A Facebook friend recently posted blissfully reminiscing about her childhood, almost wishful she could return to that time and place. Her post sent me back into the yesteryear of my youth, part of which I spent with her. Simultaneously, it reminded me of the lyrics of a Beenie Man (for my non-Reggae loving, non-West Indian readers, he’s a contemporary Caribbean Reggae Dancehall artiste) tune.
“Memories don’t live like people do…stop live down inna di past…”
(The reflective nature of this post and most of this blog means that what I’m about to type is hypocritical but hey ho!)
My response to her Facebook post was a bit of asshole-ish but in my defence… okay I don’t have a defence.
I commented under her post (paraphrasing here) that I certainly don’t miss our teenage days and the place (one of the places for me) where we grew up in Boston.
I loveeeee to reminisce and have a good guffaw with my friends and cousins about the antics we got up to in our 20’s and 30’s. A memory road far less traveled is one where I sorely recall with sadness my childhood (pre-aged 23 years old) friendships that didn’t survive to adulthood and what we did during those times. I get it, we all love a bit 90’s RnB. Every time I put on a radio station in Barbados, they are permanently stuck in some other decade (could have something to do with the quality of contemporary music). But to be honest, outside of music and movies, who wants to relive a time in life when you had no autonomy over your life? Having your parents yell at you for being 5 minutes late, not being able to sit on your couch naked eating ice cream? Granted, from the age of 13 – 18, I (along with most of the people in my neighbourhood) could have been the subject of a highly rated MTV reality show (Teen Moms and Road Rules would have had nothing on us!).
There were the hookie parties, the fights, the cars being driven without a license, after midnight without our parents’ permission, jumping out of windows, fake IDs, trips to New York (from Boston, liquor store runs at 15 (what immoral bastards ran those liquor stores?!!!), the sleepovers which included boys we snuck into my house (it was always my house for some reason), prank calling people’s houses and getting them in trouble, and an entire series of blogs would have to be dedicated to the times we got into the club underage (once the police made Kadee and I so we had to work in the coat room for the night and another time, we had to sneak through the back door and the owner of the club caught us), I could go on for years here. I really lived a full life before 20.
But for all of these experiences, I was not happy and comfortable until I was an adult and over 30 with responsibilities and accountability for my own life. I struggle to relate to people who pine for yesteryear and the spring of their youth (do not get me wrong, not a week goes by that I don’t daydream about how wonderful it would be not to have rent, bills and certain adultism) but for me, waking up in the morning and knowing that I earn my keep and I don’t have the weight of teenage anxiety on my back is the liberation I have wanted since I have had the consciousness of memory. Maybe I am coming from a place of privilege. Although a few of my loved ones have passed away and I mourned them, I am blessed to have my parents and a loving family (for the most part, some of them can suck a large rock of salt until they resemble a human prune) and friends that I trust surrounding me.
When I was growing up I was anxious every fucking day. Will someone want to fight? Will someone make fun of me? Will I have a comeback? Will my comeback be quick enough and snappy enough? Do my clothes look good? My neighbourhood was not the projects of the Bronx but it was the suburbs of Kansas either. Every time I walked out of the apartment building I lived in, it was an opportunity for some sort of mayhem to commence. This sort of environment shapes a person. And whilst memories can’t always be trusted, the zap I felt when this Facebook friend posted that picture of that neighbourhood brought me back to why I am grateful to be an adult. I pity those look back in regret, disguised as nostalgia, not able to realise the toxicity of a place that pitted one against each other.
You see, for all of those typical (well, maybe not so typical to some of you who lived in the suburbs) teenage experiences I had there was more. There were countless mornings I woke up and saw the blood of those who were shot or killed the night before on the walls or the ground, there were the girls who ganged up and beat other often innocent girls, the relentless bullying and name calling, oh – the girls were stabbing each other too, the robberies. At the time we all rationalised this as normal, laughed off a lot of this and didn’t support those who were the victims of these atrocities.
So when I see anyone look back fondly, a few things go through my mind:
Am I a weirdo (do NOT answer that! maybe I should have rephrased)?
Are my childhood Facebook friends sadists?
Perhaps they are masochists?
Or is it something else entirely? There are some memories I can recall with laser precision like the time Felicia, Sheryl and I threw a party at my house and my mother came home early from work. Moments after she burst through the front door, all of the male guests were running out of the backdoor and others were jumping off the porch (from the second floor). During this teenage delinquency party we were drinking 40 ounces of Old English known in rap music at the time as OE (my mother has never let me live this down.I was 14 btw – I type this whilst laughing and equally in awe of teenage Reds. I won’t describe what Mummy Reds she put me on punishment for a good few months with two weekends off for good behaviour.)
I can recall things that happened when I lived in England when I was 3 years old. But other events that occurred around the same time as the infamous OE and after this period are very fuzzy. I have also destroyed most photos of myself during this time. Some traumatic things happened to me between the ages of 13 – 17 that a select few adult friends know about them – to be honest, until yesterday when I saw that picture, I had forgotten about most of them. Where I grew up in Boston when something happened to a girl, it was her fault and the neighbourhood carried your name like some sullied garment whilst pinching their noses. Its strange to watch some of these same people merrily living their lives in a past steeped in ignorance with not a clue of the pain that others experienced during that same time and space.
Memories are great but sometimes they can be dangerous. On one hand, they are a blessing to remind us how far we have come. On another, they are a torture. For me, as much as I look back, I don’t long for days gone by, whether it be in some apartment building in Boston, a beach in Barbados or anywhere else. The friendships I have now, the future that’s unfolding in front of me and confidence I fought many years for is all I need.