of other surveys, someday to be skimmed by a distracted HR rep who might raise an eyebrow at your poison-pen screed, if you’re lucky.
Every such survey has the obligatory section whose questions are designed for demographic pigeonholing of your results. I don’t mind revealing my ever-advancing age, blissful marital status, or conspicuously dull bloodline. My least favorite question is always, “What is the highest level of education you have completed?” It sounds simple and uncomplicated, especially if you earned a degree. Sometimes I wonder if those who attended graduate school and/or who hold multiple degrees receive a little bonus from the survey company in return, to thank them for bolstering the results with certified demographic classiness.
Mine is the humble ignominy that requires me to check “Some college”. It’s always a multiple-choice question, never a write-in field, so you can’t fall back on the standard glib answers such as “school of hard knocks” or “school of life”, joke answers such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or “Hogwarts”, or even obscure answers such as “School of Fish”, in hopes that someone in the survey company will agree how cool a song “3 Strange Days” was. Every time I spot the bland, undecorated phrase “Some college” on a survey, I wince for a second and have to shake off the reminder of a young adulthood that wandered astray.
The tabby cared not that the once-furnished domain was now barren. We could take away the bedding and the collections and the clothing piles, but we couldn’t take away the sunshine through the window. Unless we hung the curtains back up. Which was tempting, just to be spiteful.
It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.
Fun useless trivia: I share my birthday with Dennis Hopper, Bill Paxton, Trent Reznor, Sugar Ray Leonard, Craig Ferguson, Howard Ashman, Bob Saget, Jordan Knight, and Dave Sim. Yet we never get together and combine parties. Sure, two of my birth-twins are no longer among the living, but still.
For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself.
In the meantime, today had its happy distractions, mostly in the form of food. Friends and family kept my mind off the aging process for most, if not all, of the day.
…so, uh, spoilers for this heartbreaking entry in the title, obviously.
28 hours past the event itself, I’m two sentences into this and have already had to stop typing twice to compose myself.
Some introverts treasure those few places where we can feel like we belong. I mean in the physical world, not just online.
Comfortable spaces where we feel less weird and have reasons to hold up our end in a conversation instead of retreating from it. Areas where we can find common ground with folks who don’t think of us as strangers, who might even attempt eye contact despite how unnatural it can feel. Benign territories where the sight of a familiar face is a boost to our spirits, where mere recognition is validation, the baseline brownie points of existence. They admit they see me; they don’t slam the door in my face; ergo, I matter.
I’ve had a few of those places in my lifetime. That list doesn’t seem to be expanding much as I get older without becoming any more outgoing, which is a thing that happens for some folks as they age but hasn’t yet been the case with me.