Monday, October 20, 2008

Accidental Change

I was looking for the old high school diary entry that I was going to reference, but it became long and involved and impossible, so I thought, screw it, just move, just act.

On Saturday Patrick had a laser tag birthday party. The words 'laser tag' still instill an old knee-jerk jolt of dread in me because of the last time I tried to play, which was in high school, I think. I made it through the vest-fitting stage, barely, shaking with panic at how everything was blacklit and the actual playing stage looked darker. How I didn't know whether I'd be startled every time someone shot me and my vest vibrated. How I didn't know what the sound of the lasers would be like, whether it would be too loud. And when they released us into the arena, it turned out to be a maze. A dark, windy, smoky, strobe-light-filled maze, and there was no way, just no chance at all, that I was going into it.

That high school experience ended in my sitting down outside the arena and regretting every second of my not joining in the fun while simultaneously feeling that it was impossible - impossible! - that I would now or ever be able to do something as scary as enter a smoky, stroby, maze with dark corners and suddenly firing guns. And the contrast between then (only 8 years ago at the most) and the experience Saturday shocked the hell out of me when I sat down to think about it later.

All I felt Saturday was a vague sense of anticipation, not more than leftover neural firings from high school. When they released us into the maze I ran straight into it and started playing, and all I thought was, this is so cool, this is so cool. But not even in a, 'this is so cool, I'm so glad I can do these sorts of things now since I never could before' kind of way... just in an in-the-moment kind of way.

So none of this occurred to me until later... but later it occurred to me in the form of a ton of bricks:

I spent a lot of high school wondering when I would just... spontaneously change. When my chemistry would shift and I would stop feeling sick and anxious all the time, or when I would be able to do the normal things that normal people did and react normally, instead of inevitably ending up far removed from it and on my way to some 'safe' place somewhere. I didn't really consider that in order to change I would have to take action. I just figured a doctor would eventually find the right medicine, give it to me, and I'd suddenly be better, be normal, without having to lift a finger.

Turned out I was right.

Well, sort of. Turned out I didn't need medicine, unless you count time as medicine, which I guess it is, especially when it's carrying you further from high school (and I say that as someone who liked high school, you know, as much as I could for someone who couldn't do a lot of normal, non-scary things). I did need to thrust myself into new situations over which I had no control, no safety net. But once I was there, I didn't have to do anything. I just had to live and suffer and live and suffer and watch my worst fears come true and blossom into no big deal.

And it happened so slowly that I didn't even notice it happening. I emerged on the other side of it not even knowing that I had travelled through a tunnel, and not even knowing that I should be falling on my knees and giving thanks every time I walked into a classroom and sat in the middle, or had a sleepover with a friend, or performed in a concert, or ran whooping into a laser tag arena.

It's the most personal evidence that I have of a sea change washing up slowly. I don't know what lessons to take from it since if I tried to replicate it, I know I couldn't. All I know is I changed my surroundings, I took away my safety net, I made it impossible for myself to escape, and it just happened. It would be a long leap from this to saying that it would happen like that every time. I wouldn't feel comfortable making that leap.

1 comment:

Dan R said...

Did you just say that Time is Nature's medicine?

That's very cheesy, I don't think I'll ever forget you said it.

It reminds me of a Werther's Original Commercial--warm and buttery:

I don't think we can help the changes that come to us over time. Our physical interaction with the world is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of our change and that happens slowly too. But it's okay, you know, it's okay that we change. Our hope is that our changes accompany a maturity of character and mental growth.

The one thing that never changes, however, is the rich, smooth, creamy taste of Grandpa's butter-candies. Mmmm, mmm.