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"I'm still sprouting my tail feathers."

I felt old at twenty-five. I'd just started university, surrounded by freshmen seven or eight years my junior. I was older than my grad student TAs. My high school experience felt stale and distant. I'd probably never really studied anything in my life up to that time and though I felt old, I also felt as though I'd enrolled in a daunting game of Catch-Up. I felt dedicated, though, focused upon some future state. I wanted to have graduated more than I wanted to learn. I'd catch an early bus to make my eight o'clock, attend classes until around noon, then grab a quick lunch before reporting to my job, where I'd stay until just before my evening classes began, usually arriving home around nine-thirty, then to start my studying for the next day's classes. I went out for beers with classmates about twice during my university years, for that time felt like an extended exercise in social isolation, a solitary period where my bus rides were my primary study period. It was hard on my marriage.

I hardly noticed at the time, but my life's social fabric stretched in ways that wouldn't allow it to return to its former shape.
I'd always slept little, but at university, I institutionalized this practice, scheduling ever less time for it. I'd always intensely focused upon whatever I engaged in, but after university, my focus began bordering upon the obsessive. I maintained a steady distain for the present and increasingly revered whatever seemed to be coming up next. Unsurprisingly, I entered into the dubious field of project work where future focus subsumed all pasts and most presents. My first wife complained that I just seemed to disappear into my career.

Relocating into a new home was never as disruptive to my present or my future as was my university experience. Only a few times in any life does some change of course this thoroughly influence a presence. Changing addresses seems small potatoes in comparison. Once moved in, a new address might credibly pass for the old one. Once the furniture's found its fresh space and the kitchen's sorted, life resumes at approximately the same pace, a simple rearranging of deck chairs producing small change. We seem to ache for BIG change, though, and pine after transformations, though even these shifts seem buffered by persistent patterns in the ways we perceive our place in the world. I, for instance, noticed no change in my presence once I assumed my post-university career. My wife sure did.

The framework I've adopted to parse my experiences seems essentially unchangeable. I will finish this FindingHome series and adopt another framework within which I will continue to catalogue my observations at about the same pace as before. Though my conclusions might show some slow evolution, only long time could register any significant shift, and I live in short time, the now. Some people at the lab where The Muse works have been expressing interest in offering my Mastering Projects Workshop as core curriculum, though I feel deeply uncertain of my present ability to so tout that future perspective which once completely filled my present. Alumni of the last workshops I convened there insist that their experience of it was as the best workshop they'd ever attended, but that assessment seems far in the past now. I wonder if the forces might be attempting to muster the past to address a present concern about their future. I might be lost in time that I thought I'd inhabited.

I believe that time does not really come and go, but washes over, stretching its fabric to adapt to whatever seems present. I extend my reliable old metaphors to allow new phenomenon into my experience, similar to how the writer in me so effortlessly extended the page metaphor from paper to laptop screen. I hardly noticed the radical transformation but seemed instead to ever more deeply convolute my story about the old familiar status quo. Even my sense of even my near future seems so deeply influenced by the familiar that I cannot distinguish it from my past. I feel older now than when I felt old at twenty-five. I also feel much younger now, clearly separated from who and what I earlier imagined I might become. My grandfather was a wrinkled and twisted old man by the time he was my age. I'm still sprouting my tail feathers.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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