Sunday, July 11, 2010

Moving and shaking

This weekend I turned my childhood bedroom into a sitting-room-cum-office for my parents. That's the Latin cum, not the vulgar English cum, for those who are prone to indelicate thoughts. It now houses my father's desktop computer with various accoutrements (if you put it in italics it gets the funny accent it requires), my mother's cough assist machine, the television and all six DVDs my parents own, and several comfortable-but-firm chairs. It also houses a bed, of course, since Mom refuses to give up on the notion that my sister and I are really still living there. The room's change of function required drilling a hole in the side of the house to run the cable to the TV, as well as moving the desk and giant bin of LEGOs into the garage.

Related: does any one of you want many, many LEGOs?

Each time I visit the parents, more and more of my childhood slips away. I relish this change, though of course I bitterly resent the reason for it. I have been thinking rather a lot about the process of growing up, of "maturing" as they say. In the immortal words of Marx—Groucho, not Karl—whatever it is, I'm against it. It may be a peculiarly Southern California affectation, though I doubt it because of the brevity of my tenure there and the relative consistency of this attitude, or it may be a result of my hippyish upbringing, but I believe in constant evolution and change without a defined endpoint.

(Have I written of this before? I have meant to, but I can't recall, and I am far too lazy to scour the archives.)

I heard someone say recently that he couldn't possibly do something new because he was in his 60s. I think it may have been my father. I find that appalling. I have heard many people say that they are too old for certain aspects of life that are related not to age but to financial situations. That is differently appalling, but appalling nonetheless. Age is very frequently associated with stagnation, with a stability that is by no means necessitated by growing older. People who have reached a certain age without "settling down" are considered, by USian society at large and often by their most intimate associates, to have, in some ways, failed to age properly. If financial stability is out of reach, for those who have been brought up in the upper economic classes, then one is immature, childish, not yet there.

In this case, italics do not indicate a funny accent.

These assumptions are, frankly, bullshit. Many people never attain financial security, and they are not "immature." Many people are not aiming for six-figure salaries at all. Ditto long-term romantic partners and children. The latter is more accepted than the financial angle, I think, within certain circles. A life of change, of continued development, of growth unrelated to aging, is not a sign of having failed to reach the appropriate endpoint for growth. It is a necessity for avoiding the quiet desperation Thoreau pointed out, lo these many decades ago.

This doesn't mean, of course, that achieving financial stability, romantic stability, or even literal stability (not moving around so much) is in and of itself a bad thing. Those don't necessitate stagnation. They merely have the capacity to lend themselves to an acceptance of who-you-are as who-you-must-always-be, an acceptance that can forestall continued personal growth.

I like to think that I will be different in the future, and that I do not know how. I know that I am not the person I was three years ago, when I moved to LA. I know that living in NY will change who I am again. This is good, necessary, and, in a non-pejorative sense, immature. Call me Peter Pan—or, better yet, call me Mary Martin—because I have absolutely no intention of growing up.

But that doesn't mean I need to keep all my old LEGOs.


Leila said...

you know, maybe my classroom and our robotics team would like them. lemme think on it.

Alexandra said...

I like this post a lot, and everything you say really resonates for me. I've been so apprehensive about making Big Important Decisions lately, and you've managed to articulate some of my thoughts rather beautifully.

But I think you should totally keep your legos.