The Size of Youth

Sometimes, Facebook is good for something. Breaking news, I know.

Usually, it presents drivel: memes with black and white drawings of people and political rants from every party and cute fuzzy animals and lists, oh the never-ending lists, from every content source fully incapable of thinking outside the current successful mode of presentation. I find myself less and less capable of tolerating the constant stream of anti-matter that fills my news feed.

At other times, too rarely, content turns up on my news feed that cements in my mind the golden promise of Facebook: a way to reconnect. When those pictures from way-way-back magically appear in the top slot of the feed, tagged by someone I was never friends with because we all started using Facebook after graduating high school, I am pulled back into reminiscences.

The immeasurable wash of memory nearly overwhelms me. Lately, I seem to be dealing with a lot of high school residue, comprised primarily of things unsaid and undone. I’ve had a lot of things to say and do.

Seeing pictures from an era before the perfection of digital photography sparks the memories of invincibility. How young we were, how old we thought we were, and the incalculably smallness of our perception in relation to that which we would have as adults. I can’t begin to describe how much more real everything feels now, despite the decrease in hormones that used to paint my awareness in technicolor.

Fuzzy pictures of dated fashions and archaic hairstyles are the only anchors I have to a time where I thought I understood how things worked. Maybe life really was more simple back then, if only because I was laboring under the delusion that I “got it.” I didn’t need to wonder, worry, or obsess, because it wasn’t within my capacity to understand that wonder, worry, and obsession were necessary. Now my life is constructed differently: I don’t understand the world, and I understand that I never will. I will constantly be faced with determining incalculable probabilities, be forced to weigh options which have no discernible substance, and find myself using units of measure that aren’t capable of being converted when circumstances change. Quite simply, my life will forever be one of guessing and hoping that the actions I take will turn out more on the good side than the bad.

I’m coming to accept that there is no way of going back to the state of possessing a worldview which is simple. Some people are blessed with simpler lives than mine, in which most decisions present a logical and moral option, and life can be constructed simply by following these options. I don’t by any means belittle or suggest to know the complexity of these lives; I only know that when I tell my stories, they often seem incomprehensible. For people who seem to be presented with good and less-good options on a regular basis, the life of a person who typically chooses between less-bad options isn’t comfortable.

Hell, it’s not comfortable for me either.

I do look back on those pictures fondly, when they make their infrequent appearances on my computer screen. I remember what now appears to be the small scope of my life and how large it seemed at the time. In another ten years, I have no doubt that today’s problems will feel equally reduced.

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