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16 March 2006, 00:00

It’s a strange place, indeed, where I have travelled to. And it seemed like in no time that I’ve gotten here.

When I was 19, I never realized how young I was. With youth, comes ignorance. It’s sometimes a blessing, this ignorance. Ignorant of the things you can’t do can’t say. Ignorant of the colorings and shades life possesses, which are painted there from compromise and knowledge. I understand more now, then I did then, and I have surrendered a lot of my black and white paints. Traded them in for a refined brush that paints the greys and the reds and the blues. I’m not sure what I think about that.

When I was 19, I was in an evening class in creative writing in college. It was filled with housewives thinking they could write the great American novel between kids and caretaking and continuing education students filling a requirement for graduation. I was there because I found that the mornings and daytime were only for sleeping late and sojourns to the daytime places that noone goes to because they are busy working or other normal things. We plodded through structure and mechanics of poetry and prose. I was quite proud, I thought of the ease of which I could do it all, and do it all well. From the miles and miles that time puts upon you, I realize the pride was mostly arrogance. I had a skill that most didn’t, and didn’t realize that exceling in one area, didn’t bless you with excellence. I don’t know if I’m phrasing that right, but even THAT uncertainty is a wisdom I earned, the older I became.

I wrote with ease, and I gave my criticism and help of the other students, never doubting that I should be in the position to do so. Youth, with all of the callowness and self aborption that comes with it, is the perfect incubator for confidence and bravery. As I said, one doesn’t know that one doesn’t know. I am perfectly convinced when time robs you of youth, it rewards you with wisdom.

So throughout the semester, we do our writings and recitations and such and are rewarded at the end of it all with our choice of in class films to view. An actual movie. I don’t know if the teacher just didn’t make her lesson plans long enough, and had to fill time, because it was a sudden surprise that we had this little treat at the end of the day. I forget what the titles of the runner-ups were, but the choice of the class was “Shirley Valentine”. It wasn’t my choice. I had never heard of “Shirley Valentine”, and it didn’t sound like a barn burning good time to me, but I didn’t make a fuss. One thing I am happy that survived youth was my vigor to try new things.

To recap the plot a bit for those who have never seen this 1989 movie, the heroine, Shirley Valentine, is a middle-aged Liverpool housewife, who finds herself wondering what happened to her life. She morns for what she used to be like and feels she’s stagnated and in a rut. But when her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, and the life changing soon ensues.

It was a pleasant little film, and even now I remember the scenes of Greece as warm, and ocean blue and envoking nostalgia. Warm summer days always seem to bring out these numb yearnings for younger days. I swear, back then, the days were warmer, and the colors were brighter. Shirley, goes through a series of events that seem to invigorate her, breathing summer wind into her, including an affair with Grecian, Tom Conti, and comes to a place in life where she seems reborn. At the end, we are suppose to critique the film a bit, and the older women characterize the affair/sex Shirley has with Conti as the catalyst of transformation and metamorphsis from what she was to who she becomes. I, being a stauch femminist and independent, thought that this was a poor point to put forth, that a MAN and SEX is the thing that turns her life around. She could find herself without the MAN or the SEX. The other women, the older women, actually retorted kindly that when I got older I would understand. I brushed it off as just the attitudes of women trapped in marriages, trapped in ordinary lives, that only allowed the mudane tunnel vision of seeing a MAN and SEX with that MAN as the ultimate thing that could transmute a woman, that could cause a rebirth of that immense proportion. I didn’t want to think that only a MAN could cause a change so fundamental.

Boy. Ladies, if you a reading, and I know you aren’t. You were right. I was young. I didn’t know that the act itself was symbolic, that the MAN had very little to do with the rebirth. It was the black and whiteness of youth, and the lack of experience that led to my not understanding the complexities of character, of any character. I didn’t understand depth and facets of life, especially of what this woman, Shirley had. Now I see it differently, and I can divorce the actions from the literal meaning, and comprehend the allusions and subtly of her rebirth, and how the MAN was a very insignificant part, but the act had everything to do with release and rebirth.

Youth is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And I miss it. I miss feeling like summer, and having that newness that only comes with doing very little in life. I miss having the courage of taking enormous leaps of faith because I don’t know that I can’t or shouldn’t be even near the precipice. Or having all the opportunities and chances and decisions yet to do. With what I know now, I would have made a dozen different choices, a took many other roads, and understood that what was wounding me to the core, in the end and with perspective, shouldn’t have crippled me. With what time gave me, I could have understood that life has greys and soft edges, and the walls or pain that seemed to be forever and permanent, weren’t.

It’s a neat trick that time plays on you. It lets you in on all the secrets that would make life rich and complex, but doesn’t do it till you have lived a good portion of it, and when you’ve lost the elasticity you had when you were young. Again, when I was 19 or 20, I briefly dated a schmuck named Greg Gowan. He held himself in high stead, picturing himself as worldly and wise. He was only about 24. He always said it was the miles and not time that made someone wise. He was a deluded, deluded soul. From this far away from 19, I see him so crystal clear and his rap. I see a lot of thing now, although I don’t know if the clarity comes from cynicism or wisdom. I see complete, fully realized characters around, and a pantheon of complexities within each rather than the two dimensional people that I would have had thought I had a consummate understanding of a long long time ago. I feel I know more now. I feel that I have mastery over so much more now. I have a confidence that comes from experience, and not ignorance.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve lost the absolute optimism that I had that I would win a Pulizter Prize, (although I know that there’s always a slim chance – you never know, I ain’t dead yet and you can’t give up entirely unless your dead.), but not winning doesn’t cripple me and reduce me as a person as it once did. I have lost the vividness and brightness that I experience when I was young. Tastes and smells and sights were stark and intense. Emotions came in tsunamis and the smallest thing could touch you the deepest. There was an exhilaration in irresponsibility and a freedom from history and contemplation. I have lost the luxury of living my life blissfully oblivious of the compromise and surrender that one does in life. But I’ve gained the ability to see the greys and softness and color that once I could only see black and white edges sharpened by impatience. Although impatience is a two edge sword. Possessing it drives you, motivates you, makes you fly, and not having it might lull you into a too leisurely pace, or seduce you with surrendering too soon. Surrendering to what’s easy, to giving it all a rest. I don’t know which I like better, and I’m not ready to give myself over to the contentment of age. But, nowadays, it doesn’t bother me as much as it did, and I like knowing that.

Although, I have the youth and uncertainty that what I just wrote may not make a lot of sense, I have the wisdom of age not to care that much.