I’m stuck at 17 years of age and it’s depressing.
I feel like I’m getting too old for social media. I’ve really gotten into Tumblr recently and I don’t know if it’s just the type of followers I’ve accrued or if they are representative of the majority of Tumblr users but most of them seem to be young, high school/college-age kids. And I’m a post-college pudge ball who can still relate to their emo musings and pubescent longings. It makes me question my emotional maturity.
I think there might be something to Freud’s idea that we get stuck in certain stages of life while we grow up. I’m not sure about all the creepy sex stuff but I think there are certain rites of passage most young people go through on their way to adulthood. It’s the ups and downs, the lockers and lip-locking, the friendships and failures. Really, it’s about the experience. Each event is a potential lesson that serves to mold you into a well-rounded character.
But I haven’t experienced much, all through my own doing. But even lack of experience can shape you, although sometimes, as in my case, it hasn’t shaped me so much as it has flattened me out.
I never felt like I got to be a regularly teenager. I spent the majority of my time eating and watching television in my room. I was fat from the beginning so I had that complex hanging over my head and that crushed my confidence from the start. Being a weird artist didn’t help matters. I couldn’t relate to the jocks and cheerleaders. Football was a religion and I was an atheist among the athletes.
I went to very few social gatherings. I wanted to talk to people. I witnessed my peers mesh with ease and I wished that could be me but my belly formed too big of a barrier.
I mustered up enough will to attend the homecoming dance and prom but I didn’t have anyone special to go with so I went with friends and at the end of the night, instead of going to the backseat, I went back to my room and to my bag of chips.
I didn’t make out. I didn’t hug or hold or give anyone my class ring. I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely a lot. I was also full of acne, which increased my desire to dig a hole in my bed and wallow in it for all of eternity.
And without being taught by my parents, I learned about art and God on my own. Homophobia and racism and misogyny never made any sense to me. And frankly, neither did church. But I still put effort into God because I felt it was the right path to take and I felt the difficult into finding God must have had something to do with what all the preachers said about how terrible we all are as humans. But I didn’t need a preacher to inform me of my shortcomings. I knew that all by myself.
Religion did not come easily. But horror movies did. They made sense. Art made sense. Love made sense. My heart expanded with the realization that I would be a kick-ass boyfriend. I was romantic and sensitive and bursting with love, holding it all in until I found someone to give it to. But that wasn’t easy either.
I wanted to be liked. Really really wanted to be liked. And so I turned into the guy that would do pretty much anything for you to make your life better. I became a counselor to my friends who talked about their love lives. I helped people through their problems because I always felt I saw things logically. I gave advice but no one ever took it until it was too late. Only then would they turn to me again, in another moment of grief, and tell me I was right.
But no one ever helped me. But I wanted to be liked so I never said anything, never caused a stir because I felt each relationship I had was flimsy and held together by favors.
It was only when I got older that the need to help others crumpled under the weight of my own needs. I went from being over generous to being too selfish. I could never find a balance between taking care of myself and others. It’s a fine line I walk almost every day and my actions never match my intentions.
I graduated high school without ever having kissed a girl. That came a few months later but I felt so stupid and old that I fumbled and felt self-conscious the whole time my lips were pressed against hers. Something that should have been magical felt maniacal because I knew I was bad at it and she would think I was weird.
I went to college and had a terrible roommate and a terrible experience. I didn’t go to parties. I did not put myself out there and make friends because I was still sporting scars from the weight I’d finally managed to lose and a lot of repressed hurt. Time has a way of stretching the veneer of perception until it splits open and lets you see things how they really are. I was so hung up on my looks that I could not imagine simply putting myself out there. I worked on my face so much I forgot to work on my mind, to form a decent personality that would trump my physical troubles.
I graduated from college and never kissed another girl. I came home and was forced to find a job to support myself and the sky high student loan bill I had acquired while I was supposed to hone my art but instead hoarded my insecurities. I stopped drawing and started eating again.
All the while, I imagined being with a special girl, making out, going to lunch with friends, partying, drinking and dancing on the club floor, being young, using my youthful body while it was still in decent shape.
Now people my age are complaining about not being able to stay out as late as they used to or not being able to handle their alcohol like they used to. They aren’t worried about kissing. They’re all good and experienced at it by now. They have families. They have children. They have knee pain and high blood pressure. They go to bed at 9:00pm.
My best partying days are already behind me and I never got started.
These willingly slide into the sheets because they had their turn at being young and in love and reckless with their bodies and time.
I’m starting to fall into that camp with these people. I’m tired with sore muscles and failing eyes but the difference between me and these people is I never had my turn. I don’t blame anyone. It was my choice to stay in, to keep my lips pressed tight, to abstain from the experience of being able to stay out late and get into trouble, to date freely with no responsibility of bills or babies.
And despite my physical foul-ups, those desires still reside inside me. But I’m too old for all that. Everyone else my age has settled down and I can’t go to a club or bar to pick up girls because they’d all be too young for me.
You remember that creepy old guy who hit Jonah Hill’s character with his car in the Superbad movie? The one who asked the kids about their MySpace page? I feel like that guy. Out of touch with youth but still clinging to that culture.
I would just come across as pathetic. But then again, I think I already do.
I almost feel as if I can’t move on until I have those experiences. Technically, I’m an adult. I have fine lines and wrinkles. I’m starting to lose my hair. But inside me, beneath the bitterness, there is a heart that is still unlined and not wavered by the course of my existence. It’s still fresh on the doorstep, waiting for the call to come out and explore. I want to fall in love and fall down with laughter. I want to light up someone’s eyes and feel the world move through me. I want to break up and make up. I want to have resonance.
I look back on the life I’ve lived so far and I see so many opportunities I did not take because I was too scared. And now the opportunities, while not completely gone, are more scarce. My fear has literally controlled my entire existence. I gave up and now I’m give out.
As my own sparkle erodes with time and bitterness, I still long for the adolescent shimmer of youth and euphoria, of folly and fellowship, of forging ahead without the fear of the sand slipping away.