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A Memory Hole For Self-Determination

Yesterday I turned 42, which Douglas Adams pronounced as the meaning to life, the universe and everything. No artificial culture is vibrant in retrospect, but even after untold brain cells scarred beyond recognition memories are always within reach.

My #GenX summer of ’92, I’d just turned 14 and was soon to start my junior year in high school in a small town just outside Houston. I was the shaggy-haired nerd who’d fight back, because when you’re poor enough you cannot afford to lose a fight.

I’ve never honestly had friends, but there were fellow rejects I’d cross paths with constantly, skaters dreaming of anywhere with hills to ride, the D&D geeks, the comic book dorks, the brainiacs, and older punks wanting to impress my spitfire big sis and foolishly thinking I’d offer some pathway to that end. So kids called me Beelzebub- lord of the flies. First name basis with my teachers though. My theater arts teacher the year prior, her first year teaching after college and married to a guy who’d been in the ’84 Olympics, had me over some weekends to power through movie series. Like every Friday the 13th in a day.

Early that summer, my big sis had a hearing where it was decided that since she’d slammed a computer keyboard across the vice principal’s face, she would be expelled, forbidden from returning. And I realized despite the 3-year age difference I would be getting her teachers who most wanted to vent. There was so much claustrophobic dread because of that. In those months my mom found the VHS tape of skater friends and myself wrapping *a few* houses in toilet paper and I got grounded ball and chain. I stole weed from my big sis, heard About a Girl on the radio for the first time and I founded my first band, suicidemary.

The first day back to school, I missed the bus, chasing it for blocks before giving up, panting and gasping and turning to hear a car honk. A car-full of senior cheerleaders before me, the driver the daughter of one of my mom’s church friends, laughing and offering to give me a lift. On the way in, every guy in the senior parking lot gave me the evil eye. I don’t think anyone had ever been jealous of anything even remotely pertaining to me before, but walk surrounded by the A-list of a small town’s hot girls and there you go. In theater arts, facing one of my sister’s former teachers, I hear her announce upfront that she hates white people and she hates boys, so they should expect a harder ride. Looking around, I was the one and only student in the class matching both requirements. Later in the day, I saw kids cutting lunch early to hang in a courtyard, so I skipped entirely to read. A group of posers (wannabe skaters) and their preppy bow-head girlfriends thought I was the funniest sight ever. Hey Doogie! one yelled at my face before punching me in the gut. Fast-forward 10 seconds and he was on his back, me atop his chest pummeling his face with both hands with a growing circle of teens all around, confounded to see a soccer jock having his ass handed to him by a nobody. Despite dozens of firsthand witnesses, nobody saw anything so his parents were unable to press charges. For the next few weeks the upper echelon of the student body left me alone entirely, unable to process how one of their own could fall so hard and fast. It was like it never happened.

I’d inadvertently made myself invisible. 6 weeks into my junior year, and with the accelerated program forced upon me actually only less than a year from graduating, I dropped out. Which confused everyone. But I’d learned what I needed to, that pomp and circumstance would just never be for me.

There was a hashtag trending on twitter recently, before folks realized that even newborns could be carriers and be infected themselves, that this current virus was a boomer-remover. But even with the pandemic aside there are some dumb comments aplenty in the generational warring between baby boomers and millennials. Personally, I think every gen has its thing expecting the world to be handed over on a silver platter and upset that it’s not gonna be a utopia. Like how every 20-something ever to have lived feels that nobody could ever possibly feel as they do. Nothing really changes but hairstyles. Every gen has its voices convinced theirs will be the last, and voices convinced they will finally be the ones to set the world straight. I’d never fault idealism, but it leads to jack and shit if it can’t handle some lessons in humility. But college kids of any generation are really fucking annoying, because they’ve no clue yet what sacrifices this world is going to demand from them. Reading books is easy, changing the ideology of millions without lethal violence stumped every last one of those great authors.

All of which is to suggest that whether we have the potential to accomplish great things or not, mere self-determination alone is a necessary part of consciousness. And, it is rendered implausible when we choose to mistake ourselves for our age groups or for the falsified cultures propelled in the general direction of our billfolds.