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Written Up with Paul: Stuck

The attic in my grandmother’s house.

You know how it feels to navigate a wave pool, right? After several whacks to the head by an inner tube, you realize that your mouth isn’t salty from the water but because you can still taste someone’s thigh after a high-velocity collision with cellulite and fate. Your whole body was thrust towards that rapidly eclipsing, fleshy buoy of a leg, worn smooth and pale by a tide of afternoons spent inside. There’s not much difference between inflated plastic and relaxed skin when set to boil in a tepid stew of children and the middle aged, in a place with no towels or dads.

That manic sensation of artificial waves pummeling you for hours after you’ve dried off is only a nuisance if you don’t enjoy it or have other stuff to do. Later, when you’re eating hot vanilla wax for dinner with your parent(s) in the hotel restaurant to fill your stomach and embalm your organs, you imagine how much a decorative bowl of your guts would cost if it was sold at the Christmas Tree Shops.

I’m afraid I won’t have much outlook post-grad as a consequence of all my decisions and work, or lack thereof. At 20, I’m no longer very socially mobile. This is the time when life happens, yes, but also when we begin to unpack our lives. I feel like I’m moving in, not on. It’s life in between the possible and the impending; I’m here, and maybe you are too.

Never mind the motions, I think I just need to accept my lot. I’m a young white guy who is privileged by an education and – keyword: working – working class parents who live in the loathsome and polite (heterosexual and white) suburbs. It’s been harder for us before. My life is fine, but I just feel stuck. A number of personal circumstances have influenced this attitude, some of which you may be able to relate.

My whole personal brand is fight or flight, vague fog and blankets, broken English Facebook statuses, thoughtful shadows, acne scars and a toothy smile. The “Boyhood” version of my life would just borrow the scene from “I Love You, Phillip Morris” when Jay Russell remembers watching clouds pass overhead as a child and sees a penis. What if I’m not any of the things I think I am? This question keeps scene teens awake at night, and I only know how to answer it by recognizing the lack of a firm answer. If you don’t put your trust in a god or some terrible vice (mine is furniture OCD) then just do what feels best. I know, that’s pretty much all you can do!

Three years ago, I also had a falling out with some close friends from high school and then proceeded to make all the wrong moves in an effort to patch things up. (Love letters are a great idea on paper! Don’t tell a best friend that you’re in love with him. That’s pretty heavy right before graduation!) All well intended, they’re gone but I’m really not over it yet. Do these people just evaporate someday? I have dreams about them, and we’re older and it all worked out. Not in this life! I spent all of my formative years with those guys; like, almost ten years. Half my lived years, and I was an exceptional codependent if I may say so myself. place dead inside jokes here.

Paul and Pal

The author and an old pal. Prom 2011.

There’s also the issue of what comes after college, which is nothing. Nothing will happen 5ever after I receive my degree, and I’ll lead my family to ruin when I default on all my loans. Never to be employed, I applied for a bunch of “opportunities” this year regardless with my 3.0 GPA and no relevant experience. I got a few e-mails that said how valuable and thoughtful I am, so please be assured I feel much better now.

Hey, truth be told, I’ve really done my best. I’m an ordinary, B- human who probably helped tip the scale out of Martha Coakley’s favor when she ran for Massachusetts governor last summer. I was briefly an intern with her campaign and later a delegate at the state Democratic Convention, and at the last minute I didn’t even cast a vote for her nomination. Who does that?! Me. I did that. I stopped believing her when she gave speeches! It’s hard to get excited about the future when you don’t believe in your own. I second guessed myself and it was a mistake! Lots of people were very angry at me.

Certainly for diversity’s sake, we almost had a governor whose track record includes establishing the Planned Parenthood buffer zones, taking down the Defense of Marriage Act and prosecuting abuses of Goldman Sachs. She accomplished these really great things and still didn’t win the popular vote in November. Truth is, of course I didn’t even blister her election chances (the commonwealth and the party never endorsed her with much zeal) but I hastily compromised and virtually abandoned the people who helped me get there. I deserve nothing!

Just kidding, it was an independent decision as I was no longer affiliated with the campaign or the people who organized it. From that experience, I realized I absolutely never want to work in a political machine: no phone banking or canvassing or lobbying. None whatsoever. I think I just wanted to see how it all works and to help turn a few gears. But I did this at the expense of others, basically, and as a matter of principal I regret what I did.

My goof did confirm that I want to become a reporter so I can help facilitate an honest dialogue. Whatever that means. On the first day of my internship with Martha’s campaign I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement and immediately knew I should quit. Sometimes that voice is right.

If you’re like me, then you’ve thought a lot about life too. Neither of us are any wiser. Don’t get a tattoo of an anchor with the caption “I refuse to sink.” If that’s your mantra, I have news for you: an anchor is cast iron! Hang on and you’re going right to the bottom. The hot air of your positive thoughts wouldn’t fill a balloon or hinder your descent. If you don’t want to sink, illustrate that wish with a lily pad, not an anchor.

Why do anything at all? You already know; someone must have told you by now (what did they say?!) This long admission, the narrative of several other quests I’ve taken in pursuit of my well being, is critically faulted. It neither improves the condition of my life nor worsens it, and the injury to your time spent reading it can only reduce the value of anything I’ve said. What was the point? No one’s needs were met. I’m afraid they’ll remain that way, and I’m not sure how to fix it if they do.

In the meantime, we should try to do things well. I’ll start: I want to write well (I won’t be offended if you believe this is poor writing.) How will I know when I’m good? I don’t deserve such an affirmation (come to think of it, none of us do!) Writing is always fragile and underdeveloped, subject to change, and that’s why people do it forever. Now it’s your turn to name something.

Be your best self, baby. Really, I just want to make it. I’m running out of places I can go back to. We helped sell grandma’s house last summer (last summer was awful) and now I grieve for it all the time. Her house was my big, wood paneled childhood, sans cloud dicks. I can’t let that go.

The author as a child in grandmother's house.

The author as a child in grandmother’s house.

This is not a refusal but the truth: the things that made me aren’t lost. They reveal themselves to me every day by their absences. Their meaning, significance, histories, all of which I could never fathom if I was yet so ignorantly possessed by them. I let this happen knowing that friends leave and so will I, and that I have failed and will again. I’m easily moved by the belief that fulfilling my sincerest desires is enough to make my life profound, and in those moments I’ve never done better, have never gone farther.  Do go on.

Paul Rowley ’16 is a Staff writer and Columnist for The Hub. E-mail him Follow him on Twitter @almancalism. 


Posted by on March 5, 2015. Filed under Opinions & Editorials,Written Up with Paul. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.