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Drag Me

November 21st, 2023

I turn twenty years old in two weeks and I’m trying not to have an existential crisis about it, but I don’t think it’s working. It’s difficult to describe the feeling. It’s a type of stress that reveals something about you. Like how you get when you can’t let go of a thought. In every conversation you say the same thing over and over just to try to make it seem more tangible or, perhaps, to think of something that’ll make it seem less daunting. But it doesn’t and you don’t. Twenty is a year that I’ll look back on as naive but I look forward to as the year to “get off my ass.” And that’s a big deal, I guess.

It’s started already. I think the shit from last year forced me to reevaluate myself in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. I actually stopped jerking off all the time, I actually stopped doing the harder drugs -- y’know instead of just saying I stopped to avoid the issue. When you establish some levels of productivity you start to feel it -- when time is being wasted. I can’t watch TV anymore. I can’t use my phone. Hell, even my sexual escapades greatly suffered from this Delta-Male grindset. I just can’t be fucked anymore. Literally.

On my visit to Virginia for Thanksgiving, Matthew told me that I’ve become both “more chill and less chill.” When I, in my insecurity, prompted him to translate, it wasn’t exactly less confusing. I think I get it though. I’m more easily annoyed but also slower to anger. I never yell; I don’t get into fights anymore. Yet, I can’t seem to not wanna tear my head off while talking to Eshaan. Or freshmen. Oh God, am I that guy that regurgitates an inherent “fuck freshmen?” Is this what it feels like to be that annoying prick?

Maybe I’m just more easily annoyed with myself. Like I should be older than I am. Because it’s frustrating to see yourself in annoying people. Especially when you’ve convinced yourself that you share no resemblance to them. It’s like that stupid Freudian “fear of castration” except instead of looking at a vagina and somehow being frightened at the possibility of losing my amazing weiner, I see people, especially older people, that are certifiably uncool and fear that the social castration is imminent.

“Deisian” is a term coined by my friend Carolyn to describe those people that just don’t “get it.” Think Michael Scott. Or Matpat. They’re everywhere -- in our homes, our charities, our classes. Hell, half the religion department at Ireton was made up of these Deisian 38-year-olds who were desperate to prove themselves to high school sophomores. That shit’s weird. Why are you wearing a beanie?

But now that I’m not participating in objectively fun social meandering, continuing my efforts to “lose track” of my body count, or even living the life I always dreamed of in inebriation -- these thoughts have invaded my conversations all the more. I have nothing else to talk about. This gentle philosophical dread is all I have to show for myself. Maybe that’ll change once I’m graduated and can come home to get everyone to convince me how cool Dean’s List is. But that’ll be when I’m twenty-two. You lose the ability to be cool at that point. It’s just getting off your ass.

I feel like I’m losing a part of myself. Like I’m not doing enough. Which is weird because I’m doing more than I ever have. I’m writing so much more. I’m gymming kind of (still getting off my glutes). I am probably gonna make Dean’s List. But is that cool?

When you apply the Socratic method to this whole “how do I be cool at twenty-two” thing, you’re met with a pretty obvious question: “why do I care so much about being cool?” Yeah, fair. Because it’s not even about what other people think of me anymore. I’m not in high school; my life is extended beyond the social stratosphere. I have my security, blah blah blah friends love whatever. I think I’m just worried that I’m losing the ability to connect with things I did back then. Shit I used to find funny I now just find irritating. Gaslighting random people doesn’t have the same kick it used to. Even getting high comes with the knowledge that the whole rest of my day is gonna be wasted.

I’m worried because identification with these things correlates with what I’ve perceived as personal growth. In other words, once I can no longer identify with what made me feel whole at sixteen, I worry that I can no longer identify with maturity. I’m worried that as my brain gets distracted by bills and desire, I’m losing my self-awareness. That I’m becoming a Castrated Deisian.

But I guess it really is a new chapter. Now that I’m actually reading it, I’m noticing how different the author sounds. And as much as I’d love to cling on to my self-love equivalent to “page 28,” eventually my fingers need to be used for other things. Glorious youth gets reserved for the holidays and summers. Nostalgia becomes the waste of time.

When I was sixteen…no- fifteen, I randomly decided to just start watching movies. It was the summer and I didn’t really have any friends so that was basically all I could do with my free evenings. They started off mildly awful, being picked from my Netflix recommendations… no- my Mom’s Netflix recommendations. Fortunately, I was the target audience for that type of teen garbage. Eventually I came across a film called Kicking and Screaming. Yeah, I was sixteen.

Kicking and Screaming was Noah Baumbach’s first film and was released in 1995 starring Chris Eigeman (from Metropolitan fame), Josh Hamilton, and Eric Stoltz. I know all this from memory because I was so melted by this piece that I must’ve watched it at least two hundred times over the course of 2021 (yeah, sixteen). I had just about the whole movie memorized. I even bought tweed jackets with patches on the elbows that I could wear off-duty from my Private Catholic Uniform High School just to look like Hamilton’s “Grover.”

I was at a point in my life where I was finally beginning to understand just how much of a toll all that moving around took on me. I missed the girlfriend I left behind, the friends I made silly videos with, my old neighborhood. I hated my new school. The culture I couldn’t understand. The friends I couldn’t find (somehow going around telling everyone to call me “Hashbrown” wasn’t the best avenue in that regard). As a result, I left my heart in California. I couldn’t move on.

Kicking and Screaming showed me young men eight (maybe nine) years ahead dealing with similar issues. It was a film about how people grapple with nostalgia. Grover and his ex-girlfriend, Jane. The group and their inability to move out of their college neighborhood. Or get a job. I felt like I couldn’t let go of the love that was being taken from me. That I couldn’t move out of my old friends’ group chat. Despite them being fictional, connecting with older characters in such a way made me feel like I was leading a path of maturity. I guess I sort of was; I was growing more self-aware.

Still, it’s heartbreaking to read what I wrote back then -- how sad I was. As much as I related to Grover in my desire to reunite with the past, I couldn’t. And it wasn’t due to anything I could overcome. It was just circumstance. To quote my Junior year English assignment that got way too personal:

“The experience is so soulfully damaging that it’s gotten to the point where I’ve lost my love […] Every relationship I form is burdened with the subconscious knowledge that it will not last; that I will never see anyone I meet ever again after a year or two. No matter how much I love them, they will all be gone.”

Yeah, that sucked. No two ways about it. No profound grand narrative to make it better that doesn’t sound like “it builds character.” Obviously that kid just needed a hug, but he never got it. He had to learn how to give it to himself. And maybe that made him better off. More self-aware. More actively thinking. Maybe.

But now I’m in a place where I can get hugged. I walk home from school and am met with nothing but friends at the bookstand. I have people over to listen to my music and watch stupid shit just about every weekend. They’re my friends. I feel loved. I don’t have to think about it.

I’m not angry anymore. But I still hold on to the reasons for my aggravation. It’s an anger and a sadness that I’ve clung to for so long that it feels like a part of me. Like I’m not alive in spite of it, but because of it.

I’d like to end this thought on a note that is more conclusive -- that I am letting go. That I’m becoming okay with social-intellectual castration via time. But now I sit in the only childhood home I have left -- my grandparents’ house in Virginia. I have my usual plans to go down to all my teenage hotspots -- Los Toltecos, Shooter McGee’s, Ben Brenman Park. And going to each is only special because of the memories associated. Of anger and heartbreak. Of slight freedom and growth. When I first stepped off that Treadmill to Oblivion that I defined as “most of life.” But that treadmill is still there and I still need to get my miles in. I gotta get off my ass.

But man, this house is comfortable. This bed. The sunrise out the front porch that I gotta set an alarm for. My car set to the juvenile melodies of Mild High Club or HOMESHAKE. My stuffed “Bob Marley Banana” in my front seat. My lame ass tweed jackets still proudly displayed in my closet. They’ve been waiting for me.

Maybe it’s worth going for one more drive cranking those tunes with Bob Marley Banana by my side. Worth chowing through another Shooter Mcgee’s Signature Shooter Burger. Maybe I can still try to pull off a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows. Maybe.

I think the Treadmill to Oblivion can wait a little longer. I still have two more weeks.

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