When I was young I watched my parents in order to learn from them. I saw them and their friends do things for no good reason – pay bills late, argue and bicker, compete to see who knew more, out-talk each other, most of all, not say I love you. Did they hear themselves? Did they realize how they were walling each other off? I watched them and their friends, on campus, shopping, at parties (because, back in the early ‘70s us kids went to their parties until we absolutely had to go to bed, and then still), mostly not thinking about what they were doing and often ending up doing things, I at least, would not have done. One of my fathers’ biggest criticisms of me was that I was too serious.
But, why were we here except to learn how to be better humans, I wondered?
In a world where adults did not make sense, where life was unpredictable, I would rearrange the furniture in my bedroom every so often, to make a new world, to give me a new perspective, to feel differently about the world than I had been feeling up until just when I shoved the bed to a new spot. It worked. I felt refreshed, renewed. Life was not an endless wheel of repeating mistakes after all.
As far back as I can remember, if I see myself getting in a rut, I mix it up (although I didn’t know that term until a few years ago). I walked on the other side of the road home from school, I got up earlier, I ate something different for breakfast, I changed my major, I skipped school to read all day, I left lovers abruptly in the lurch with no real explanation, I even quit a couple of jobs with nothing to fall back on. Change in routine was like an inviting a new future into my life, and at that moment, I needed a new future more than I needed predictability. I did not want the old future in which I had to listen to the most boring poet in America tell me how to write poetry, in which I watched every morning from the backseat on the way into town, my parents deafly tossing words back and forth at each other just to see who would stop first. I certainly did not want to live the rest of my life with someone who had no desire to wake up. After one particularly impressive display of adult nighttime stupidity, the next morning I stood in a doorway and said to myself, I don’t want to be like that. I want to be as conscious as I can be.