At Four You’re Right

Dear J-

There are some days you just don’t want to listen to your parents and you’re pretty well convinced that you know everything there is. For me, documenting what happened twenty years ago has been humbling: I see the nascent beginnings of who I am today wrapped up in pride and uncertainty in what I’ve done and accomplished, and what I have projected before me. Were you to tell me then that I’d be making those thoughts freely available without a book deal or even some hint of fame I’d have laughed and told you that future-me wasn’t ambitious enough: fame was fate for being that guy — to crack the riddle of fusion, the professor that everyone liked.

At the time I still had my parents driving me on to be the very best I could be, or at least getting the most out of the opportunities that came my way. And I hated it. So much control they had over everything: where to go, what to do, reminders and discipline. When I’m on my own, I vowed twenty years ago, when I’m on my own I’ll make sure things are different. Indeed. Doritos for dinner? Why not? The only thing keeping me sane some of those late school nights after high school was pride: class standings and reputation: still more external measures of how I’m doing (are you proud enough now huh?).

I’m amused (bemused) when I look at figgy and think about what she has to look forward to and how much she’s dealing with now; she is possibly the bossiest creature I’ve ever met and convinced, stubbornly, that she’s right as rain, directing us in complex play schemes barely limited by imagination and imitation (“OK now you be Santa and put presents in the stockings. PUT THEM IN.”) These are things you lear on your own: crushing your dreams into something small to put in your pocket for later, swallowing ambition for stability, admitting you’re wrong once in a while. If life is a movie filmed inside our eyes (at twenty-four frames per second, in vivid surround sound) then we cast ourselves as star: it’s up to us to remember the plot right, or at least ad-lib our way through the intro. She’s doing fine and we laugh a lot which at four I think is completely right.

Mike

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