I never got a chance to fly with Tinker-Bell and play tag with the Lost Boys.
I was the firstborn, the oldest of three children. As with so many other people, money was often tight growing up, but we were fortunate that my mother could often find work when my father's efforts weren't enough.
This meant I often found myself 'in charge' of the older of my younger siblings - responsible for snacks, chores, ensuring rules were obeyed. I don't think anyone really knew how hard it was for me to manage my own emotions, much less the behavior of another human being.
As we got older, I was expected to sacrifice to make certain my younger siblings were taken care of. Sacrifice activities, attention, approval. I was expected to take the brunt of the responsibility when things went wrong, things got broken, when quarrels occurred. As a teenager, I shared my room with the baby so my younger sister could have her own space.
When I went off to college, I did so without my mother - my brother was starting kindergarten the same day. From that point forward, when I needed to travel the ten hours to or from school, I was responsible for figuring it out. And somehow, as college progressed, I was responsible for others as well - giving folks a ride, handling the landlord, treasurer for the fraternity.
I found my own place to live in a new town when I started graduate school. I rebuilt my life on my own. I found a new woman to love, who loved me, who did me the honor of starting a family with me. I got a series of jobs, each paying significantly more than the last to support our growing family - though to be fair, she did the same. It's just my degree is worth more - a lot more - even ignoring the injustice of gender inequality in the country.
It might sound like I'm bitter about my life. I'm not - I know I've had a good life. The joys and the pain made me who I am. I'm a stronger person for my losses, for my tear-stained life lessons. I'm lucky for thousands of little reasons I can't express.
But there are days.
Days I want to turn left at the second star and fly straight on until morning. There are days that I want to start a new life, free of responsibility, free of old pains. To live from day to day, letting chance take me where it may. To wander this world and have adventures worthy of a novel.
And then I realize I can't. Not just because it would break my children's hearts. Not because there are people relying on my financial, professional, and emotional support. But because I'm not wired for it. I'm wired for responsibility. To take care of people. To solve problems and make things better. And there are days that sucks.
I know there are people who don't get why I read comic books and play games "at my age." I know there are people who don't understand why men like Fred Rogers and Jim Henson are my heroes. I know I have colleagues who think I'm foolish for wanting to spend time writing rather than working on getting a promotion.
But I'll let you in on the secret: Those comic books and games? Spending time on Sesame Street or in the Land of Make Believe? Those hundreds and thousands of words committed to paper or digital impulses? Those things are my Never-Never Land. I never got the chance to fly away and fight pirates and seduce Indian maids as a boy or a young man.
But I can visit Pan's Lagoon, if only for a few minutes each day.
And maybe, just maybe, that can keep me young-at-heart.5 Comments