14 July 2010

the age of angstiness

I was cleaning my computer recently {no, not with a Q-tip; I just mean re-organizing my files, a completely normal thing to do, especially if you're pretty big on order and yet your sense of order keeps evolving}.  I found this piece called Iowa Humidity.

I have no idea when I wrote this because whenever that was, my sense of order clearly had not yet evolved to marking the date on everything I write, which I do now.  And if I revise, I save it as a new file and mark the revision date.  My computer is stuffed with a hierarchy of dates, folders, sub-folders, revised writing, original drafts {you may at some point decide to use a phrase or paragraph you deleted; you never know}.

From re-reading this thing about humidity, though, I can narrow down when I wrote this to the Age of Angstiness, which lasted from approximately age 15 to 23.  It's like the Age of Innocence but with more existential crises that threaten to bring down your life on a daily basis.

Later, when the Age of Angstiness has passed and you're in the Age of Well-Adjustedness with Only the Occasional Forays into Angstiness, you look back on anything you wrote then {a journal, a book report, a note slipped to your best friend during passing time your sophomore year} and you immediately want to look away.

But you can't.  It's like tripping across a made-for-TV movie on Lifetime {television for women; I can never say Lifetime without hearing their tag echoing after} about a high school cheerleader who really likes kittens and happiness but somehow gets tangled up with drugs and ends up homeless.  Then her mom and dad come to find her on the streets and they hug a lot, and then the last scene is her as the Homecoming queen, riding in a convertible and waving in the parade.

I don't think that movie's actually been made, but doesn't it sound like something you'd get sucked into watching on a Saturday night when you're really tired?  And no matter how much you want to stop watching, you find yourself truly concerned for how this girl got in with the wrong crowd.  How did she let it get that bad?

So that's how it is with re-discovering your own writing:  you're concerned about how you let your angst get this bad.

I am not looking away from this.  And I'm making you look at it, not that I can force you to do anything on the Internet.  Or in real life.

And now, coming at you straight from the late 90s {or more likely from the early 2000s...aughts?  turn of the century? Is it symbolic that the formative years of my generation don't have an easy-to-spit-out name?}, my take on Iowa Humidity.

{an especially appropriate topic today, when the heat index in Des Moines is 115, I hear.}


The air was almost too heavy to admit because once you admitted the humidity, two things happened:  the air became more oppressive, and you turned into a dull person who has nothing to say but some small comment on the weather.  {Editor's note:  I'm quoting Jewel here.  This must be late high school.}

She avoided saying anything then because she didn’t want to seem dull.  Or inevitable.

Humidity in Iowa in July is inevitable, just like people talking about it, thinking that this time perhaps they will come up with a new and witty way to describe the heaviness.

But the humidity saps out what creativity Iowans did have and leaves them with their farmer tans and too tight clothing, looking less-than-normal and like they deserve to be in the middle of the country.

“It’s so hot the air’s like a blanket, huh?”

She smiles at the predictableness of the old man’s comment and tries to ignore the pull to respond in a way that would mark her as a normal Iowan.

She wasn’t like the rest of them—just having these over-analytical thoughts about the vocabulary of humidity made her not like them, doesn’t it?  More than anything,
she wanted—and had wanted since she was at least since she was 15— to be more, do more, see more, live more than the normal Iowan she’d been born as.  Or did she?

“Yeah, it just takes the energy right out of you.”

Her shoulders slump after she speaks.  The old man assumes it’s because of the heat, and he gives her a small smile of empathy.  There's a drip of sweat making its way down from his temple and his John Deere hat.

Really, though, she slumps because she knows she can’t escape who she is by trying so hard not to fit in.

1 comment:

  1. You know the last line of that really caught me. Maybe I'm still an angsty teenager at heart.



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