musings on transitions


I had plenty of time while raking the leaves in my backyard this morning to think about many of the recent (and not so recent) transitions in my life. As a kid, I would complain to high heaven about raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, or doing other chores / yard work for my parents. Now as a parent and home owner, I’m on the other end of that: it’s an impossible task to motivate the twins to help me pick up twigs and sticks in the backyard, and if I don’t rake the leaves myself than it’s not likely to get done (no offense, Carina!). I don’t complain or mutter under my breath about these tasks: they’re things that need to be done.

Carina and I watched Orange County the other night, on the recommendation of Elfboy and his wife. I had heard about the movie originally from a young friend of mine who is an enthusiastic fan of Jack Black, and he didn’t give the movie very high marks. I’m not much of a Jack Black fan, but I enjoyed Tenacious D in concert, so I figured I’d give the movie a shot. Overall I really enjoyed it. I was surprised with the star-studded cast, I (mostly) enjoyed the plot, and Jack Black was hysterical. The movie made the plot developments more than a little obvious, but the theme and message of the film came through loud and clear. I can see now why Elfboy enjoyed the movie, and my young friend did not. For those still in high school the message will be largely missed, and for those who’ve graduated high school the message will already have been (or should have been) learned.

My young friend is currently struggling with high school, as most high school students are. I tried explaining to him that the world is so much bigger than high school, and so much more wonderful; knowing perfectly well that most of my words were in vain. I know that I never listened to, nor believed, those comments from others when I was in high school. It’s a damned shame, too.

In pondering through all of this, I also came to the realization that my sense of the world is – and always will be – drastically different from many other people’s. I went to Peru for two weeks when I was in seventh grade; I went to Moscow for two weeks when I was 18; and I travelled quite a bit throughout Europe (and once to Hong Kong) in my mid-twenties. So I’ve always known that the world is a great big wonderful fascinating place, and that gave me at least a modicum of encouragement to slog through high school’s miseries. For my young friend – and for many other people I know – that sense of global perspective is just an idea, a vague concept, and not a physical reality.

Note, of course, that this is not an attempt to say that I’m better, or that my understanding of the world is somehow superior. It’s different. I know people who’ve travelled far more than I in their youth; and I know people who’ve had far more spectacular experiences in their youth. These all shape us in different ways, and hopefully everyone draws upon their own positive experiences to strengthen them through the negative times.

The problem with being in high school is that life generally hasn’t had enough time to unfurl all it’s beautiful secrets. That first boyfriend/girlfriend gives a glimmer to the exquisitness of finding a real life partner. Little successes (scoring the winning goal for the team, a lead role in the drama, or aceing a test) are mere shadows of greater successes yet to be had. The problem, I think, with most high school students is that they don’t see the forest for the trees: they simply don’t know what else is out there, so they naturally assume that what they experience is the most important thing in life. I know I was guilty of this, and I think many of my friends were, too.

I wish I could find the right words to successfully articulate this to my young friend, but I don’t think I ever will. It’s not something that can be explained, it can only be experienced.

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