My daughter’s birthday is coming up, so I finished a three year photo book for her as a present, I’ve done that once before. Each year, is too much for me and once a lifetime would be too little. I find knowing your own limits is what matters, it doesn’t matter if your limits are ahead of other people or behind them as much as it matters that they are yours and that you know them.
So I was thinking three years is a more reasonable time to think in than one year. Yes in science the year has a meaning, the Earth does one orbit, but as a person I change more on a three year basis than a one year basis.
Example a baby, from zero, one and two they are mostly dependent, yes they learn to walk and talk, but they talk unclearly and depend on a lot. I guess I would call it the age of innocence, there may be some selfishness and lies, but mostly people this age can’t comprehend enough to even be guilty.
Three, four and five, mostly you can understand them, they have complicated feelings that they kind of understand, they can do a lot of things, yes are dependent for a lot of safety and other things, but there may be as many things they can do as can’t do. It’s much more mixed up what they can do, what they can understand, they are grappling with humanity already, death, ethics, social structure. So here is the age of exploration, knowing what kind of family you are from, an urban one, a mixed one, a fishing one, a musical one, ext.
Then six, seven, eight this is the beginning of advanced knowledge, digging deeper into interests and forgetting what isn’t relevant. I’ll call it the age of diverse growth.
Finishing my daughter’s first two books made me think of my past, the fact that I never sorted it out mentally, that I didn’t form a cohesive narrative of my own life, which is supposed to be a healthy thing to do.
Just touching on the first three ages, I would say during my age of innocence I really treasured my grandmother, but actually that wouldn’t be true, I lived with my grandmother more in my age of exploration. My memory is really twisted, I’m aware that memory is fallible, but even closer to the time things happened I had a tendency to be about two years off about what really happened.
I’m not interested in beginning an autobiography, but I am interested in piecing together a basic summary of my own life that is clear and cohesive. When I started college, I had a counseling class that assigned me that homework, but I wasn’t able to really deep dive into life then, even though I only had 16 years to go through, I couldn’t make those 16 years form meaning. I couldn’t sperate detail from main picture, I couldn’t face how little I had done or how painful some of the painful times were. I had all the same pieces as now, but I didn’t have the gluten to make them form up into anything sensical.
Anyways this is the second time I try, now I am 36, which is 12 “ages of my life”, but I feel more able to speak about the past now, now that it is the past, no one cares much. The people involved are really not those people any longer, as me, I’m at least half way not that person who lived the life I remember.
So I was born in 1985, 1985-1986-1987 were my “age of innocence,” my sister wasn’t born, for that time I was an only child, for that time I had a two parent family, but even in that time things were bad between my parents and I was aware of it much more than I wanted to be. I was the first child so my mom did her best, teaching me to read by two and in general throwing her 19 year old self into what her best was despite post partum depression and not all the wanting to be a mother instead of a teenager. I should be more grateful for that I am told, but I haven’t found a way yet to be grateful to a person who caused me pain more often than days that end in y.
1988-1989-1990 were my “age of exploration” these years I spent mostly in Hawaii, which has been my hometown in my heart, although it isn’t legally. This is when my mind was aware of the world to mark what it “should be like”.
1991-1992-1993 were my “age of diverse growth” I was moved to California to intentionally separate me from Hawaiian-American culture my mother thought should be beneath us… even though it was home for me, for my dad, it was an inferior and foreign life style for my mom and she didn’t want my heritage to rub of on who I became? My mom was embarrassingly racist and it shaped me in a way of me heading towards the diametric opposite. Looking back, I didn’t know the word for the feeling, but when my mom made stupid comments about telling me over and over not to wear my clothes the way black did, ext, I was ashamed. Ashamed to be a party to the conversation, unsure about exactly why it bothered me. Every time I felt like she was degrading me, degrading herself much more than the obvious disrespect towards whatever the target group was. Many people of the past were racist too, it makes the “Great American Heros” a bit less great when they were known to rape their slaves even though they were married and Christian… People tell me I have to judge people by the times they lived in, but I don’t believe that in my heart. Doing evil things, I think you know, I think you lack restraint and make excuses, but I think they knew very well rape was wrong, because they didn’t want it done to their loved ones. That indicates that they very well knew it was wrong. Anyways my mom had no heroic feature to her to counterbalance the racism, just a drug habit and a bipolar disposition. I knew something was wrong with her, I knew it was hard for me to live with her, I knew something was deeply wrong with our family in general, that life shouldn’t be quiet as FUBAR as it inevitably was (or I hoped at least). I had self worth issues, I loved reading to escape and to learn and just the art of words, but I also wanted to set myself apart that way, I claimed the identity of an “intellectual” I was hoping to build a castle in the sky on bricks of books and smartness.
1994-1995-1996 “age of dreams” Life was all over the place, my parents divorced, I was shuffled back and forth, the one child of two, who neither parent wanted. It was all messed up, but my identity apart from my parents as “an intellectual gem” and “a future success” made me feel like there were better things coming soon as long as I worked on myself and kept “believing in my dreams”.
1997-1998-1999 “age of excess” I became an active alcoholic during this time period, even though I was a minor, for some reason I thought I had better do it before college since I would have to focus then. I don’t know how I feel about it after all this time, I’m not ashamed, I’m not even sure I could have done better, it was basically the stress management technique I was able to discover first and I feel like I really needed something. In hind sight there may have better ways, but I didn’t have any meditation or therapy or yoga or even a squishy stress ball, I didn’t have anything better in real life to deal with the misery and disappointment of a broken family. It would be easy to say “I could have done better” but really I did the best I could at that time and I couldn’t really “have done better” even if I can “do better now”,
2000-2001-2002 “age of great expectations” I started college, life seemed hopeful. I was 16, I was smart, it was a time classes were short due to low funding, it took longer to get the classes I needed, significantly longer, but it wasn’t my fault personally, so I didn’t add guilt on top of disappointment, but just hoped it work out and gave life my all. I worked hard, not smart, working graveyard at a doughnut store all night and going strait to class the next morning. It was a rough adjustment, I was a self appointed semi-genius as a child, but about a so so student in college and I didn’t quite understand why. Basically everyone goes to school as a child so there are people doing poorly because they don’t want to be there or can’t do better in the conditions that are given, in college many people that don’t want to be there, aren’t there, so it’s a tougher pool of intellectuals to mentally tower over… I did my best, but poor time management, poor life management, being free to make choices with pretty much no leadership skills, it was really rough.
2003-2004-2005 “age of community college” I remember these years the least… I was 18, 19, 20, what a lot of people say are the good times, I remember taking a lot of math classes, a lot of science classes. When I started college at 16 there were major problems in my state college system, but no one in a place of power cared enough to fix them, like a main street under construction causing crazy traffic for those who have to use the street, everyone not involved didn’t care much… but anyways. I also had to go backwards in math to go forwards, that was because I had a terrible time with fractions and surprisingly fractions are all over science, so I had to go back and retake everything from beginning algebra to calculus, that march of math dominated my time. Science labs and classes were no joke, but nothing takes up a lot of time like math homework for the struggling math student. For my major I would need a biology, chemistry and a math or physics each semester to be on time, I was lucky if I got the right biology, chemistry or physics alone in a year, that made it three times longer to get a two year degree, plus the times when I missed the sequence, because physics was a three class sequence that started only every so often, as was biology a five sequence class, and chemistry a five sequence class, miss the sequence, the next class wouldn’t be next semester it would be in a year, but that didn’t mean there was space available. I was poor, I was a student and in a way I was also a poor student. Meaning I didn’t have great study skills, little did I know I wouldn’t really need the classes I took for a job, I was working really hard to build a debt that wouldn’t pay off later. The reality was the opposite of everything society brainwashed me to believe. I like the knowledge, but financially I still haven’t made more and have made a lot less due to being a graduate in my exact case.
2006-2007-2008 “age of the real world” at 21 I was trying my best in college, but starting to notice that I was taking forever to finish or even progress, I wanted to support myself so I worked on an ambulance 72+ hours a week. That sounds so good, but it’s a trap for many people, it makes studying difficult, but it’s still possible, so you keep pushing. You notice one other student succeed so you think you can, but you don’t notice the nine others who drop out or never finish. There is nothing wrong with that job as a job, but it’s not a good stepping stone, it’s not a great study environment, what it is is a near entry level, near minimum wage job, with not a lot of upward mobility. I was still in community college during this time, but somehow work seemed real and college seemed more and more like a ghost ship that faded when the sun rose.
2009-2010-2011 “age of minimum wage and internet college” What is more fun then minimum wage working in Hospice? Minimum wage working in hospice while doing internet college so you can imagine that someday your life that hasn’t made emotional sense or fiscal sense will at least make fiscal sense someday (but little do you know you are horribly wrong to assume that what they told you – education will get you a good paying job – is horribly riddled with restrictions that apply). Good news I got a degree, good new I got into medical school, bad news not in my own state and that meant… it didn’t end up working out for me, it’s okay it’s not like it was a huge financial, temporal, existential and emotional waste of energy. Ha, ha, ha. Those MCATs are so fun, studying for them, taking them repeatedly to continue scoring averagely because you are very average yourself, what fun.
2012-2013-2014 “age of true love and true disappointment” This was a bitter sweet set of years, I fell in love, got engaged, had some of the best years of my life, but also moved in with my fiancé and had some of the most irritating years of my life as my husband had different standards and was passive aggressive and pouty about asking me to meet his expectations or setting or communicating his boundaries. There three years have the most days I would want to go back to and the most days I would never want to go back to.
2015-2016-2017 “age of
marriage being a mom” I got married, then boom, I was a first time mother, I concieved four days after being married, miscarried a baby, kept the twin, was extra vomity for the duration, had my first baby, had a short intense post partum depression that runs in the family and moved on to struggling to be “perfect” after the baby even though I had never been perfect before. I had no married life not related to pregnancy or kids and I don’t think that is optimal for my marriage, but I guess I will never really know, maybe it is what kept us together? Who knows.
2018-2019-2020 “age of special needs training” I had a second pregnancy and left the work force, after having always worked from 14-34 it was weird how my identity immediately abandoned wanting to be in the work force. It was weird feeling like a servant and a maid since everyone assumed I want to do their dishes, laundry, clean their spills since I’m already cleaning my kids dishes, laundry, spills. I damn don’t. I may not tell everyone face to face, but it’s nice to say it here. I don’t want to clean your mess because I have kids, I don’t even want to clean my kids mess, the only mess I remotely want to clean is my own. That the truth. During these years it becomes painfully obvious I have a special needs kid, I get her a diagnosis and the long long road to finding appropriate treatment and doing that treatment and approaching a façade of normalcy.
2021 “age of the brave new world” The pandemic has been rough, but one thing it did was make a new division in my life, there was that time before the pandemic, and there is this time now. I live in “the future” I dreamed of as a child, I am no longer a child, it is the 2020 times, not many flying cars (the tech is there, but they are too expensive to insure), but yes day jobs, yes traffic, yes high cost of living, it’s like a ground car the Jetsons.
Okay so it’s not perfect, kind of bitter and sarcastic, yet I’m still kind of glad that I did look back on my life, like I was supposed to be able to do many times in the past, but couldn’t really.
“When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.”– Harper Lee “To Kill a Mocking Bird”