I've been having a lot of conversations with old friends lately who, though on all walks of life, are experiencing the same growing pains. It's funny how we become little experts when someone else needs help - handing out relationship, career and parenting advice like we know what we're talking about when we don't have a stinking clue. Not a single one of us. All I know is that most people my age are struggling right now. Maybe our mid-20s are a transition we didn't know about - one where we have to buck up, grow up, and let go. Or maybe it's just the time we come to realize that we can't fulfill everyone's expectations of us - least of all our own. Whatever it is, a lot of people are hurting. Everyone I know, almost. One friend said to me, "nothing about me is real" and I said I knew how he felt. I am, after all, a phenomenal performer. Maybe I wasn't the best person for him to glean any useful advice from. The only thing I could think of to say was,
"It's all real. Even the fake stuff."
There's light and darkness in all of us. Cliche, I know, but it's real - all of it. We're not fake. Flawed, yes. Fake - impossible. Thinking back on all the times I've dished out and received this criticism (some quite recently), I see the absurdness of it now. (nerd alert!) I imagine my personal boggart might be a mannequin whose style morphs according to her surroundings. And my riddikulus spell would have her doing the robot and giving bunny ears to witless bystanders. It's genius, really, that Harry Potter learns to fight his greatest fears with laughter. Because in the end, what does it matter? In fact, I wonder what other demons and darknesses will, with time, deflate with a simple shrug and chuckle. All of them? Seems that with age our parents become more wisely ridiculous. Like Samuel in Steinbeck's East of Eden, they laugh and shake their heads at us overly serious and pretentious 20-somethings who either don't want to or don't know how to let go of our pain:
'Do you take pride in your hurt?' Samuel asked. 'Does it make you seem large and tragic? . . . Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience . . . there's all that fallow land, and here beside me is all that fallow man. It seems a waste. And I have a bad feeling about waste because I could never afford it. Is it a good feeling to let your life lie fallow?'
Staring at this post I realize I have no profound conclusion or explanation for any of this. Maybe I'm doing it again - being that little expert I know I'm not. Or maybe, just maybe, there's someone out there who needs to know he or she is not alone. You're not.