Here’s the story of choices, leaves, and the road of life.
I can’t be the only adult who enjoys kicking the autumnal leaves, right? I know I’m only 26 – and a bit – but there’s something wonderful about waking up on that first day of the year when all the leaves seem to have fallen overnight and are now littering the ground, with their million and one hues, seemingly defying all verisimilitude. The eager anticipation of heading outside and walking amongst those leaves, the noisy rustle almost tangible, and then the excitement of kicking the shit out of them. When no one is looking, of course, otherwise, you’d look like the mad old man kicking leaves that people have been told to stay away from…
I suppose there are some things you never grow out of, like the childlike glee of kicking a puddle after a substantial rainfall, to things you did grow out of but then recapture. Mother works at my old primary school. She often brings home things they’re throwing away to give to charity shops. Recently, she brought home these little plastic construction things you can make geometric shapes out of. I remember them fondly. I remember the day we got them, although I had forgotten all about them until this week. I love it when an old memory resurfaces like that. I remember the teacher bringing the box in and spending hours playing with them. Then mum brought them home. Yes. I, once more, spent many hours playing with them. It’s like when you have kids and you buy them some Lego. You haven’t played with Lego in 20 years but it’s still immensely fun. I’m… I’m not the only one who likes kicking puddles, right? You should never aim to grow up in life. Always aim to grown down instead.
Equally, and often contradictory, you can often feel too grown up. Gone is the Lego warrior and in his place an old cynic angry at sheep and that tiny strand of hair that keeps flopping into your eyeball. Just me? Drat and dingleberries. It was only last week I was complaining about rudeness on public transport. Just this week, I completely forgot what day it was and thus forgot my bus pass card needing topping up as it had ran out. Desperate for dosh, I fumbled around in my bag only to discover I was substantially short of dosh. And then I saw a hand to my right. “Here you go,” said a kind woman with money in hand. A total stranger, too. How lovely. Some would perceive such as a message from one God or another. Maybe. I saw it as a sign from fate that not everyone is a bastard. Most are, but not everyone. I also saw it as a sign from fate that she wanted me to travel to work that day to sit at my computer typing all day for what feels like the fiftieth day in a row, utterly miserable. Well, you know what it’s like designing a restaurant menu. Oh, you don’t? Imagine waking up in the morning and your entire house was full of cows. It’s like that.
I often complain I don’t feel my age. I haven’t really lived and all that. Just want to be like everyone else. A life without those teenage years spent with one’s friends fooling about and endless girlfriends teaching you the ins and outs of the dance of romance. Hobbies on a Sunday, like football or whatever the kids do these days – paintballing, that thing with the skittles – things I never did. Had no one to do them with. Crippled by shyness meaning every single offer I got of a sleepover or to join a social group or even go on a date, was stubbornly turned down. School trips I said ‘no’ to in favour of staying at school all day with no lessons and a form teacher trying to work out what to do with me. Mopping the floors – I did that a lot. I’m not sure if it counted as child labour because I did a very bad job at it.
I wasn’t really trying to be fair. Story of my school days, really. Constantly in trouble with the teachers. Constantly in detention and then in more detention because I refused to go to detention. Always kept back after school for hours on end for extracurricular support. Didn’t work out, really. Failed just about every lesson, apart from art. One of the few things I was good at. You know these nerds you get who are the dumb kind? And you know these boys in school who are bad and get all the friends, attention and girls? I was the one who got none of that, just looks of derision, including that one time my science teacher caught me throwing yoghurts at the school. I wasn’t the only one, to be fair. He just shook his head and walked off. Well, I argued the yoghurts smelt nice and the school usually didn’t. It didn’t wash with him. I can’t imagine why…
By the time I got into my second college, I already felt stunted. Like life had been put on hold. All those girls, that’ll come soon enough. All those friends and crazy nights out, doing all those crazy things young people do and reminisce about at your funeral, that’ll come. “Ah, Alan. Remember that one time he – oh, wait, he never did anything. Sod him. Put him in the ground.” A great job, that’ll come soon enough. A nice house and a nice future, that’ll come soon enough. And none of it ever did. At 26 when people talk to me, I can’t talk to them. I don’t know how to talk to people. All conversations start with, “Tell me about yourself.” There’s no story to tell. I get up, do nothing, go to bed. There’s nothing else to do. ‘Fun’ isn’t my middle name, readers. It’s actually Thomas-Joseph, but that’s not the point. I often say I’m content with all this, but I still feel stunted. Life feels like a car travelling down a road. My road is one of those ones you get in Nevada or Utah, that go for miles in barren landscapes with all the familiarity of a lovely cup of tea. At some point, the clutch went, I pulled over, and I’ve been trying to get the car going again ever since. Except now I’ve realised I have no idea how to fix a broken clutch and so I’ve set up my tent next to the road and said, “Sod it, this’ll do.” And when your shy, ‘this’ll do’ is the story of your life.
You do start to wonder what is going to happen next. I’ve become very self-conscious lately, feeling physically naked walking down even the quietest of streets, never mind the busy ones. I see people looking at me out of the corner of my eye and I become convinced they’re laughing at me inside. You get on the bus or do anything like that, and you feel so out of place you feel like you don’t belong. Like nobody really wants you on that bus. I’ll never have the chance to go back and live the youth I deserved. And I’m not making much of a good job of adulthood, either. I left college five years ago and I haven’t had a job in that time. I’ve had something like 40 interviews. Countless courses that guarantee a job at the end and I was the only one to not get one. Tons and tons of work experience that should’ve led to job offers that didn’t. Four years of signing on. I should’ve started my life by now. I just can’t get that bloody clutch to work…
And still you smile. I’m not complaining. It’s just the luck of the draw, really. Some people are born with confidence and live their lives with friends and partners and good jobs, blissfully unaware that people, perhaps that person they sit next to on the bus, didn’t turn out quite as well. And that’s fine. I can’t do anything about it. I’ve literally done everything I can. I’m not complaining. I wasted my schooldays and I’m paying for it, now. Pay attention in school, kids. As for me, well, I’m happy. Enough. It could always be worse. All I want is a crystal ball so I can see five years into the future. Have I lost my cherry? Do I have a friend? A girlfriend? Kids? God, I hope not. A house? Have I figured out what’s wrong with the clutch? Only time will tell, I guess. For now, the here and now, it’s the little things that keep you going.
Like that excitement you feel when confronted with a huge pile of autumnal leaves, just ready for you to kick all over the place. What? Just me?
Now I know you’re lying…
French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer and literary critic, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), once said: “We are our choices.”
Peace Out :|:
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