We use up too much artistry in our dreams—and therefore often are impoverished during the day.
– Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow
Boy, ole Nietzsche really had it right, didn’t he?
Last night I went through mental movies that ranged from being onstage with Joni Mitchell—apparently directing her in a transition from solo acoustic performance to a chorus line—to sitting in a classroom, either high school or college. The instructor mentioned Syd Barrett, and I reacted rather strongly—as opposed to the rest of the class, who did not react at all. A fairly unsetting degree of unwanted attention, something I’ve garnered at multiple junctures in real life as well.
When you’re an empath, your cage definitely gets rattled in situations that wouldn’t bother less sensitive souls in the least. So it’s no surprise to me that I have dream versions of these same types of experiences.
It’s interesting how many of them take me all the way back to high school or college, though. You know those dreams people have where they’re suddenly naked? I never get those. In my most anxious dreams, I’m in college and trying to find my mailbox, or unable to find the key to the mailbox, or finding said mailbox overflowing with unopened letters.
Always with the mail. Maybe they’re test results.
Coming Of Age In the 20th Century
It’s funny writing about mail, since most of us aren’t expecting a whole lot of snail mail these days. I won’t even go down the political rabbit hole a USPS discussion could take me, but I’m fascinated by how much my coming of age in the 20th century was driven by expectations about mail—writing letters to girls, waiting for cards from relatives…and yes, even the Columbia Record Club. Somehow, I recall, I managed to get one over on those scammers.
And I’ve been thinking about some of these things because I recently read a coming-of-age story that takes place in the 1980s. Coming-of-age stories mean different things to different people. I’d imagine that, for a certain demographic, some Judy Blume books are coming-of-age novels.
I took a long time to come of age, having stunted my own emotional growth from my early teens to my mid-20s with heavy, uh, partying. For me, a 20-something book can easily be a coming-of-age story.
Blast from My Past
Brothers’ Hand, my first full-length novel, is a kind of coming-of-age story. Jerome Brothers, a guy in his 20s, hangs out almost exclusively with teenagers. Part of it is that he’s single and at loose ends, while all his friends from college have moved away, gotten married, and so on. But part of it is also, surely, that he’s just a tad emotionally immature. Such was the author himself in those post-grad-school years.
I think it’s quite fascinating how early experiences can shape our lives in many ways. I’ve read that, from a developmental viewpoint, a child’s personality is pretty much fully formed by the time they are eight. Eight! It’s no surprise, then, that the things we do in our second and third decades can also loom large throughout the remainder of our lives.
For me, a lot of it is musically-oriented, as the Joni dream referenced above illustrates. Between the ages of about nine and 29, I probably learned the lyrics to over a thousand songs, just from exposure, singing along with them, obsessing over records, tapes, and then CDs when they came along.
And one of the best things about middle age for sure: I know I’ve definitely, by now, come of age. I’m not what I will be, I’m not yet what I want to be, but I’m sure as hell a lot better than I used to be.