Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm More Clark Griswold, Less Cory Matthews

I'm not very good at making plans.  As I've gotten older, I guess I've improved somewhat in that regard, but most of my life I've definitely done things off the cuff.  So many times, my mom would call me on a Friday evening and ask what my friends and I were going to do, and my answer would almost always be "Ah, not really sure yet."  And I guess we liked it that way.  It's easy for things to live up to expectations, and exceed them, when you don't have any to begin with.  Some of my fondest memories with my friends started with a couple of us just hanging out, and ended with whatever direction the wind took us.

But, when I was growing up, my Friday nights were pretty much set in stone.  I'd be in front of the TV to watch Family Matters and Boy Meets World on TGIF, and there was rarely a week that I missed them.  To be honest, I don't know what pre-adolescent kids do nowadays...Without Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter to teach them how to deal with everyday hardships, how do middle-schoolers even survive?  Why doesn't every inner-city high school have a P.E. teacher like Mr. Cooper?

When I was entering those formative years, I always imagined high school and college would be like a Boy Meets World episode.  I figured I'd have some kind of drama going on seemingly daily.  I expected I'd probably live in a downtown apartment in the city where I attended college.  I wanted so badly to make flannel shirts seem cool, and I just knew I'd find my Topanga sometime before my 15th birthday.

Obviously, none of those things really came to fruition.  For the most part, my high school years were drama-free...Or as drama free as a high school student's life can be.  My housing in college was nice (for the most part), but they were very typical living quarters for the average college student.  I quit wearing flannel in 5th grade, and I didn't meet my Topanga until I was on the north side of 25. In short, the life I envisioned as a 12-year old was a lot different than the one I ultimately led.  And thank God for that.

That really hasn't changed much.  I think back to me as a 20-year-old, and I honestly can't remember what expectations I had at that point.  I was probably more focused on getting through college and having fun with my friends than anything.  But, I'm sure there were times when I worried about what was to come.

There is no question that happens now...On the verge of marriage, I stress about jobs and living arrangements on a near daily basis.  I wonder how Adrienne and I are going to make it in a world that seems to be hell-bent on making that impossible.  I wonder what it's going to be like to be a father (way, WAY down the line), and how I'm going to handle that immense responsibility.  Quite frankly, those thoughts scare the hell out of me.  Not in a dreading kind of way, but just in a "all of this is so new and different" kind of way.  It's overwhelmingly exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Some people may say they'd do things totally differently if they had known what the future held.  I don't agree with that sentiment...I wouldn't want to change the way things are, because I love my life.  And honestly, I don't want to know what the future holds. The question I would ask anyone that would want that is this, "What if you don't like what you see?"  You could argue that if you knew the future, you could make choices along the way to change it.  But, if that were the case, then you wouldn't really be seeing the future at all.  You'd be seeing a possible outcome. You wouldn't be able to change anything...You'd just have to wait out the inevitable.

It'd be like waking on Christmas morning with a bunch of unwrapped presents laying on the living room floor.  You miss out on the joy of ripping the paper off a box, and being genuinely surprised when you see what Santa brought you.

I think this quote by John Steinbeck explains my stance better than just about anything I could come up with:

"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

Life is a roller-coaster of twists and turns, tall climbs to the top, free-falling drops to the bottom, and sometimes a blind curve into a tunnel.  You lose sight of where you are, and before you know it, you come out on the other side screaming your head off, posing for a camera.  If you know what's coming, that thrill-ride simply becomes a way to kill a couple of minutes.

The best part of life, and what makes it worth living, is just that...Living.  Knowing the future would take that out of the equation.  If you knew the destination, then what's the point of the journey?  Getting there is half the fun.

If the show had been called Boy Knows World, my Friday nights would have been a bit more open.