Back In My Day…

I’m not normally a nostalgic person…

Ok, no, that’s a lie. I dwell on the past like a retired football player who’s heyday was 1984.

Recently though, my nostalgia has been more focused on a specific period in my life that I never had. I know that sounds strange, but if you know me personally or have read my blog previously, then you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.

My family and I moved out to New Zealand around six years ago. Since then, things have been less than ideal, but I’m incredibly lucky to have seen two completely different worlds in my just under 23 years of living. But when we moved, I was smack in the middle of my junior year of high school in Seattle. By that point, I had known most of my best friends since the 3rd grade and my roots were deeply dug into the ground in little Redmond, Washington.

Life was a beautiful mess of insecurity, crushes, puberty, and stories that I carry with me today, good and bad both. I remember the little tree house we discovered hidden deep in the forest behind thorny blackberry bushes in my neighborhood, and all the days that came with that place. I remember too-early mornings waking up for school to go to Jazz Band an hour before classes and the sun rise. And there was always driving home from soccer practices on a small red brick road in the dying evening heat of August in my sixteen-year-old, grey-with-peeling-paint ’92 Dodge Caravan with the oil stain in the back, listening to the mix CD I had burned with Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, Rock Kills Kid, and Lifehouse blasting out of the overused speakers that sung so sweetly.

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All of those memories have been flooding into my conscious thoughts because of two recently discovered loves of mine. I started binging on The O.C. Yeah, that’s right, I’m watching teen drama trash in the midst of my over-thought, critically acclaimed drama as a break from the latter. Judge me all you want, it’s thoroughly ridiculous and entertaining.

I am definitely enjoying shouting at my laptop at 3 a.m. in bed like a potato four hours before I start work because Ryan just needs to fucking make it work with Marissa. Seth is hilarious at every turn, and his parents are pretty great (I’d say on par with Eric and Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights as the greatest portrait of a marriage on television). And Mischa Barton is the apple of my teenage eye long past. What a babe.

Watching the show has been a roller coaster of memories and old raging emotions that I hadn’t felt or thought about in a very long time. As tough as high school was sometimes, I miss the hell out of the days when we were care-free and completely unhinged from the atrocities of adulthood.

Because I moved away at the worst time as a high schooler, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that I never really got to come into my own while I was in Redmond. I didn’t start to hit my stride as a person until early in the final year of my high school career out in Auckland. The thought that I could have been that new person back home, surrounded by the people who I had loved so dearly in the town I called, and still call, home has my heart breaking all over again.

Now, I know: The O.C. is the worst possible platform to stand on and look back at what could have been. As I recall, my time at Redmond High wasn’t plagued by cheating and gunfire. I’m lucky to have lived an upper-middle class life in Eastern Seattle, one where I was truly protected from harm and innocence-breaking tragedy. We were far removed from the real issues that were just half hour drive away from us. But the thoughts of how different my life would be cloud my present. It shouldn’t, and dreaming is always better than the reality. I suppose it’s a reflex to the stresses that envelope life now: having to worry about jobs, money, paying the rent, maintaining social circles, and all of that.

But still, I’m guided by the idea that deep down, I still want to have had the All-American high school/college years. It was a strange turn when I came to New Zealand because the culture was so different. There wasn’t any prom or school dances, no real high school sports following (even for the rugby team), and people were generally less concerned about what happened at school. Everyone was ready to leave already. It’s probably me having moved there around that time when everyone was on their way to move on to college anyways, but it was still jarring to me that those conventions from back home were not to be mine. I did enjoy those last years in high school, yet I was never able to shake the Breakfast Club values and stories out of my head. The depression that came with all of the events following the move have guided and moulded me into my present self.

I’m convinced that, being on the outside looking in, life seemed like it would have been a lot better stateside. And maybe I’m right. I think I’ll start watching The O.C., less as something I don’t know about, and rather as it should be watched: as stories that happened at some other high school than my own. Television will suck you in and make the characters into friends of yours, and it’s interesting that the show’s created such a deep resonance with me that I’m blogging about it to get it all sorted out in my head. Say what you want, The O.C. is creating its desired effect on my fried cranium.

The other thing that’s been making me want to go all Back To The Future on the days gone by is this new song I’ve quite literally replayed about 80 times since Thursday. The song is REALiTi by Grimes. She remembers her young love and how she’s never had the same feeling that she had since that time. It’s one of the most sonically gorgeous and lyrically heartbreaking songs I’ve heard in so long. You see where I’m going with this.

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There’s one line that gets to me every time. I hear it, and I can already imagine the John Hughes-esque film whose title sequence I see being laid on top of this song, with this line killing me each successive time I’d hear it. This line puts my entire teen-hood into perspective. It literally explains everything that I ever thought about, felt, knew, or was too naive to understand.

“When we were young, we used to live so close to it
And we were scared and we were beautiful…”

That line destroys me. It makes me reflect on every memory, every feeling that I had growing up. I’d think, “Yeah, we were all still half-baked, fearful young kids. But it was beautiful. WE were beautiful, all of us, because we weren’t complete yet.”

I can’t stop listening to it, because, every time, it simultaneously saddens me and fills my heart with joy and love. It’s so weird that this particular period in our lives, while so short, was the turning point for all of us in some way. We all started to become real people with fully formed ideas and dreams to lead us forward, while still being completely in love with the world with innocence that still remained in us.

I know, this is getting really sappy. But it’s been such a difficult few years that it’s wonderful for me to harken back to a time that, for all its craziness, were some of best years of my life. And I know that I can’t get them back, which is what makes them so much more valuable. I’m reminded over and over again that to value those years is just as important as having lived them. I’m more than happy to be where I am now because I know that a scared, young Arneet had started to put together the pieces that would come form the man writing this little piece that you’re reading today.

I’m not living in the past, I trust you believe me on that. The ships have sailed, and I’m so hopeful for my future. I’m working hard with my dreams and goals still visible through the thin fog that lingers less and less as I travel the road further and further. And, hey, maybe life didn’t exactly turn out the way I thought it would, with an Oscar in hand at age 25, my own production company, and a range of designer coffee mugs.

But I like where I am, I love where I’ve been, and I can’t wait to see where I’m going.

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