We were younger once. We were young and unafraid. Remember? We were the kids from the town. We all knew each other. We knew the stories and the places where the stories began. I look back and laugh sometimes.
I see pictures from our youth. However, I am seldom in photos. I don’t know why this is but nevertheless, this is true. There aren’t many photos of me from when I was younger. Yet still, there are times when I come across pictures from when we were kids.
I can almost smell the smells and hear the songs. And the songs were everything. Perhaps I have said this before but the songs and the music we listened to were like matching anthems, each with their own spirit of revolution and independence and each with their own mood.
The town of ours was no better or worse than any of the surrounding towns. None of us were excessively rich or poor. We were the middle. We were wild and crazy. We were eager to dare the edge or be out somewhere in the town. And nobody ever wanted to go home. No one wanted to be the first to leave. We were fine to sit at the park on Prospect or at the stores on Newbridge. We were fine to roam the neighborhood and fine to be someplace, like the little graveyard behind the old church along East Meadow Avenue.
There was a trippy afternoon that took place in the cemetery with Anthony, Pete, Mike, Craig and a few others. The memory is trippy. Then again, there is a reason why the memory is trippy. Or better yet, let’s just call it psychedelic and leave it at that.
The world was a different place and so were we. So was the law and fortunately, so was the technology.
I shake my head and laugh because we were fortunate to grow up when we did. We were raised in the generations before technology became what it is. Otherwise, there would be proof. There would be surveillance and photographs.
Could you imagine?
I often think back to the things we talked about. I think about the things that were important to us, and yet, the things we believed were so important were really not important at all. We never thought much about our future. Then again, what kid ever thinks about their future? What kid thinks about the consequences? I mean, is any of this even real?
As for myself, I believed the future was for old people. To me, I thought tomorrow was just a given. I never expected that time would add up as quickly as it has. I never thought I would turn around one day and say, “Damn! Where did the time go?”
In some cases, time has certainly been my friend. I am glad that time has come between now and my past. I’m grateful to be distant from my younger regrets. I do admit that my past comes up and the old ideas as well as the end results of how I felt come back with an old sense of humiliation. I can feel this flush beneath my skin sometimes.
It’s true. I was a crazy kid. It’s true that I was crazy as a young adult. It is also true that I was crazy as an adult. And one could argue that I’m still crazy but then again, aren’t we all?
There was a night I remember from my early 20’s. There was a girl that I spent much of the night talking to until the crowd got in the way. We lost each other but reconnected somehow on another day when we randomly passed one another at a nearby mall. The conversation took off and we were smiling, connecting, and to me, this was going to lead to a sure thing. I liked her and she liked me.
Or so it seemed.
Along the way, I unearthed some information as to where the girl came from. She was from my town. I felt that rush of shame beneath my skin. She was someone from the neighborhood who undoubtedly knew about some of my stories. I was unsure if she would remember me. It was obvious that she didn’t recognize me.
When asked about the town she was from, I suppose my facial response gave me away.
She asked who I knew from her town.
I know one person for sure, I told her.
When I said my name to watch her response, the girl unleashed a fury of stories about me. None of which were true, by the way.
I had been gone for a long time. I did not look the same. I cleaned up, both personally and physically. My long hair was cut short. I dressed differently. I acted differently and plus, I grew. I wasn’t the same longhaired kid, skinny and small kid that I used to be.
After the girl unloaded a barrage of humiliating stories, her face sort of crunched with a look of curiosity.
How is someone like you friends with someone like him, she asked.
To which I answered, Hi, my name is Ben Kimmel.
It’s nice to meet you!
The look on her face was priceless. I was partly amused and partly ashamed. I was partly spiraling in a sad sense of rejection and partly drowning in old fears of exposure and humiliation. Then again, I was partly anxious for her to shut her mouth long enough to tell her the truth and partly curious to see her face change when she learned it was me.
I don’t know why we do stupid things. Or, better yet, let me bring this back to myself and say this clearly. I don’t know why I did what I did or acted the way I did.
I suppose I was screaming for attention, to which I was successful. Maybe I was crying out for someone to notice me, which it worked because I was definitely noticed.
I was never smooth or charismatic. Quite the opposite, I was forced and coerced. I was awkward at best. I was sick in some ways, crazy in others, but truth be told, I was insecure. I was trying too hard. And sometimes, the past comes up and I am reconnected with old moments of shame.
Maturity is an interesting thing. This is not to say that I am mature. At least, not totally. I laugh at inappropriateness all the time. I used to have a pillowcase with a pair of boobs airbrushed on them. I really liked this pillow case. Unfortunately, a girl I dated did not share my sense of humor. She accidentally ruined and threw my pillowcase in the garbage, maliciously and intentionally.
Not saying that I would have a pillowcase like this one now but I do say that I still understand the novelty.
There are times when I see old photos and come across old memories. Some are good and others are less than desirable. There are moments when I hear a song from a troublesome time in my life and the song alone is enough to bring on the chemical reaction of my old emotional responses.
The past is a funny thing. However, the past will always be the past. Therefore, the past isn’t even real unless I choose to keep it alive. Sometimes the past surfaces for me to realize that it’s okay to give myself a break. I’m not that person anymore. I learned from my lessons and as a result, I grew from them.
As I grew, my level of awareness improved. So did my levels of consciousness. As a result, my level of understanding has improved enough for me to realize that I am not my past, that we make mistakes and mistakes do not make us, and yes, there are times when the past will come along and disturb the road to our future. However, nothing can ever stop us from improving our lives and reaching our goals. It doesn’t mean people will cheer for us or help us. This just means that no one can stop us.
I saw a picture of an old friend. He looks as if he is doing well. I rolled my eyes and thought about the things he saw me do. Then I smiled because I realized that person is not me anymore.
Growth . . .
It really is a good thing.