Sunday, January 3, 2016
Isn't it funny how a song, a fragrance, a moment can take you back to another time. Such was this evening as I watched a season of the short-lived series Freaks and Geeks with my daughter. This movie fest came on the heels of a very trying semester teaching in a different university. This new job tore me away from numerous obligations, family and friends. I immersed myself in this new setting, focusing on fulfilling commitments and survival. The end of the semester arrived with me physically sick, tired and confused. Thankfully, Baby Girl had decorated the house for Christmas, so we all celebrated and collapsed. The season was pretty much a blur.
Besides being physically sick, I was burned out. So the other night as we snuggled close under the Christmas lights catching up with each other, we watched Freaks and Geeks. This oddly touching series only lasted one season but launched the careers of several actors. Produced the year Baby girl was born, 1999, it took place in 1980. Having finished high school in the late 70's, I identified with the characters and the world they lived in. As we finished the last episode in the wee hours of the morning, my daughter asked, "so mom were you a freak or a geek?" As we laughed at the thought, I readily admitted to being more of a geek. Although I identified with the main character's diverse assortment of friends, I was too afraid to walk on the wild side.
I was an insecure child and teen but then, is any adolescent not? Pensive and timid in spirit, I was also somewhat neurotic. I envied those who effortlessly excelled at all their studies, while having a social life. They made it look easy, so I assumed it was for everyone but me. I was successful in my classes but worked terribly hard to do it. Although many of my friends longed for parties, dates and all kinds of dubious adventures. I worried that somehow, somewhere, I might lose control of my tightly wound psychic and somehow screw up and in the process disappoint my family.
Watching this series reminded me of the insecurities of high school. The bullies, the name calling, the cool kids, the parties, the alcohol, the cigarettes, drugs and sex. I was not part of the 'in' crowd but being on the outside of this group was a much more comfortable 'safe' place for this scared soul who very much just wanted to 'be good'.
What I know now that I could not have known then is that most everyone in high school is scared and somewhat neurotic. And the funny part is when you're an adolescent that's pretty normal. The secure teens who seemed to have it all together, they too had their difficulties. We all did. Growing up was just so labor intensive and we were so self absorbed that we hardly had time to recognize that everyone else had their own struggles.
Living life, trying, failing, succeeding, teaches us a great deal. Accepting that life is messy, chaotic and complex is part of maturing. Reconciling oneself to life's unpredictability and embracing the good in imperfection takes years. Why, I still struggle with it.
So Freaks and Geeks provided a brief glimpse backward in time. A glance over my shoulder to see how far this fragile ego has come, with the disappointing realization that I still have far yet to go.