A half-assed reflection on an over-privileged life

I miss being a little kid. I miss getting out of school at two-thirty and coming home and wreaking havoc and getting into ridiculous fights with my little brothers and sisters, over whose turn it was to pick out a TV show or who was up next to play Nintendo. Even though we didn’t have cable and there were really only two or three shows to watch anyway. Even though we only had a handful of video games that we’d all either beaten several times or played until we got to that really impossible level that none of us could ever pass.

I miss listening to the radio for my favorite songs to come on. I’d wait with a blank cassette tape in this little boom box my parents bought me for my tenth birthday, trying to get it just right, so I’d have as much of the complete song as possible recorded without getting any of the annoying DJ talking over. For a while, like in the mid nineties, every song that came out was great. I know that’s probably not the case. But that’s how it sounded. Everything sounded so cool. Everything so new. Now I listen to the radio and I just get bored at all of the snarky comments I’ve programmed to run automatically through my head. At some point in high school I decided I was too cool for regular radio music and I only listened to stuff I considered underground.

I miss going to ska and punk shows in high school, listening to music that, when I listen to it now, the majority of it sounds just awful. I must have been so in love with the scene, with just getting out there and seeing new things, meeting new people. These local bands would play shows in dingy event halls or church basements and I’d get pumped up months in advance. When I got there I’d buy every t-shirt for sale and every CD and demo tape, regardless of whether any of it was even any good, but high on the knowledge that you couldn’t buy this stuff anywhere else.

I miss my first car. I worked through all of high school, waiting tables almost on a full-time basis, saving up enough cash to pay for a 1991 Dodge Stealth in full, up front, and I still had enough left over to buy insurance and gas and all of the repairs I’d need to keep it running for the year that I had it before I crashed it and it had to be scrapped. Working throughout high school great; having my own money was fantastic. But not being able to get anywhere to spend it kind of made having stacks of cash a little pointless. Once I could drive I could go anywhere, buy anything. Comics, clothes, music, guitars, it was ridiculous. I miss having all of that money and basically no expenses, no serious financial responsibilities.

I miss my part-time job at college. For some reason, the university ignored my terrible driving record and hired me to drive a shuttle van between our two campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan. It was awesome. I felt like a hero, navigating through crazy traffic, transporting students and professors back and forth, taking ridiculous short cuts that in reality did nothing to save anybody any time. I drove through the NYC transit strike of 2006. I was picking random people up off the street in order to get through NYPD blockades that, much like the recent Hurricane Sandy blockades, only allowed carpool vehicles to drive past certain downtown checkpoints.

I miss writing for the school newspaper. I miss writing all of those op-ed pieces right before production, trying to fill up pages of blank space because other students hadn’t submitted their articles in time. I can’t believe the university gave me such an open forum, to write about anything. I wrote complete nonsense, much as I do now, but it was all under the title “University Journal of Record.” I would write about how much I loved White Castle, or how much I hated Tony Danza. I would make up fake students and write op-eds under their names. One time I made up a kid from North Dakota writing about how much he hated New York City. Students actually wrote in hate mail, which I’d then publish in the next week’s edition.

I miss the Peace Corps. I miss living in rural Ecuador with my wife, everyday an absurd adventure waiting right outside our door. I miss getting pissed off at the little kids looking through our windows, invading our privacy, never giving us a second to ourselves, constantly treating us like some sort of foreign-born entertainment. I miss drinking moonshine with the guys, I miss riding on the back of a pickup truck to get into town. I miss the freedom of not having had cell phone service or Internet for a solid two years.

I love my life, but I hate looking back and missing stuff. I miss two of my grandparents. I dread five years from now how I’m going to be missing everything that I’m doing right now. I hope I’m never like, “I miss riding my bike to work,” or “I miss that blog that I kept up for a while,” or much more dramatically, “I miss civilization, electricity and grocery stores,” or even much worse, “I miss my parents.” But you can only insist on planning out your life so far. Everybody’s constantly changing. But this is all really, very cliché advice. I just wish that I could be doing everything, seeing everything, meeting everyone, hanging out with everyone, all at the same time, everybody happy, smiling, fighting, watching TV, listening to music, traveling the world, racing our vans downtown.

So sappy. So emotional. The sarcastic part of me that I’ve spent way too much time cultivating and nurturing is making fun of everything I’ve just written, a cheap play on emotion, a half-assed reflection of an over-privileged life. But I just have so much to be happy about, and thus so much to eventually miss. It’s too much to think about sometimes so I rarely do, I just try to stay in the moment, not thinking too far ahead, not letting myself get caught up in what’s not around anymore. But yeah, life right? I guess. I don’t know. I really don’t.

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