Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The 8-year-old oppressor

The child bride turns 29 years old next week, Beth is turning 30 on Nov. 22, my best friend, Paul, turned 30 on Oct. 11. All this birthday stuff* had me thinking this morning about where I am in my life.

At this point in my father's life, he had a 3-year-old son (me) and was the anchor for a 10 p.m. newscast in Austin, Texas. Similarly, he and my mother shared a crappy car (shout out to the '77 Chevrolet Malibu) and lived in a crappy house in a crappy part of town.

In material wealth, I suppose my wife and I fall just about even with my parents in 1979, but that's all irrelevant anyway. What 29-year-old Steve Cope has on 29-year-old Chris Cope, I think, is direction. I am standing on the precipice of realigning my life, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

My natural inclination is to be melancholy, but I'm not sure that's an honest reaction. I just think I should be melancholy. I feel as if the pillars of Methodist decision-making suggest that I should be melancholy.

Sweet John the Baptist on an Alabama bus, I am off the deep end when I start referencing Methodist principles.

In short, the Methodist church suggests that difficult decisions (like whether you should scrap 10 years of journalism experience and start all over again by going to university in another country) should be made taking into consideration the three things: "the Christian scriptures; what is taught by the Christian tradition and community; and the personal experience and prayer of Christians."

Actually, by these standards, I'm OK. I'm pretty sure Scripture and Christian tradition don't state it as implicitly immoral to be 29 years old and not have a child or solid direction in life. Heck, Jesus died in his 30s and he didn't even have a high school diploma. I've got him beat.

But my personal experience -- what I was raised to understand -- is what claws at my rib cage from the inside. Something, somewhere, makes me concerned about status and position and all that. When I was 8 years old, I woke up screaming and my mother had to come in and calm me down, because I had had a dream in which I was 84 years old and mopping the floor at McDonald's and children were making fun of me. No, really. I was consumed by this shit. My wife likes to make fun of the fact that when I was 9 years old, I vehemently refused to take Ritalin because of concerns that it would stunt my growth. Height = appearance = status = success = worth in my child mind.

So, I guess it is that vindictive little 8-year-old, with his black-and-white view of the world, who makes me think that I should feel melancholy as I near 30. As I mentioned on Beth's blog, there is a part of me that feels as if I have managed to squander away an entire decade, as if someone strapped me into The Machine from 'Princess Bride' and I am now stumbling out into the world again with nothing more to show for myself than a few gray hairs and a higher susceptibility to hangovers.

But that's all I have, to answer Beth's question of my thoughts on aging. I am getting a little older and I think I should be unhappy about it, but I'm not sure. The 8-year-old me would likely find that unacceptable; unless my car had a horn that played "Dixie" (like the General Lee in "Dukes of Hazzard"). Then he would think I was the coolest guy in America.

Something else about that 8-year-old -- this is his favorite joke:
HIM: "Knock, knock."
YOU: "Who's there?"
HIM: "Banana."
YOU: "Banana who?"
HIM: "Knock, knock."
YOU: "Who's there?"
HIM: "Banana."
YOU: "Banana who?"
HIM: "Knock, knock."
YOU: "I said who's there?"
HIM: "Banana."
YOU: "I said banana who?"
HIM: "Knock, knock."
YOU: "And again, who's there?"
HIM: "Orange."
YOU: "Orange who?"
HIM: "Orange you glad I didn't say 'banana?'"

*Jenny also turns 25 in December, but that's a sprightly age.


Jenny said...

Trust me, it's just as bad at the other end of the scale: I've been staring down the barrel of a long-term teaching career since I qualified at 22.

Last week I sat at my desk and thought 'great, I just do this every day for the next forty three years, then retire and die.'

At least the holidays are good.

And I'm still young enough to be excited about my birthday. Wheee!

Curly said...

I suppose it's all about who you looked up to when you were younger. Perhaps the father is a standard measuring point for kids?

Personally, I grew up thinking that I didn't need to be like anyone else - therefore I have no particular preference as to where I'd like to be at any age.

Afe said...

I think most people have something like seven careers during their life... so I wouldn't worry about it too much. Your bones crumble the same way anyway. (Is that too depressing?)

Aran said...

Gwena, boi! Wnes i ail-gychwyn fy mywyd yn gyfangwbl yn 32, ac mae wedi gweithio allan yn berffaith...:-)

Os nad wyt ti lle ti eisiau bod rwan, mae rhoi cais ar rywbeth arall yn creu'r cyfle y byddi di'n cael hyd o rywbeth sy'n gweddu'n well.

Dal ati!

Chris Cope said...

Aran says: Smile, lad. I totally restarted my life at age 32 and it has worked out perfectly. If you're not in the place you want to be right now, trying something else at creates the chance that you'll come across something better. Keep at it!

Diolch, Aran.