Everyone knew when the lights came on it was time to go home. These nights were nothing like anything we would ever see again. We were living in the best moments of our lives and at the beginning chapters of what comes after young adulthood.
I remember these days both fondly and introspectively. I say fondly because yes, these were great times. There was always something going on; however, I say introspectively because I regard these moments as a timeline of travel. This is when life took on a new shape and speed. I swore I knew it all but then again, who doesn’t know it all when they’re young, resilient, and out of control.
I am sure that I am right when I say the days of our youth carve out the pathway of our older lives. And as such, I have since changed the way I see the people I used to know.
Somehow, I was reminded of my old group. We were on the verge of figuring out what we plan to do for the rest of our lives. I was less sure than my friends, or, at least so it seemed. As I grow and move into new chapters, I have come to realize that not everything is as it seems.
There were people I would compare myself to. I compared my finances and my family. Or wait, is it more accurate to say that I compared my lack thereof?
I compared the way I lived and my car, my bedroom, my bank account. I compared girlfriends and yet, I always had this crazy assumption that I was shorthanded somewhere. Then again, this is the thing with insecurity. You never really know the truth. You only give into assumptions of a misguided perception.
I think back about the long nights and the summer nights we spent at places down by the waterfront. I think about the bar fights and the crazy things that would happen. I think about the nights we raged until the dawn showed up. The lights came on and it was time to go home.
I remember the drives home because since I was always the sober one, this meant I was always the designated driver. This wasn’t always easy by the way. I appreciated the fact that I knew my friends were home safe. I appreciated the fact that none of them drove home under the influence but driving drunk people home is not always a fun thing.
There was a sense of introspection at this time. I recall the end of the night when the morning began on my drive home. My town was at the verge of waking up and perhaps getting ready for Church on Sunday. And then there was me, chugging home in my big blue, four door Chevy with a bad muffler. Tired as ever but young and resilient.
My car was far from pretty but I gave her some miles. I saw some pretty wild times in this car. I saw some fun times in the backseat. I watched the sun come up from the beach at Southampton while sitting on the trunk of my old clunker. There was an unknown girl sleeping in my backseat because at the time, this was the height of romance.
I look back and I am amazed at my endurance. I am amazed that this was me. I was able to live my life so fast and with hardly any sleep. We went out almost every night. And I’d swear I wasn’t going to stay out late but then (of course) something happens and when something happens you can’t just leave. You can’t leave because God forbid you do. God forbid you miss something and then you hear about it the next day.
I never knew if love was a real thing or if love was this spark-fueled idea that somehow explodes onto a scene. I never knew what to say to a girl. In fairness, I had to be the clunkiest and most inappropriate. I thought I was funny at the time. I never really thought much to be honest. I think more than anything; all I wanted to do is find that right spot. I wanted to find that right place where the music was right, the girls were good, and the memories were things that would always be as strong as my need to feel free.
I laugh now because I can hardly remember the names of some of my friends. I can hardly remember the names of the girls that I swore I would never forget. I can hardly stay up passed 9:30 some nights and yet, here I am thinking about the days of my younger life, smiling and laughing because of the lies I believed, and looking back at the person I was and the people I ran with.
It’s funny, I remember a few nights when I played the fool. I remember a few nights when I gave into my insecurities. I remember driving home after dropping my friends off. There was something lonely about this. I remember looking back and wondering if it was true; were they just better than me?
It took me a very long time to realize there is no better or worse. There is only different. There is only circumstance. There are some born from the lucky gene pool. They come from money. The come from different DNA. There are pretty people in the world. This is for sure. There are people with advantages and disadvantages but in the case of true friendship; none of this should ever matter.
Real friends are not supposed to point out flaws or point fingers at differences. No, real friends build each other up. Perhaps this is why I can hardly remember the full names of my old so-called friends.
There was someone that used to put me down often. And I knew him well. He used to tell me about my disadvantages. He used to tell me that it is unfair to compare my life to his because I had so little and he had so much.
He has fallen from grace, which is nothing that I celebrate. He is in bad shape, which I feel badly about and there is a piece of me that considers reaching out. And there is another piece of me that says, “Look, see? He is just like anyone else in the world.” He is only human.
Advantages or not, we are all vulnerable. Rich or poor, fat or thin, happy or not, life goes on. The best thing to do is open your eyes and see whatever you can.
In fairness, do I look back with regret about these long crazy nights? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I cringe when I think about the things I said. Sometimes I cringe when I think about the outfits I wore, but hey, that’s fashion for you.
I remember a morning when I just came home. The automatic sprinklers were coming on at some of the neighboring homes. I sat on the trunk of my car to look at the sky and regard the girl whose panties were left in my backseat. I wondered how I was going to fumigate the smell of the Kamikazes she drank and the perfume she wore from my car. There was a jogger running by. He was middle-aged to me then but more to the point, he was perhaps the age I am now, gearing into my 50’s and thinking, “God, I remember those days.”
I’m older now but at least I don’t have a comb over hairstyle. Although I’ve aged well, there is a piece of me that appreciates the convenience of velcro shoes.
(just kidding . . . . kinda)
I don’t look back with regret anymore. In fact, I hardly remember anything. All I know is that thankfully, I gave myself the permission to let go of my past and relinquish the ideas that things will always be a certain way.
So put simply, life changes whether we are ready or not. Care for yourself and what you have because make no mistake, age creeps in a lot quicker than you think.