I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I had some time on my hands and decided to help organize and clean my moms basement. While my mom is the greatest and most wonderful woman who has ever walked this earth, she is about two stacks of old newspapers away from being a hoarder. She is sweet and seemingly innocent and always quick with a reason as to why she needs to keep that pile of bills from four years ago. Apparently everything that is mailed to you has a social security number or a birth certificate in it. Well, at least in her mind. As I began moving stacks of boxes, I happened upon my pile. A neat stack of about eight large boxes carefully arranged in an out-of-the-way corner that just happened to be obscured by a mountain of old baby clothes because who knows when Chris is going to have a baby in desperate need of size four baby overalls.
I opened box after box. Mostly toys and punk rock compilation cassette tapes from high school. I pride myself on living a minimalist lifestyle but I do have my eight boxes of childhood memorabilia that I like to look through every five years or so. This time I found my box of old VHS tapes which was a nice coincidence because I had just purchased a video converter to transfer some old DVDs to my laptop. There were about 50 tapes because my mom bought one of those massive shoulder video cameras in the 80s and was trusting enough to allow her 13 year old son to take the $1000 camera all over town. I filmed everything. My friends and I made videos and movies and I even filmed almost the entire last day of my high school career.
Luckily, my mother throws nothing away so there was an old VHS player in her basement as well. I took everything back to my apartment, set it up, and began transferring a few tapes. It was around 2am when I finished but I was pretty excited to show the three people in my life who might actually find the obnoxious antics of my youth even mildly entertaining.
I told her, “I have something to show you and you have to pay attention at how absolutely ridiculous I was.” She sat next to me and watched the video of me interacting with my friends. I was about 15, maybe. She laughed and made fun of my clothes and I narrated and gave plenty of disclaimers. She turned to me and said, “You know you’re like the exact same person, right?”
Now, as a person who prides himself on consistently evolving and attempting to fight every day to become a better version of myself, I was almost offended.
“Oh, I don’t mean like you believe in the same things. She said, “I mean like your mannerisms, your passion, your enthusiasm, and the way you interact in conversations is exactly how you are as a man. You even still use a lot of the same words and phrases.”
I looked at her and said, “This is 25 years old. I don’t know is that is funny or mildly depressing.”
“Take it however you like.” She said, “Outside of your politics and a lack of tattoos, you could be the same person.”
I went to bed that night still wondering if that meant that I was an honest and genuine person who stayed true to himself or if I didn’t change because I was stuck in the past. And I guess it all depends on the night which one I believe.
But the more I think about it, the more I like knowing that I haven’t lost it. She said, “Your passion. Your enthusiasm.” And that stuck with me. Because that is your fire. And knowing I haven’t lost that fire – the core of my character, is comforting. You see children become young adults who become burned out jaded adults who don’t get excited about anything. And I don’t want to lose that. It terrifies me that I could one day end up as a wet blanket. The kind of person who forgets how to radiate their fire.
But what is really important is that she noticed. She saw that it was still there. And it was then that I realized just how lucky I was that someone not only recognized the little nuances of my character but cared enough to let me know.
I always say it’s the little things that matter. And no matter how old we get, no matter how much confidence we project – sometimes we are just too close to ourselves to notice if our fire is burning out. And it’s nice when we find someone who reminds us we still have it.