Wednesday, December 21, 2005Angst On A Stick
I went into the city today -- my first real foray -- to have a look around and pick up a few pre-Christmas supplies: eggs, butter, parchment paper, brown sugar, bourbon. (The bourbon isn't for drinking, I've got some Bailey's for that. The bourbon is for a ham. As it happens, I make a damn fine ham... which is slightly odd since I don't really care for ham all that much.) I could've gotten all those things in Mississippi, but I've mostly shaken off that last thousand miles now, and I figured it was time to investigate my once and future realm.
And I knew this would happen. I knew I would end up sitting in my car, staring at the back of some ass-fucking SUV with a dozen pro-Bush stickers on the back, thinking, "My god, what have I done?! I don't want to fucking live in Memphis!" The domestic, suburban, middle-class settled-in-ness of it all made me feel faintly sick -- not from disgust, more like vertigo.
Of course, anyone who knows me remotely well knows that it isn't really about Memphis. I get the metaphysical shakes anytime I find myself somewhere without an escape plan -- it isn't the place that gets to me so much as the permanance. I am, it would be fair to suggest, not so good at permanance. Which should not, I hasten to point out, be mistaken for an unwillingness to undertake responsibility, or even for a case of classic commitmentphobia. I'm perfectly happy to commit to people and places and causes; I will devote my life and all the energy I possess to any of the above when it feels right. I think my closest friends will attest to my loyalty and devotion over the long-term. It's just that my version of commitment doesn't seem to be included in most other people's definition of that word.
The simple fact of the matter is, I'm not so good at permanance because I haven't had much practice. I haven't spent more than three straight years anywhere since I was 12; I don't really know how to settle in one place and be happy there. Maybe that's because of the manner of my growing up, or maybe it's just intrinsic to my personality. Maybe it's the same impulse that has repeatedly inspired me to bolt at the mention of the M-word, the same impulse that makes me nervous around pregnant women. It's not that I don't sometimes covet and want those things, it's just that in the balance between having them and remaining at liberty, it's the latter that always weighs the heaviest in my mind.
But what kind of life is that? I've been doing the slacker/artist/intellectual thing for ten years, and what have I got to show for it? The desire to attain the standard trappings of American life seems to come so naturally for some people, and it sometimes feels as though I'm judged negatively for not being able to find those same desires in myself -- I feel like I'm doomed to be seen as a post-adolescent for the rest of my life, and not as a more-or-less fully-realized adult with perhaps an atypical set of personal ambitions. I'm 30 now, I guess I'm supposed to want the solid relationship and the car and the house and the baby, and I can't deny that if the right relationship/car/house/baby scenario came along that I probably would want it. But at the moment, I can't even imagine what that scenario would look like; I have no idea how I'd ever get from here to there.
None of which means that I don't have a life in mind, but it doesn't look a thing like that life. I don't even understand how that life works -- I don't understand traditional marriage and family, I don't understand allegiance to a place, and I certainly don't see why I should ever spend more than 10% of my income on a car. I just don't "get" this whole set of assumptions. And I don't really care that I don't get it. But sometimes it seems like life would be easier -- or at least simpler -- if I did. Or it might at least make a life in Memphis make more sense to me.
The metaphorical ledge is starting to look pretty good right about now. |