As I sit here on my second snow day of the week, I’ve been pondering what to write for this post. The most obvious memory is snow days when I was a kid. One of the best feelings I remember is going to bed knowing school was already canceled for the next day. In addition to that, I have vivid memories of sledding with the other kids from our neighborhood in Middleport.
Looking back, it seems like we’d go sledding every chance we got. Our two go-to sledding spots were behind the old Bradbury Elementary School or at a house with a hill stretched across a long yard just around the corner from our block. Floods of memories come back to me when I think about these times… like secretly hoping you make all the other kids jealous by getting the farthest distance on your sled, or having to stop at just the right moment before so you wouldn’t go over the edge and land in the ditch that ran alongside the hill, or spraying cooking spray on the bottom of our sleds so we could go as fast as possible. But out of all the sledding memories, the most fun I can recall was something we called a “train.”
In order to make a train, we’d line all of our sleds up in a row, lie down, and hold on to the legs of the person behind us. Sometimes the train started easily, and other times it was a major group effort to inch forward until there was enough weight and momentum to pull all of us down the hill. Out of our numerous attempts, I don’t remember a train ever making it all the way down a hill completely intact… which is probably what made it the most fun. We’d typically turn sideways at some point in the descent, someone would let go, and we’d go rolling down the hill, often crashing into each other and our sleds before face planting into the snow. Being the first person of the train was especially fun; in addition to controlling the direction of the train, you’d often be hanging over the edge of the hill for a couple extra seconds while we gained enough momentum to get going.
I’ve been just as giddy as I used to be the past two days when the call came in that school had been canceled (and I was just now as we’re already canceled for tomorrow… woohoo!). However, this time I’m not suiting up in my snow gear and heading outside; I’m perfectly content staying in my bedroom next to my space heater so I can complete another jigsaw puzzle and watch movies.
Thinking about this difference, part of the explanation is simple: I’ve grown up. But another part is really interesting and has been on my mind the last couple of days. It’s amazing how our perception changes as we get older. It’s amazing how you remember one thing as a child and it’s completely different when you see it again as an adult. It’s amazing to look back at certain situations and realize how oblivious and naïve you once were. It’s amazing how some changes in perception are pretty hilarious and others are more serious.
One amusing change is my perception of time; car rides to different places seemed to last forever when I was a kid. Every once and while when coming back from Athens, I’ll drive the “old” way and take Route 50 to 681 to 684 like we used to when we lived in Harrisonville. I remember this car ride taking what seemed like hours when I was young. The very first time I attempted to drive home the “old” way, I wasn’t sure which way to turn on 681 once I reached Albany. Since this was before I had a smart phone and GPS at my fingertips, I randomly guessed and turned left. I drove for probably at least 20 minutes, not thinking anything of it because I knew it took longer to get home this way. I eventually reached another road that was completely unfamiliar and I realized I had turned the wrong way. I turned around and drove back to the junction where I should I have turned right. In probably less than 10 minutes after that junction, I had already reached 684. It blew my mind how fast it was because I remember sitting in the car for what seem like at least an hour when we drove to Athens.
Another amusing comparison is my perception of space and size. I remember walking into my grandma’s old house several years ago and being blown away by how small and cramped it seemed. I remember having these really big, open rooms where I could run around and play before I started kindergarten. I also remember riding the bus after school to Pomeroy Elementary my freshman year of high school because I couldn’t drive yet. I can clearly picture walking into the old bathrooms only to find the toilets were down below my knees and the sinks were way below waist level when they were once the right height.
Now that I’ve been out for several years, the funniest change in perception for me is the recognition of clues that I was gay that I didn’t fully comprehend when they occurred (there are so many of these I could probably write at least three or four different posts). There were crushes on guys in undergrad that I didn’t fully realize were crushes until years later… I secretly hoped when a certain guy walked into my playwriting class that he would sit in the empty chair next to mine, or I desperately wanted to work with another particular guy in the scene shop while working on sets in the theater. When the other neighborhood boys talked about girls from school or actresses they thought were hot while playing baseball in our backyard, I never really joined in because I didn’t know what to say. Just this weekend while working on a jigsaw puzzle and searching Netflix, I came across Bring it On. I’m pretty sure the neighborhood kids watched this a couple of times on our movie nights because distinctly I remember the other boys would kind of perk up and snicker during the locker room scene where the actresses are only wearing a strapless bra and their underwear. I remember thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal and that I paid more attention to the male cheerleaders.
Moving to the more serious and grown up perceptions, I had this image of what adult life would be. While growing up, I constantly thought “I’m going to go to college, get a job, get married, and have kids.” Here I am now, moving closer to turning 30, I have gone to college (twice), I have a job, I’m single (and not even close to getting married to anyone), and unsure if I ever want to have kids. I think I’ve previously written about this, but I had this perception that once I graduated college, my life would just fall into place and it really took me by surprise when it didn’t. That’s not to say I’m not happy with the direction of my life. In addition to realizing you have to make things happen and they don’t just “fall into place,” I’m very happy that I didn’t marry someone and have a bunch of unwanted kids because “that’s what I was supposed to do.”
Another misperception I’ve faced is in my career of teaching. Every teacher has probably had this harsh reality smack him or her in the face… but you start college thinking you’re going to become this amazingly influential person who is truly helping kids and teaching them important life skills. The actual reality of teaching is working long hours into the evening after the school days is over, constantly being behind on grading, lesson planning, and other work, and not having enough mental energy to do much else at the end of the day except to come home and crash. While it’s not impossible to achieve that initial perception of teaching, it’s very easy to become extremely jaded and get buried in all of the other crap you have to deal with on a daily basis.
I guess my point for bringing all of these things up is this: if some of my perceptions have already vastly changed over the course of my life, will they continue to change? I already know the answer to that is yes… but then that begs the question of how many will continue to change? How drastically will they continue to change? Will they become clearer or messier? How many of my perceptions are actually assumptions? Will my perceptions/assumptions keep me from doing some things I might actually enjoy?
I suppose that last one is the most worrisome and takes me a little by surprise now that I write it. It makes me think… what have I not done because I assumed it would be scary? Or it would hurt? Or it would be uncomfortable or awkward in some way? I’ve been pretty keen lately on making sure to do things I enjoy regardless of how they compare to anyone else or “what I should be doing.”
But this also makes me stop and examine my mental list of things I want to do but haven’t because I’ve had some kind of reservation about them. I’ve been really focused on doing things that make me happy and things that I enjoy, but I haven’t done much on ridding myself of any negative perceptions or assumptions that I’ve created in my mind as a result of overthinking. I overthink sometimes to the point that I just get overwhelmed with my imaginary situation and I become somewhat paralyzed by it.
So far, I think 2018 is shaping up to be a good year (Granted, we’re only 17 days in, so I reserve the right to revoke that statement at anytime). I’ve made some mental plans to do some things I’ve really wanted to do this year. It may be because I’m hitting somewhat of a milestone birthday this year and I’m sentimental like that, but I also know it’s because I’m really settling into being a grown up and who I am. I am getting passed my old assumptions so I can have a clear perception on things that will continue to bring me joy for years to come.
In the meantime, I will challenge you to do the same.