What was, what is, what will be.

I had one of those “deep” conversations with a friend the other day. And I started thinking. And that’s never a good thing.

But still, I started thinking. I looked back over the almighty shoulder and started browsing through some of my most precious memories. She asked me if I miss my family – living with mom and dad, that is. Please do remember that I’m 25, soon going on 26 and that’s downright scary. I’m in my “remembering adolescence” phase; it’s like a werewolf cycle, only it comes around just once a year, right before I change digits.  I never really get to the same conclusion, not for two years in a row. Back when I was 20, I didn’t miss the sweet sixteen, not for a second. I was 20, I considered myself a grown-up and had high expectations from myself and from everyone around me. I didn’t miss being a teenager, being told what to do or depending on my parents’ approval. I didn’t miss the fights, the nights spent with my eyes glued to the computer, headphones shoved in my ears, listening to angry “F*** You” music (i.e. Puddle of Mudd, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Rancid etc.), waiting for my dad to just pass out from all the liquor and for my mom to finally stop crying and just go to bed. I didn’t miss the drama nor did I miss being pushed around. I was a young artist, I had a bunch of wild dreams and kept telling myself that I’d make them all come true. It never crossed my mind that I might just be downright stupid and incomplete.

When I turned 23, I missed it all. I would’ve given everything to go back there. As nasty as it got sometimes, it was ten times better than what I was going through. Nothing could beat the comfort of my own home – even though it wasn’t literally my home, we paid rent. But hey, at least someone else took care of the bills. I could easily focus on school, art and writing, though I never got around to giving it my 300%. I didn’t like the heartbreak, the nights I spent tossing and turning and crying over a douchebag who wasn’t even half as awesome as I truly was. But hey, I was 23, a chick and I was in love – and God did it hurt! I missed adolescence, when heartbreak was as common as the common cold itself. You got it on Wednesday and you were over it by the weekend. That’s how I remembered my first crush and all that coming-of-age high school drama crap. I missed staying at home with my parents, worrying only about my grades or about how I’d get away with all the ditching and smoking behind the school building. I missed spending time on the balcony, listening to my angry “F*** You” music, feeling sorry for myself and for my joke of a family – but at least those were productive times; I painted a lot of good stuff back then. Of course, thanks to daddy, I’ve got nothing to show for.

When I turned 25, I didn’t even know for sure if I missed my teenage years or not. That time of my life was a pretty decisive landmark in the shaping of my present self – it’s the same for everybody else, but I took it personally so it meant a whole lot more. Sweet sixteen was like the moment when B.C. turned to A.D., according to the universal calendar.

But I’m turning 26 soon. And I’m still thinking. And it’s still a bad thing, look at what I end up doing when I get to thinking. I blog, for Christ’s sake. And yes, I do miss some of those teenage years – but just moments of it. The most important moments, that is. Those rare nights when dad came home less drunk than usual – or apparently sober (boy he fooled me a couple of times!); we’d sit on the couch, I’d tell him about my crappy day, he’d give me a decent foot rub and I’d go to bed with a smile on my face; I’d spent my afternoons in my room, listening to my angry “F*** You” music, testing new techniques with pastel chalk, water and hairspray; I’d spend hours in front of that easel, until I’d realize that my back hurt too much, so I’d put the easel away and I’d continue painting directly on my lap; my pants would obviously get messed up and my mom would yell at me for that. I’d get angry and try hard to ignore the rants. By the end of the day, she’d fix me dinner and she’d fall asleep while watching one of her cheap soap operas. I remember that she truly enjoyed defending those shows, insisting that what she was watching was of much higher quality than that “daytime” crap. Hah…

Yes, I miss those moments. I miss hanging out with my friends on weekends. I miss ditching school and seeking refuge in the Irish pub, playing darts, munching on pizza and giving poetry a shot. We actually tried to start our own Dead Poets’ Society. My dear friend Cassy must still have a copy of that particular notebook. I’d love to read it again and marvel at our ingenuous and basically virgin brains.

I don’t miss the family part. Not all of it, anyway. I miss some bits of it. The good ones. I’m very picky, I know, but they’re my memories and I choose to do whatever I please with them. I’ve tossed the bad ones away – I got my experience out of them, there’s no use keeping them around anymore.

But I know one thing for sure – the kind of thing that you can disprove with science and I still wouldn’t care. I’m part of a very important generation. I’m part of that moment when humanity decided to take a second look in the mirror and say “Hey, there’s something wrong about this picture. But instead of going out of my way to fix it, I’ll just channel it into something that I’m good at. I’ll write. I’ll paint. I’ll play the guitar. I’ll do something about myself without putting myself down!”. Maybe it sounds complicated to you, but to us… it was an exhilarating moment. The day we decided that we weren’t kids anymore but we didn’t qualify as adults, either. The day we realized that we walked that very fine line between child and adult – that niche which, if handled in a smart way, could open some kickass doors.

Of course, very few of us got that far. Some settled for the boring office job, the moderately priced car and the one week holiday at the seaside every year. Others didn’t make it past 18. And some, but just a few, got to where they are today by constantly adding tiny bricks of experience to the majestic towers that they are, watching down on the rest of the world. I could have the audacity to say that I’m one of them, but I don’t really qualify as a tower, as I move around a lot. But I guess I’m somewhere in between. I’m still walking a fine line between everything that I was, everything that I am and everything that I could be.

And I gotta hand it to myself, it’s not as easy as it might sound.

So yes, I miss being a teenager, but down to a point. Yes, I look forward to reaching other important landmarks in my timeline, such as marriage, kids, the C.E.O. plate on my office door and so on… but down to a point. Yes, I’m enjoying every second of my present existence. But sadly, down to a point. Like I was saying, I’ve been thinking.

I’m a mess by nature. Born in the 80’s, raised through the 90’s, emancipated through the 00’s. 25 years of going back and forth through every single corner of the world and every single corner of my head.

What I do know for sure after 25 years on Earth is that I don’t want the motherlode of happiness. I want drops of it, on a daily basis. Just enough to keep me going. Enough to make it worth while getting out of bed in the morning and enough to put a smile on my face as I go to bed at night. I want my +1, my favorite stuff, my dream job and my reasons to escape to a remote island once in a while. I want the whole pack, the good and the bad. Otherwise it wouldn’t be that much fun.

And what, you didn’t see this picture coming? *sighs*

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Dating. And Internet.

I was born in 1985. That means I know what an audio cassette looks like and that the Backstreet Boys were really freakin’ awesome back in the 90’s. That also means that I was there when they invented the cell phone and I struggled with the horrible beeping noise of a dial-up connection.

I was a teenager in the early 00’s, so I got most of my notions about boys and girls from the ravishing 90’s and my brother – maybe not the best sources, but hey, I had to learn from somewhere, right?

I knew for sure that when a guy liked a girl, he’d toss and turn for nights until he’d gather up the courage to ask her out on a date, buy her flowers or concert tickets. I knew that a girl had to leave signs for the guy to pick up on – those details that make a difference, that determine the guy to proceed with his “courting ritual” or to give it up. All those coming of age movies impacted our lives more than we could ever imagine, we all secretly yearned to end up with the girl. Most of us didn’t, because life tends to do that.

  “As pictured, Life toying with tiny humans.”

As the years went by, the value of real life interactions began to drop significantly. The Internet went on from the century’s most amazing invention to a fluffy Gremlin – we knew it was just a matter of time before someone dropped some water on it and turned it into the monster that it is today. Because the Internet, in its present form, is a monster, a social monster that desecrated the human interaction and reduced it to instant messengers, tweets and social networks.

Our entire lives revolve around certain websites. We keep in touch with our family and friends through Facebook, follow the news on Twitter and videochat with people on YM, Skype or AIM. We spend more time clicking on the “Like” and “Share” buttons than we do on actually improving our relationships with the people around us.

   “The Internet.”

I’ve only come to abhor this phenomenon recently. I’ve been so sucked into it that I didn’t even notice it. Back in the good old days, hooking up went something like this:

 “Hi, I like you, wanna go out sometime?”

Nowadays, hooking up seems to be more like this:

“Nancy Stark wants to be friends on Facebook.”

Back in the good old days, all a guy needed was a single red rose and a lot of guts to show up at her doorstep and take her out on a date. Nowadays, the guy’s main weapons are the “Like” and “Comment” buttons.

Facebook is a wonderful thing, no doubt about it, but it can be a horrible nightmare as well. Sure, you meet a lot of people, but how many of you have the courage to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger without sounding like idiots or premium stalkers? I, for one, admit that I suck at meeting people on Facebook. I can’t do it. I can’t approach a complete stranger and say “Hey, just making conversation here, how are you?”. It feels wrong. Yet some of my close friends have successfully hooked up and even married off Facebook.

“Tracy Stark changed her relationship status. Tracy Stark is Married.”

Am I getting slow and old while the rest of the world continues to race towards permanently hiding behind keyboards? We put in more efforts to look good on our Facebook pages than we do on doing our jobs right – and if you think I’m wrong, how many of you don’t have access to social networks and messenger applications at work?

“Oh, all of you.”

The problem is that this Internet (and particularly Facebook) addicted society has managed to damage my own perception of the world and the way I approach people. I’m now stuck with twisting and turning over hundreds of possible ways of talking to a complete stranger, just because I find him interesting. That’s probably because I still believe in the “dinner and a movie” thing instead of copy-pasting links of love songs via AIM.

Social networks have also opened up a whole new black hole in the social interaction process. The Internet (and those classic chatrooms, for example) was very useful for people who had trouble connecting with other people in real life. I’ve heard of and met couples that hooked up on the Internet and got along so great that they’re still together, some of them even married. But you see, back when the Internet was just a baby, all a person had to do was say “Hi” and strike up a conversation. Facebook killed that too. With the ridiculous amount of perverts and well… idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to even touch a computer, it just gets more and more difficult to separate normal people from stalkers.

“He might look normal, but Wes Craven made movies about guys like him.”

So what the hell is going on? Where is this all headed?

What will our life be like, ten years from now? Theaters filled with people who are too busy with their Blackberry’s to actually watch “Wicked”? The death of social skills and the peak of social networks? Where’s the adrenalin of actually going up to someone and saying “Hi, I like you!” without getting the pepper spray treatment?

I’m honestly terrified as I realize that I don’t know much about how everybody else does it.

I just can’t “Poke” a complete stranger, no matter how much I might like him. I just can’t “Comment” on a guy’s photo just because I want to make him notice me (on the Internet, for Christ’s sake, this isn’t even happening in real life, it’s happening behind a computer screen). I don’t know how other people can do it.

I’m grateful for everything that the Internet has to offer (with minor exceptions, such as Rebecca Black and the “Leave Britney Alone” guy), but I have to admit that it will slowly kill my social skills if I continue to play by its ever-changing rules. I know that you’re all pretty much aware of all of this. I also know that most of you are just afraid to admit it. So instead of doing so, you might as well use the damn “Like” button. Thank you.

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