Tag Archives: Adolescence Interrupted

A Panglossian Perspective

“Your end can be greater than your beginning: butterflies are the greatest proof of this.” —Matshona Dhliwayo

The thaw on the heels of a freeze. A rainbow following a storm. Resets and restarts. There is a beauty and certain merit in the gift of a new beginning.

Cleaning slates can achieve more than neat stockpiles of dust generated by rote eraser smashing. For all the effort involved in the grind, the result is a smooth, sharp edge. As our eyes start to squint from the glare of an unfamiliar sun, there’s a chance to see what’s changed while we were away.

With a significant (albeit temporary) reduction in carbon emissions, the planet was able to take a deep collective breath, without choking on the exhaust from a billion daily tailpipes slingshotting between home and work. The solution? Home=work…and it’s not that tough.

A nonsense-free workspace shone a spotlight on the delays and distractions inherent in an office setting. It’s impressive what people can accomplish when left alone to focus on a task. Increased opportunities for mindfulness, meditation, and achieving a better work-life balance replaced idling on a gridlocked freeway, wondering what happened to an already-tenuous grip on sanity.

But the most obvious gift we’ve been granted in this past pandemic year is the smack in the teeth of perspective. What matters and what doesn’t? The global population was left to ponder which relationships were worth preserving, which hobbies and activities warranted the necessary time commitment, and how to best live life on a loop.

Introverts soared, propelled by lighter wings and limitless air, while extroverts crashed under the burden of unattainable energy reserves, held just out of reach by isolated friends behind social prison bars.

Those who craved connection were glued to substandard Zoom chats and a perpetual battle against the glitch. The best-laid intentions for daily commiseration sessions soon became weekly, monthly, and then nonexistent.

But using the sting and pain of the present as brick and mortar for better days, we can stack the necessary blocks to avoid building a road to repetition. Lessons are only valuable when learned, and this is a prime opportunity to put into practice some real, tangible change.

The list of what’s on that docket is a volume too extensive to tackle in this condensed format, but the opportunity for metamorphosis has presented itself, here and now.

Static caterpillar or unbound butterfly? Choose wisely.

Adolescence Interrupted

Groaning Pains

For years, I felt a mounting, suffocating disillusionment with the future direction of this country and the transparent apathy that seemed to only fuel a fire of hatred and inequality. Trapped in a plummeting elevator—destined to crash without an emergency brake—we stood stuck in some debilitating glue of inaction, waiting for someone to pull it.

Maybe it took thousands of deaths a day for us to realize that something had to change. Maybe the volatility of our quotidian safety or the cognizance that the greatest country on the planet was nothing but a fallacy built on tired, outdated notions of some unattainable dream was enough to snap us out of our opiate-induced haze and finally feel some pain. Maybe we simply grew tired of watching facts wobble and shake, forced to stand on cracked foundations in desperate need of some concrete. Or maybe being forced to wear the pawn’s high-collared uniform, made of aging wool, too brutally tested our tolerance for the itch.

As a self-described radical Socialist who thinks even Bernie is too far to the right, I had hoped we were ready to hit some detonators on this broken system and start fresh in every facet. But I’m willing to accept progress over regression, in any form I can get it. 

We have a population tattered, torn, and divided. Those wounds (imaginary or real) are not healed overnight. Anger and pain will persistently propel action. Information will be relentlessly manipulated and propagated.

There are always winners. There are certainly always losers. But I will continue to adamantly support whatever ultimately benefits the greater good.

When eggs are sacrificed for omelets, there’s no use spending time lamenting the splintered shells.

Adolescence Interrupted

 

Parting clouds

Riding a bandwagon in the backseat of the planet’s most unoriginal thought, let me be the millionth person to comment about the rigor and emotional discomfort of the past twelve months. Guess what, everyone? Things were a bit difficult last year.

But, for the first time in a deep stretch, I see a future lined with silver optimism and some serious potential for the globe to recognize lessons learned from reaching out for a hot stove, simply to see what happens.

If our collective crispy singed digits weren’t enough of a system shock to take a different course of action, it seems we are drowning in a sea of punishment gluttons who relish the disruption of every conceivable facet of their lives. If that’s the case, we’ll need a lot more than masks, common sense, and science to save us from ourselves.

Offering benefits hidden inside doubts, I’ll wager this next spin around the sun feels more like fuzzy slippers than frozen skates. Just the ability to walk out of a grocery store without immediately initiating NASA-level decontamination practices is enough of a reason to rejoice.

Suffice to say, our limbo stick expectations aren’t very low. Most of us would gladly take normalcy over excellence, and the installation of leaders who are intellectually capable of recognizing the stakes will benefit the greater good, regardless of how much detractors resist the helping hand. But “normal” needs to wear a different outfit or we’ll still be able to see the stains.

A fresh start to something stale. A moment to reflect, banish, and then change. Watch this worldwide debacle get smaller in the rearview as we walk into a better and brighter tomorrow.

Raise your hand if you’re ready.

Adolescence Interrupted

Death in place of pain

“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thrust into a modified global reality where the skyrocketing daily death rate has become a TV screen graphic as commonplace and mundane as lotto numbers, it’s hard not to pull that handheld mirror in for a closer look.

As a general rule, I have spent much of my adult life sprinting from pain, but standing steady for death.

With a bevy of nutritional supplements, a crippling need for exercise, and a diet that has become so limited it’s nearly impossible for any average human to follow, a meticulously constructed system has been designed to maximize health and eradicate weakness or deficiency. 

I’m smart enough to realize it’s most likely the result of pure insanity, but convincing myself of its necessity reinforces its strict adherence…and the loop spins round and round.

For some wholly inexplicable reason, colds, viruses, sore muscles, mental fatigue, any decline of joint function/mobility, headaches, reduced energy levels, etc. are avoided like the plague. But the threat of death is embraced with almost zero care or concern.

There is definitely some mixed brain wiring to blame for a deleteriously inverted fight-or-flight response, but this black-and-white laissez-faire perspective with regard to mortality has probably been rattling around in this head for longer than I’d like to acknowledge.   

To confess that a torn ACL ranks higher on a list of fears than a fatal plane crash is pretty vulnerable stuff. But this blog has repeatedly been a platform for naked testimony, and there’s no point in trying to pull up the covers now.

As always, there’s a focus here on sharing, not solutions. Catharsis takes many forms, and if an online diary is simply a means to wipe away some mud from the surface of the madness, so be it.

Introspection can be a nauseating teacup spin into the most baffling recesses of the psyche, but the fun is following the breadcrumbs back to the beginning…unless some hungry crows have already had their way with your exit strategy. 

Adolescence Interrupted

A Point of no return

A stopwatch thumb clicking down to zero. We are hurtling toward an impossible recovery window, and the fate of the future rests in the hands of the next anointed leader of the free world.

Partisanship aside, that’s a terrifying concept. If we slide our chips to the center of the table, is the action anything more than a clenched-jaw “wing and a prayer” blindfolded dart toss?

Stakes are impossibly high, and we are sprinting along the edge of an unfinished bridge. Hands clasped tightly over ears, there is an absurd reluctance to embrace the inevitability of fate beneath the towering mountain of science playing the crucial part of a canary in the coal mine.

So do we choose to be silent observers or screaming warriors? Should we take a pass or take a swing? Regret is a nasty little rash, so some active engagement might prevent a life of head-swimming insomnia or a ceaseless swarm of butterflies in the belfry.

Sitting on the sidelines is not an option when the planet’s very survival hangs in the balance. Unfortunately, the countless species of creatures who continue to be affected by the savage stripping and polluting of their homes still lack the opposable thumbs needed to pull those levers in a voting booth.

They’re counting on you to do what’s right. We all are.

Adolescence Interrupted

Everything New Is Old Again

Novelty is a nasty little trick. Senses excited by the freshness and originality of the unknown, untested, or unused soon face the harsh reality that anything shiny will ultimately lose its sheen.

This goes well beyond the new coat, car, college, or company. Brainwashed from year one by an onslaught of marketing ploys to convince us we are never fully whole, we crave the latest, most advanced modern marvel promising to ease our pain, simplify our lives, and save us time.

Leave the heavy lifting to automation, so we can stockpile precious seconds to spend on screens and devices built by the same companies promising (and selling) the fantasy of tangible untethering.

With each day that passes, the new becomes old, and the old is discarded. A cycle of inattention, lack of focus, and rampant consumerism has become a cyclone, and it’s destroying everything in its path.

A counterargument proposes the merits of our impressive adaptability. We are a dynamic species, exhibiting a high proficiency for transformation and reconstruction. Ready to spring back to standing after every takedown, humans tend to face a fight or challenge without allowing buckled knees to shake us into a sense of inaction.  We simply find ways to justify the new normal.

Shoes are off at the airport. Masks are on in the stores.

But the belief that tomorrow will present some gift that today is unable to wrap creates a dangerous habit of sacrificing the now for the then.

There isn’t always something waiting around the next corner. Sometimes it’s just an empty sidewalk.

Adolescence Interrupted

Deserted Island of the Mind

Thoughts lost in isolation. A time for healing. A time for self-reflection. But we cross a collective threshold when those finger-wagging mirrors hover close to grimaced faces for far too long. Is there a limit to this period of limitless wondering, wandering? The escape valves are useless if constantly void of steam, and the wrinkles in society’s fabric are growing more difficult to ignore.

Sitting with sandcastle carvings in the shape of an SOS, eager for a glimpse of dropped rope ladders, descending from the heavens and offering a haven. Crossing fingers and toes that the cure won’t be worse than the disease and putting faith in the hands of the senseless. Clocking days on the calendar, desperately hunting for dissimilarities. Masks masking everything we’d actually like to express.

We’re dizzy from riding a spinning misery-go-round, searching for keys to the cage, and losing focus behind unblinking eyes.

The aftermath of bad decisions. This is nature’s revenge, and she’s not pleased with our choices.

Will anyone wake up to the call? Change what they consume? Evaluate how they think? Cease the irresponsible behaviors that are crippling the planet? Recognize the risk of heavy feet on pedals with cliffs fast approaching? Consider the greater good above the personal gain?

Time will tell…if she’s willing to speak. But silence might be a better teaching tool for a population unable to hear.

Adolescence Interrupted

Unclog the Drain

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”    —Dalai Lama

A country cowering in the corner of a storm drain and hiding from the impending hurricane by practicing almost unfathomable acts of social irresponsibility and shortsighted selfishness is a nation ripe for ridicule and condemnation by its global neighbors.

Sadly, the current pandemic is merely the pinpoint tip of an iceberg with titanic frozen roots, sitting at a depth scraping the seabed. Placing every pressing issue in the back seat of a brakeless car fueled by a narrow focus on some imaginary, concocted finish line—solely to benefit personal desires or ambitions—is beyond dangerous. It’s deadly.

We are reluctantly reaping what we’ve sown, regretting our batch and wishing we buried a different seed. But this toxic crop is precisely what we deserve, and the consequences of our actions have taken the shape of daily force-fed attrition.

Diseased, tortured Frankensteinian animals mass-produced as sustenance and left alone to rot in cages. Stock market manipulation to pack the pockets of people least deserving of the spoils. Blatant refusal to don masks at the expense of vulnerable elderly lungs desperately trying to survive a cloud of venomous vapor.

Every individual act of toe-shooting defiance is just a bullet in the head of the greater good.

Maybe you’ll be rescued by a vaccine. Maybe you won’t.

But patterns played out over time eventually lead to concrete, unchangeable results. If we continue to walk a path of least resistance—protecting our self-interests above those of the collective—and stunt the organic flow of nature’s blueprint, we will be met with far fiercer foes than coronaviruses.

We are not left without choice or free will, so selecting selfishness above selflessness is an insensitive slap in the face of humanity.

There will be debts to pay tomorrow for what is spent today.

Adolescence Interrupted

Life and Loss

A terrifying concept of personal psychological hell states, “On your last day on Earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”  —Anonymous

This could be read as a simple warning to keep carpe diem on the top of the list, or a friendly injunction not to squander talents or time.

But in this moment of global uncertainty and personal panic, perhaps the message is much simpler at its base. The clock on the wall that seemed to run on solar power is really just a parasitic imposter, suckling at the teat of a couple of old Duracells.

The days, weeks, and months are disappearing at an alarmingly unsettling rate. We are relinquishing the reins precisely when the horse needs our help to find his footing. But this is not a roller coaster that ends when our eyes finally open, and there is no waiting on the sidelines until things return to “normal.”

People are going to continue to die, and we need to prepare for the weight of that loss. There is an emotional heft in the acknowledgment that so much could have been prevented and so many lives could have been saved.

We are a selfish, shortsighted, and dangerously myopic society. Unwilling to sacrifice our petty personal “freedoms” for the greater good of our most vulnerable citizens will ceaselessly drive these infection rates and further delay any notion of achieving even a remotely flattened curve.

We’ll keep striding into crowded restaurants and bars without masks, and pretend this is all some overblown hoax designed by imaginary foreign foes (or local liberals) to keep us incarcerated in some oppressive fairytale prison of our own creation.

Wake up. Mask up. Shut up.

You’re ridiculous and ignorant to believe your life has any more value than another’s. Putting your foot down in refusal is merely flattening the gravesite soil.

Adolescence Interrupted

Tracking the Footprints

As a white American male, perhaps I am the least likely disseminator of racially sensitive information. But we are all sick of the suffering, tired of the mistreatment, and finished with forgiveness.

Enough is beyond enough.

Destruction of property, acts of violence, arson, or vigilante intimidation tactics should never take the place of peaceful protests. But there are moments in history when lasting change was not brought about by signs and songs.

It was demanded with muskets and malice.

We are watching the very first steps of a revolution waiting in the wings, primed for a spark. The tea kettle has long been whispering for attention, and now it’s boiling over.

But I am merely an ally and proponent for justice. The final word rightly belongs to the innocent men whose lives were disgustingly, vindictively extinguished without reason, justification, or rationale by heartless, racist cowards.

“Why do you have your guns out?”  —Kenneth Chamberlain, 66

“What are you following me for?”  —Trayvon Martin, 16

“I didn’t even do nothing.”  —Samuel DuBose, 43

“Shoot me now. Kill me now.”  —Kajieme Powell, 25

“I love you too.”  —Sean Bell, 23

“It’s not real.”  —John Crawford, 22

“Why did you shoot me?”  —Kendrec McDade, 19

“Mom, I’m going to college.”  —Amadou Diallo, 23

“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.”  —Michael Brown, 18

“Please don’t let me die.”  —Kimani Gray, 16

“You shot me. You shot me!”  —Oscar Grant, 22

“I can’t breathe.”  —Eric Garner, 43

“Mama!”  —George Floyd, 46

Adolescence Interrupted