Tag Archives: Adolescence Interrupted

My World Never Feels Safe…And Now I’m Right

The roads are all lined with eggshells. Tiptoes and feather steps, thinking back to a time when sidewalk cracks were the only items on a list of things to avoid.

Leaving a house full of physical walls to venture outside into a world of imaginary ones is a nasty little mind trick to navigate.

For many years I have maintained some semblance of sanity by following a specific series of patterns, habits, and concocted restrictive rules to live among the “normals,” and do my best to blend. Now, everyone else has systems, and there’s just too much competing static to cut clean s-curves without a face full of powder.

Monkey bar-swinging from one brain surgery to the next has saddled this lanky lad with a backpack full of trauma, and it’s a daily challenge to keep those shoulders back. But when that carefully calibrated balance is disrupted, and uncontrollable variables are added to the recipe, the already-crispy cookies in the oven tend to emerge blackened and burned.

If the personal side effects of this historic snapshot are nothing more than increased worry, discomfort, and agitation, I will consider myself incredibly lucky. Countless victims of this global tidal wave would gladly trade everything for a little increased anxiety.

Nervousness is temporary. Asphyxiation is not.

This is Chapter One. We are wading into dangerous waters, and we’re not even waist-deep. Stay vigilant. Stay clean. Stay supported.

Stay safe.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Heart Beneath the Hat

People are more than the jobs they perform.

As a society, we have an unfortunate tendency to categorize by cramming into prejudicially assigned boxes the core essence of a stranger based on the task, project, or career stream he or she happens to be swimming in at the moment.

We look past the person, and only see the uniform, hat, or badge. But a face full of green makeup doesn’t make you Frankenstein, and much to the chagrin of a nation full of six-year-old Halloween candy hunters, strapping a red cape to your collar won’t help you take flight.

This is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t take pride in the duties that drive the majority of our days. Embracing an impetus to help make this planet a safer, kinder, cleaner, and more compassionate space meteor is noble work, and that grand goal can be accomplished in myriad ways.

But our hearts do not beat in militant metronomic rhythm to the clicks of an analog time clock. Our spirits soar when we leave a little space for syncopation.

The next time you stroll past the invisible clerk, avoid eye contact at the counter, or disregard a service rendered, take a second to see the soul beneath the suit.

We’re all just candy hunters, sliding on temporary masks and searching for the right fit.

Adolescence Interrupted

Goodbye, NY

After a post-LA six-month stint in the Empire State, it’s time again to gather the tape guns, construct the itinerary, and head for unfamiliar waters. It’s Groundhog Day, with an unpredictable finish.

Three cities in thirty weeks. Coast to coast and climate to climate. Another fresh start, with even fewer friends.

Multilayered introspection is crucial for any deep-dive system reset, and we are all lone conductors of our own orchestras.  The only constant in life is change, but I’m ready for a little consistency following the chaos.

Gleaning lessons from the past year’s pattern upheaval, the most eye-opening realization has been how capable humans are of acclimation. I consider myself fairly entrenched in the spongy, bouncy comfort foam of routine and ritual. But I have been thrown more than my fair share of curveballs in this game, and I’ve generally been able to hang in the batter’s box longer than the rest of the rookies.

Most of us are malleable and adaptable creatures, even those who think a rigid adherence to track-walking is the only thing that keeps their marbles from getting misplaced. When presented with a series of seemingly insurmountable challenges, flexibility is usually found somewhere in the fabric. We just need the courage and desire to search.

So the quest continues…

Chasing the sun, I’m headed for the land of tennis fanatics and retirement enthusiasts. It was an interesting last lap in a hometown that feels very little like home. But it was necessary to put a bow on the gift of growing up and to capture those mental snapshots for a future nostalgic slideshow.

Time to turn another page in a book that remains to be written.

Adolescence Interrupted

Looking Back through Boxes

When you’re the owner of a cloudy, unreliable childhood memory database, digging through boxes from the past is like meeting a younger version of yourself for the first time. Each class photo, laughably short journal entry, or overly detailed paper on the state bird of Delaware is a peek into the world of a focused, curious kid who now walks around in today’s lanky-limbed adult skin.

Taking attic inventory (literally) is a perfect way to chart the course of a life spent wondering and processing. The raw mental materials that would ultimately comprise the cement mix poured into the foundation of an often rigid structure were once still malleable enough to allow room for flexible movement of thought and action.

Hope. Promise. Excitement. Strategy. When we’re young, we overflow with anticipation for what still lies ahead and the pages waiting to be written. There is a hidden naivety beneath that level of optimism, but it’s pretty nice to visit a time before disappointment, disenchantment, regret, or rejection….even if it’s only a temporary trip.

Transporting to the past offers not only a nostalgic walk down memory lane but also a stark reminder of the brevity of that stroll. We spend so much of our developing years watching an hourglass filled with limitless sand empty at an almost imperceptible pace. At some point, we pick up this decorative clock for a closer look at the levels, and we’re shocked by the shifted weight.

It’s easy to take these modern monotonous days for granted, but they are all little limited editions just waiting to be maximized. The tedium of today can be the reminiscence of tomorrow. It’s all in the framing…or reframing.

A marathon is not run on a loop, and there’s a reason we crave scenic variety. But it’s better to fall from trying to outrun the vanishing sand than to be buried beneath it. At least there’s more padding on top of the pile.

Carpe diem. Have a healthy, wonderful, and wholly original 2020.

Adolescence Interrupted

When the Music Matters

It’s no coincidence. We feel a stronger allegiance to the music that provided the soundtrack to our teenage lives than to any period of melodic exposure arriving before or after the very specific ages of 13-15. Firsts are firsts, and there’s nothing quite like the initial unwrapping. Memories are locked, markers are stamped, and we will summon those songs for the rest of our days.

As an audiophile, these neuro-fireworks may have exploded with a bit more impact for me than the average bear. But when those headphones hit my ears, wholly unfamiliar pathways opened, and a burst of color detonated behind my eyes when that perfect marriage of lyrics and harmonies flooded my brain. It was an indescribable introduction to a lifelong romance and endless quest to rediscover that unlit fuse. To feel all your senses simultaneously awakened with the abrupt urgency of a shotgun blast in a hibernating bear cave is both overwhelming and invigorating.

Why does everyone wax poetic about the bands and artists that shaped their developing years? It’s not nostalgia. It’s chemical. These songs occupy a very special spot in the psyche, and we will be left defending their merits for the rest of our lives. The music is inextricably attached to adolescence, and the weight of the world sits on teenage shoulders.

Coming of age in the 90s provided a limitless roster of musicians who planted their flags in the hearts and minds of a generation stuck between two very disparate worlds in the pre- and post-technological revolution. But talk to anyone who drops their eggs in baskets of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., and you’ll most likely hear a similar story. We know what we know and we love what we love.

No single experience will ever equal the rush of adrenaline that shot through my bloodstream the first time the first line of “August and Everything After” sent its perfectly crafted message down my ear canal…and night drives spent listening to a complete catalog Counting Crows shuffle still hits me in the soft stuff.

If that’s not chemical, what is it?

Adolescence Interrupted

Gut Versus Logic

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” ―Paul Tillich

On the precipice of a monumental life shift, I stand at the crossroads of familiar and foreign, watching the cargo bay doors slide open. Squinting in the sun, I think back to everything that’s led me to this particular moment, place, and time.

Like the resulting ripple from a stone’s journey into the pond, small single actions can rewrite the rules and codes branded into a stubborn psyche, resulting in a wholly altered destination.

Probably more than most, I’m hyper-nostalgic for the way a precise snapshot in time felt in my bones. That particular variety of “firsts” is forever lost to experience and the passing of time. But most major decisions are still weighted with the understanding that each step forward is also a step away. Making peace with that form of travel can bring blisters, and dry boots can only work so many wonders. So it’s either lace up or leave.

Any new frontier first presents itself as shadowed woods and crooked trails. Then the routes and roads become routine, the air smells the same, and a notion of home is born from repetition. To make that first push onto any path with an invisible destination is equal parts intimidating and exhilarating. Upending a fairly entrenched life for the distant promise of a more defined, aligned blueprint is a dive into the dark without a sense of the depth.

Trust is king.

Believe in yourself and your intentions. Close your eyes and leap.

Let the safety net reveal itself during the descent.

Adolescence Interrupted

Open Ears, Open Hearts

The capacity to trade passive hearing for active genuine listening is a wildly underrated and undervalued ability.

With phones, pods, or buds permanently glued to our auditory entryways, blocking out the world in favor of a steady stream of specifically curated inputs has become much more the rule than the exception.

As a raging podcast addict, I’m as guilty as the next inmate. Any finger-wagging admonition might feel loaded coming from someone constantly and currently plugged into the matrix. Like a junkie peddling his own product, there is blatant hypocrisy in the message. That irony is not lost on me.

But when we take the time to hit pause on the endless barrage of information or static distractions being shoveled into our temporal lobes, we free up available space for someone desperately in need of an open ear and an open heart.

I can’t downplay the importance of answering when that person is calling. As merely a metaphor, it is sage advice. As emphatic instruction, a small simple gesture can prevent a misaligned balance of labored breathing from spiraling into desperate gasps at the waterline. Our actions can quite literally lift the stones from the shoes of the sinking.

Without bias or judgment, those in our lives who sit at the top of our respective totem poles deserve the best we can offer, even (and especially) when our packs are already weighty with worry or their own miscellaneous rock collection.

Patience. Purpose. Compassion. Consideration. Empathy. Encouragement.

The best-fitting pieces of the puzzle should eventually paint a picture of balance…as long as we arrange them accordingly.

Adolescence Interrupted

Make Your Mark…Then Move It

“I think that the power is the principle. The principle of moving forward, as though you have the confidence to move forward, eventually gives you confidence when you look back and see what you’ve done.”– Robert Downey Jr.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”– Joseph Campbell

Neat stacks and tidy rows. Organized uniformity. Controlled outcomes and throttled variables. Just the sound of the phrases evokes a soothing sense of inner peace.

Unfortunately, that’s not the game, and those aren’t the rules.

We live in a perpetual Indiana Jones boulder chase world, and the only constant is a complete lack of command over where and when those pitfalls break free from their hiding places to surprise us with a spiky slip into an unlucky situation.

Instead of a laser-locked focus on permanence, maybe the best we can hope for is a clear footprint, created from a confident plant of our boots in the mud, ready to be washed away with the next day’s rain. We don’t necessarily need ownership of a name remembered for generations, but making a mark is an important pursuit, even if it’s a daily one.

Navigating social media scoreboards and spinning inside a constant comparison culture can diminish individual victories and discount incremental gains by shining a brighter light on the checkered flag than the gravel on the ground. But reaching any finish line is accomplished by first taking one step, and then another.

Humans exist inside the center of a dynamic tornado. We spend the majority of our waking moments dodging the debris. There is only here and there is only now.

Celebrate your wins. Recognize the effort required. Take stock. Plant your flag…and then move it.

Adolescence Interrupted

Permission to Fail

Be patient. Be kind. Fall down. Get up again. Forgive yourself.

As we all blindly sprint toward some imaginary, concocted finish line, we hold onto the hope that a solid grip on the brass ring will somehow bring a permanent sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

But even the most clever moves on the chessboard are often met with an equal or greater riposte.

A difficult lesson to learn is that a lack of adversity is not necessarily a good thing. Getting knocked to the ground can hurt the body (along with the ego), but the strength it takes to stand and fight another day is worth the bruised knees and battered self-esteem.

We are not perfect. But we are perfectionists stuck in the shoes of fallible creatures. Making peace with that incongruity is the first step toward shedding the skin of self-criticism and personal disparagement.

This is exponentially easier said than done. Beating ourselves up over every misstep and mistake we make is a national pastime.  Our society reserves praise only for the best of the best, and shuns second place losers like a colony of lepers holding silver medals, plastering on fake smiles of faux enthusiasm for disinterested press lines.

But without defeat, there is no success. If we don’t give ourselves permission to fail, we never learn. If we never learn, we never grow.

Reframe your personal narrative. Relish the wins, but embrace the losses with a modified focus on what can be gained from coming up short or missing the mark.

Failure might finally have a different feel when it’s wearing fuzzy slippers instead of spiked heels.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Feeling of Familiar

Walking around the world as creatures of contentment and relishers of routine, it’s easy to assume that breaking a pattern to add some spice to the monotonous mix means upsetting the setup by tossing a pot of pasta against the wall to see what sticks and what falls.

However, having recently upended my entire life to return to the place where the building blocks of those comfort zones were first stacked, I’m learning that revisiting the starting line can serve as a thoroughly unexpected chance to refresh and reload. There is a certain novelty to presumption, and jack has been waiting to pounce from his hiding place boxes at even the slightest turn of his crank.

Time is impatient. While I was off chasing adventures, the town that imprinted itself onto my core code grew its own legs and learned to run…and with a heavy hunk of my heart still stuck in another city, it’s been taxing trying to keep pace.

But the breeze that blew me back to basics and the rationale to bunt and steal home remain front and center. I’m constantly reminded of the clock and its speedy sand.

Without the arms to control anything outside my direct reach, I’ll focus on what matters most, strap on those running shoes, and continue to track that elusive feeling of familiar.

Adolescence Interrupted