A recent interview on the Podcast 'Bullseye' focused in aging, the passage of time and our perceptions on the world during various points in our lives. The guest was Ethan Hawke and the discussion stemmed from the film 'Boyhood.' I must first admit that I am a huge fan of Ethan Hawke and have always had an affinity for the alt-90's poster boy. I still have a hard time viewing him as anyone but Troy Dyer from Reality Bites, but as a person Ethan is well spoken, well-read and solidifies his opinions and views with Dylan quotes and literary references.
But there was one particular line Ethan said during the interview which rang true to me and has been buzzing in my brain every since hearing it. When asked about being older now (He is presently 44) Ethan said his perception on things have altered from his younger days this way. In his late thirties he felt like the oldest guy in a young crowd, but now in his forties he feels like the younger guy in an older crowd; and he likes it. Ever stage had a different outlook on the world and every stage also brought about its own amount of self-judgement. This got me thinking on how our perception of things alters through the years. It's only in looking back that we can reflect on how we viewed the world at these different stages in our lives.
Having recently turned 39 I decided to look back at two decades of myself.
I decided (as my 39-year-old self) to grab a coffee with Rob at age 29 and Rob at age 19. It was a way to look back on the person I was at these specific times and give them a chance to see where our collective path is headed. So, I now present the discussions and observations made during a sit down with some good friends from my past.
Coffee with Old Friends
I decided the best spot to meet for coffee would be Van Goghs Ear in Downtown Guelph, since at one point or another my 19, 29 and 39-year-old self have enjoyed a beverage or two at this funky establishment. As I arrived and parked my mini-van I hurried to make the agreed upon meeting time of 11am. I quickly found a booth away from some of the crowded areas, took off my mitts, toque and coat and placed my iPhone on the table. A reassuring text from my wife read that the girls were napping and the boys are playing great together in the toy room. I ordered an Americano and waited to see which version of me would arrive first.
As I assumed it was the 29-year-old me. He swung the door open and upon seeing me raised a quick hand and beamed a large smile. Why shouldn't he be happy, he recently married the love of his life in a ceremony that was flawless. Surrounded by friends and family 29-year-old Rob felt indestructible. His biggest stresses in the past while have been seating charts, table numbers and thank-you notes for the various gifts that now occupy the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his beautiful wife.
29-year-old Rob took off his black bomber jacket revealing a nice plaid button down shirt. His clothes looked like there was an effort made in the act of purchasing it and a thought to the act of wearing it. He shook some snow off his head and made his way to my table. I was taken back at how well rested he looked and in turn questioned how tired and disheveled I must appear. As he made his way to the booth, he walked over to a waitress and ordered a cappuccino with a confident smile. I got up to greet him and we gave each other a good, solid hug. He sat across from me and settled in. He spoke first.
How are you doing?
Good man, good. Things are great. You?
Awesome. Things are good. Married life rocks.
I thought to myself, it does. The joys of having a partner in crime through all of the highs and lows is immeasurable. I also looked at the younger me and felt a mix of excitement and sadness in the realization that he has no idea what life changing events come next. As the waitress delivered his drink I noticed how shiny and polished the wedding ring looked on his left hand.
So what are you up up to today? I asked, knowing that unlike my day, where I can account for each waking minute and the responsibilities I have, time was on his side.
I think we're are off to IKEA. We got a few gift cards at the wedding and need to buy some things for the place.
Of course you are! I thought to myself. Your day is wide open. A Saturday to you has endless possibilities! You could even go somewhere and stay the night?! This realization gave me a growing flame of jealousy knowing that I may need to cut out of this coffee to help out at home. When you are married with kids your time is not your own, you are on duty 24/7 and anytime you are alone you question what jobs you should be doing.
Just then 19-year-old Rob entered the bar. He was wearing a fading maroon leather jacket of his grandfather's. This vintage wear went hand in hand with the other thrift store threads he was wearing.; baggy brown dress pants and worn down Docs. His hair was an odd mess, hanging in his eyes and my Fatherly mind wondered where his gloves and toque were since it was so cold outside.
He gave us both a nod of recognition and made his way to the booth with a bounce in his stride. I noticed the thin grey and yellow ear buds and realized my 19-year-old self was listening to his disc man. He flopped down in the booth beside 29-year-old me and they gave each other a quick man-hug. He pulled off his ear buds and I could smell the hint of a recently smoked cigarette which grossed out present day me.
How you dudes doing? He asked with a smirk.
"Look at you. Still wearing dead peoples clothes," quipped 29-year-old Rob as he pinched the collar of the vintage jacket.
You know it.
I noticed that he was listening to the disc Pulp - Common People, which instantly placed a time and place for me. A time of fleeting Brit-Pop love, when I felt young and free. This young and free attitude also explained why he was so late. This version of me rarely got up before 11am on a good day.
"You look tired," stated 29-year-old me.
I know this was a fact, since I was tired.
It was so great to catch up and see how they both were doing. We sparked up conversations on our respective lives. We chatted about our daily routines and our life goals. We discussed what our definitions of happiness were and we argued the fact that we presently still reside in the town we attended University. 29-year-old Rob was certain, by the age of 39 we'd be living in Europe or the UK. But, I explained to the the value of such a beautiful City through the eyes of a family man. The parks and trails, the local events and concerts. The feel of a big City with the appeal of a small community and the undying support of the Arts made Guelph a perfect for for us. 29-year-old me understood, but 19-year-old me still wanted more stamps on his passport.
Once we finished our coffees I had to apologize since I had to get going, but babies had to be put down for nap, I had to drive one boy to a Birthday party and the other to a play date. I had to get groceries, fill up the mini-van and pick up some prescriptions. I could tell by their facial reactions they were slightly depressed at my (their future) mundane sounding life.
Guys, I said as I put my coat, gloves and toque on You don't know what busy is yet.
They could smell a lecture coming on, so I kept it simple.
If you are doing things that are your choice, that ain't busy. If you're doing things because you have to, that's busy.
I looked at 19- year-old me and saw a kid who was trying to find out who he was for himself. A guy who was a hint of a music snob, but someone with big dreams and a desire to make a difference in the world. A screenwriter, a musician, a cartoonist and a film buff. Someone who devoured novels and was constantly being inspired by big thoughts and eclectic ideas.
I looked at 29-year-old me and saw a young man trying to define who he was for his wife. The new role of husband was a life change that brought with it preconceived notions on how he should regard himself in society. Having a wife meant a commitment, a bond like no other. A bond that will grow and strengthen over anniversaries, laughter, tears, funerals and child births.
And I imagined what they saw in me. A heavier, more fatigued version of themselves. I was a shirt stained, mini-van driving, father of four with hints of grey in my hair. They may have gotten the impression that my dreams of creating music, writing, and wanting to make a difference in the world may have been crushed and disappeared overtime.
I wanted to let them know that this was the exact opposite.
I write more than ever. I record and create music on a weekly basis in whatever small window of free time I have. I create more because I now have a wealth of life experiences to pull from. I have made a difference in the world because I have added four beautiful, healthy people to it and I am going to spend the rest of my living days making sure they are safe, happy and loved. My wife has become my rock throughout events that were more stressful than 'job hunting' or 'wedding planning.' She has become a loving, calm constant through the smooth and sometimes rocky waves of life.
But I didn't need to tell them this; they would find out on their own.
Looking at both versions of myself - the energy filled, youthful 19 year old and the recently married, 29 years-young professional sitting in that booth my heart was filled with the satisfaction that their goals, dreams, desires and passions have not died; they still burn deep inside me. I wanted to tell these two versions of myself, in the nicest possible way,that up to this point is, whether they know it or not; they are clueless.
They are clueless to the amount of free time they possess.
They are clueless to the role friendships are going to play on the grand stage of their respective lives.
They are clueless to how much pain they are capable of handling.
They are clueless to the amount of love that can and will fill their hearts.
They are clueless if they think that there is a finish line to all of this.
I have learned in my years that life flows with a strong current of happiness and that current fights the undertow of negativity on a daily basis.
They are clueless to how good they've got it.
But most of all, they are clueless to just how great it's going to get.
I sat in my crumb filled mini-van and watched as the two of them shake hands and pull each other in for a hug. 19-year-old me put on his headphones, shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets and strolled off. 29-year-old me gave a wave and hoped into his Toyota Tercel for a day that starts with an IKEA trip for throw pillows and bulk bags of Ikea Tea lights, but ends with a relaxing night with his new bride.
39-year-old me turned the ignition, cued up Common People on my iPod and drove off to run my various errands and return home...
....where my loves are waiting, not so silently, for me.