One self-indulgent apology

By the

May 3, 2001

When I was growing up, my dad pulled me aside at one point to impart some advice. He told me something to the effect that I would get to a point in my life where it would be pretty clear that I knew absolutely nothing. I thought he was full of shit.

“Look,” I thought to my cocky little self. “We read the books. My English teacher told me Socrates said that in, like, the seventh grade. I know all about the modern individual’s struggle for identity in a world of constructs and perceived truths. What the hell can you bring to the table?”

Poor old Dad had spent his years learning things I had figured out before I’d even left high school; his words were old hat. My understanding was the product of my surroundings; the accelerating world of modern America had to bring lessons like this at a young age. I saw myself on the cusp of progress, with my elders lagging far behind.

Besides, Dad’s words didn’t seem all that useful. What are you supposed to do after this grand epiphany, just settle down? That seemed to be what my parents did, and plenty of other people besides them. Naturally I wanted nothing to do with it.

And so I began a slow-motion kicking fit for freedom. My neurotic ambition shifted from the diligent schoolwork I knew so well to finding an identity I could truly call my own. I did my worst to disassociate myself from family life. I worked nights, slept all day and planned my glamorous future. First school, then the world. I announced that after I left for college, I wasn’t coming back.

Of course, I considered my bad self too advanced to desire simple world domination. Any idiot with a narrow mind and a work ethic could do that. Instead, I became some dirty Chomsky-touting bohemian, advocating everything from anti-consumerism to world peace. Not to say that I have since decided those are bad things; I still am that dirty bohemian. But the change certainly didn’t save me from myself.

Regardless, said bohemianism was how I planned to carve my name in the history books with honor and dignity. Will Cleveland the man would fade behind his ideas, his contributions to the planet. The alter-ego development began. Cultivating a rock-star-intellectual mystique (if such a thing exists, I sure as hell haven’t managed to invent it) is bad enough when you really are a rock-star. But if it precedes rock-stardom, there is really no excuse.

Surprise of all surprises, obsessively cultivating an identity of clearheaded intellectualism with a dash of contemporary youthfulness really doesn’t get you there. You can’t try and relax. Eventually, it all falls apart.

If my experience is anything to go by, you’ll just end up a bitter insomniac with a lot of regrets and a neurotic flossing habit. It isn’t pretty: Accepting you’ve been running full speed down the wrong path takes a serious kick in the ass. My own words still ring in my abused ears: “Dude, I’ll be fine. Just let me write this overly academic analysis of something no one in their right mind would give two shits about, and insight will pour down like manna from heaven. And yo, could I bum some floss?” Like I said, not pretty. Every once in a while, heed dear old Dad’s words.

So, I would like to apologize to my family. I’ve been a jerk. I’ll see you this summer.

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