Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Life is Paused (or) The Ghost of My Past

My Life is Paused.

I mean this in the conventional, Nintendo way. Somebody pushed the little grey button, right next to the Select Button (which is used for God Knows What).

But that Start button.

You're ten, eleven, twelve years old. You're fighting a dragon. Maybe it's a robot monster twelve stories tall. It's a dungeon that has exhausted every ounce of your childhood cunning. You're about to defeat everything, you're about the save the princess, you're about to save the fucking world.

But it's Time for Dinner.

Your parents, not being of the video game era, have no understanding of what's at stake. To them, the Princess is just a flashing pink dot on a monster of a TV that they're not sure that they should be letting you play in the first place.

Maybe, they think, you should be reading more.

And, fuck it, maybe you should.

But the whole point is that you finally hit that dreaded grey button. The dragon pauses, mid-breath of torturous flame.

You wander, dazed, out into the kitchen. You have a decent time, you chat with your parents, your siblings. You eat your dinner, which, frankly, is delicious. You clear your plate, and remember something.

The princess is going to fucking die if you don't do SOMETHING!

And back you go to the living room.

I, by the way, had no intention of talking about video games for this long.

I was just going to write, "My life is paused," then write something else.

But I didn't.

And I guess I have a point about that, too.

I'm currently living in Nevada City, California (population 8,000, most of them old and pleasant).

There are some cool kids that live here.

But this is a very, very quiet place.

And it's my past.

I'm living in the Ghost of My Past.

I moved back to my parents' house (into the same room I've had since I was seven) in September. It's an amazing room; spacious, well-lit…covered with posters that I picked out when I was fourteen.

Oh, and my closet is filled with my life.

More on that in a second.

Anyways, I moved home for a couple of reasons. My dad's been sick and I wanted to spend some time at home, and I didn't know what my next step was going to be. I figure a lot of kids do this. At least I hope so.

I decided, at the very least, that I was going to live at home, make some money, and then take a trip to South America in early 2007.

I had a weird night about a week after I got here. My closet, you see, is filled with my life. Ever since my first year of college, I would come home, dump everything I had in my closet, and then, the next fall, take very little of it with me again.

Love letters, journals, homework assignments, toys, pictures.

Anyways, about a week after I came home, I was feeling weird about living in the ghost of my past.

I mean sure, I had to live in the same room I had lived in for years. That was unavoidable.

However, by no means did those posters have to stay up. I was fourteen for God's Sake. They were nice, for nostalgic reasons, during short vacations, but I was going to LIVE here until January, when I was going to go to South America.

This room had to become me now, not me then.

The posters came down.

But the closet remained.

The closet that was filled with my life.

Anyways, one night, very late at night, I cleaned out my closet.

It took me six hours.

I'd clean for a little while, then read a journal for a while about the Love that I Couldn't Live Without from middle school.

I'd arrange some boxes, then go through pictures from my crazy year in Italy.

I'd take a load of garbage out, then look at some flirty letters from senior year of college.

I'd find and listen to Accapella recordings from my college group, the UCSD Tritones, and miss all of them, and singing, and performing, and every single rehearsal, to death.

I sat and really, really seriously regretted some of the things that I'd let slide away so that I could travel, travel, travel after school ended.

After this night, I began to think about my life, here in Nevada City, as Paused.

There are no new relationships being forged. All of my contact is with people I love deeply: My parents, my siblings, some of my best friends.

But none of this is new contact.

I am living in the Ghost of My Past, my high school past, which was a Me that I can't even begin to relate to now.

It's weird.

I put my focus to the future: my trip to South America in January.

I got a job, and work hard, rewarding work with emotionally disturbed children at a level fourteen group home. Like I said, it's rewarding, but Jesus it's hard.

But then South America fell through (three weeks ago).

And I found myself thinking, dammit.

What a waste.

All this time with my life Paused was for fucking nothing.

Here I am with some really, really hard earned money but no trip to spend it on.

And all the things I had to let go, to pause my life like this…


Moved on without me.

...But tonight.

You see, I've been spending a lot of time with my parents.

But it didn't take too long for me to start thinking about myself again, after I came home.

I make a point to spend a lot of time with my dad, and I have a good time, but then I go home at night and think about San Francisco, about San Diego, about a girl, about friends, about the life that's going on while I'm paused.

In essence, I've been a little selfish.

But tonight.

I went to the Nevada City Wild and Scenic Film Festival tonight.

I really, really didn't want to go.

A night of watching environmental films with my parents didn't sound like the world's best time.

But here's the kicker.

My dad joined a rock group after he got sick. He plays keyboards, and from what I can see around the house, he's gotten SO much better in the last few months.

He can solo now.

And his band was opening the Film Festival.

Anyways, I knew I had to go to support him, and so I went.

Parking was a bitch. It took me half an hour to find a spot.

It was freezing outside (15 degrees Fahrenheit right now), and I was bitter.

At the door they told me that I had to buy a ticket to the whole festival to see his band.

22 bucks.

And I had to buy it across town.

But I did it, and went in, and found my mom. She gave me a hug, and whispered that my dad had been looking for me the whole time.

The band kicked ass, and I was there in time to watch his solo.

We clapped and cheered afterward, and he beamed at us.

We then went to a handful of movies about the environment that were all totally, totally awesome.

We saw one about how Cuba operates largely without fossil fuels.

We saw one about Dams in Modern Day China.

We saw one about river kayaking in Tibet.

We came home and ran inside, shivering and laughing and yelling, and drank wine and talked about traveling, and sunsets in Bhutan, and food in Italy, and summers traveling alone and Bali and Saipan and Malaysia and full body massages and beaches.

My mom went to bed at midnight, but my dad and I headed for the hot tub and talked until one-thirty about how hard it is to be young and not know what you're going to be and where you're going to be it and who you're going to be it with and how in ten years I'll look back and wish I hadn't been so stressed out about all of it and just enjoyed the good things when they came but how frankly it's VERY VERY hard to just enjoy the present because the present is all we know know know

You know?

But then we talked about him and his stresses and being retired and such a thing as too much free time and loves and trips and things done right and some regrets and meditation oh yeah meditation damn it I've got to start not tomorrow today

And finally we laughed at how wrinkled we were and he jumped out and ran in one direction for his room (remember, it's 15 degrees) and I ran another direction for my room and we shouted goodnight and I came inside and shivered some more and toweled off and put on some shorts and now I'm here but hey I've realized something.

Sure, My Life is Paused.

There are Dragons and Princesses and Dungeons and Worlds that Need Saving out there, for me to eventually conquer.

But Dinner is pretty fucking amazing right now.

And I'm going to take it slow it this time.