When you get older, you tend to forget a lot of things — you lose years and transition those moments to minute-long montages in your head, kaleidoscopic photographs of important treasured moments compressed into seconds.
That’s why you hang out with old friends, even though it’s so rote and ritual you can’t help but feel oppressed by your own history. There’s something unkindly embarrassing about the people who saw you when you were incomplete around the edges, someone who knows all the telling awkward traits that grew into your adult temperament. When you become an adult your life is about pleasing fictional others and finding a place in a machine-esque world of laid-out paths and when you’re a kid life is about pleasing your immediate surroundings and yourself, while craving acceptance and identity. The overlap of those two people is often incredibly humiliating.
Last time I saw a glimpse of this humiliation, this happened; a couple days ago, some seriously whack but awesomely readable shit went down. Someone from high school ditched Brooklyn for the sunny Bay Area, and after touring Oakland, Berkeley, and other areas, decided it was time to visit the sprightly young Mr. Vaccerelli.
We talked about old times and the clarifications we come to in retrospective. Some things I remember were off, some things he remembered were wrong, and we laughingly corrected each other, but when you realize your ego is a terrifying Orwellian dystopia keeping you from knowing yourself, that’s where the real comedy is — in a practical sense, we all know we fabricate memories to overlap the real ones, or edit the ones we do have, and the consistent view we have had of ourselves our whole life is vastly different than what a machine would have recorded. On the other hand, this means the view you have of yourself as one person, stretching backwards through time, is a complete illusion. The things that make you now were not always there, and the child and teenager who you can see inside is just a shell, reinvented constantly by bias and time.
How scary is that?
Talking to him — the unnamed friend, the agent of the story — he made me realize how sometimes I crave the urge to have gone down a different road and articulate an illusory, completely unreal world in which I’d chased a different dream. If I’d gone on and been a grease monkey, stuck in overalls and dirty scarred hands and permanent stains and wiry muscles with a white nametag reading “DAN”, if I’d gone into psychology (I got a recommendation into a higher-level psych course from a professor I deconstructed in the middle of class, after she was done being furious with me), if I’d gone into journalism and stuck with that, if I’d stayed in London, if I’d never gone to California, if I’d never had that one blog, if I’d had a different kind of attitude towards getting my writing out, if I’d gotten famous in another way, if a lot of things. How sad it is to be one man out of a billion possibilities. I could populate worlds, universes with offspring of choices. I tried to explain this to my friend, who seemed simpler — if he’d gone to a different college, if he’d never gone to south america, that was about it. His path had less offshoots, he had no abstractions concerned with presentation. I envy his simplicity, but I also pity it, in a way.
Anyway, it made a lot more sense in my head at the time.
I said this was seriously whack; I lied. I said it was awesomely readable; I lied, again. That’s adulthood for you.