Just a game where we make up the rules?
I once asked my Grandfather about growing old. I was telling him how I keep waiting for the switch to go off in my head, when suddenly I will feel like a grown-up, but each year nothing happens. My belief at the time that the triggering factor was having kids, that when you were suddenly responsible for another human being's life, something happened inside your brain chemistry that transformed you in to an adult. Not having travelled down the sleepless path of parenthood this, I surmised, was why I still felt like I was making it all up as I went along.
Part of Dig, an installation by Daniel Silver, a buried treasure of discarded Freuds.
Grafton Way, London, 26th October, 2013
He said to me that after five kids, ten grandchildren and four (at that time) great-grandchildren, when he closed his eyes he was still sixteen. He said the only thing that ever changed was his reflection in the mirror, that it still gave him a shock when his teenage-self saw the old man looking back at him. Children, he said, had no effect on that.
So, there's one of two things going on here. Either my grandfather was a very bad and somewhat feckless parent, or this whole adult thing is a bit like Santa Claus or the global banking system, a very big lie perpetrated by everyone involved on a massive conspiratorial scale. Some folks act like adults, because that's the way they think they're supposed to be now that they're old, and other folks pretend to act like adults, because they're really scared that everyone else actually is an adult and when they get caught not being an adult, they'll be sent away to a home for irresponsible grown-ups.
All I know is that every year I keep waiting for it all to click in to place, that this will be the year that I finally understand who I am and what I'm meant to be doing, but so far (and to be fair it has only been just about 24 hours), nada. A big fat nothing.
Don't get me wrong, I don't sit around on a couch playing XY-Wii Box all day and smoking Colorado's Finest, just because I haven't a clue what I'm meant to be doing doesn't mean that I don't actually do anything, quite the opposite in fact. My problem is that in the absence of a definitive plan, I spend a lot of time doing things that seem like the things that I should be doing, without ever actually being the things that I do want to do. Mainly because I haven't a clue what I want to be doing.
Someone asked me the other day if I had a bucket list. I replied that not owning even a single bucket, I certainly did not own enough to require that they be catalogued. The silence that followed has long been a familiar friend. Attempting to restart the failing conversation I suggested, "um, maybe, not die?", which has pretty much been my only annual goal for the last few years (and happily one that I have successfully accomplished three years in a row now since making it my sole resolution).
The problem with this being that if I can't even figure what I want to be doing later tonight (beyond sleeping), how am I supposed to come up with a list of life-changing experiences before the biggest life-changing experience of all?
Luckily enough, as my grandfather is pushing 90 I reckon I still have a few years to go before I have to figure it all out, though judging by his comments I'm not sure that I ever will.
Still, sitting with him over the last few weeks and looking back over his life so far, maybe that's not such a handicap after all.