Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me…

Well, it’s official. I’m a grown-up.

I have an incredible wife, adorable kids, a house, two cars, and a filing cabinet full of bills. I have a graduate degree (which I don’t get much use out of) and a fledgling business. I’ve moved away from the city of my childhood, to a community with norms and hashkafos I can tolerate, if not always agree with, made up of individuals I can relate to, and in time, perhaps become friends with. I have a nearly developed philosophy of life and have a fairly good idea of my competencies and weaknesses. My wife and I are self-reliant, and our only debt is the mortgage on the house.

None of that has anything to do with me being a grown-up. Sadly, my youth is a victim of man’s eternal enemy: time. I’m turning thirty.

When I was a kid, it seemed that adults knew everything. I was in my mid-teens when I had the realization that my parents were just people, like everyone else. I was in my mid-twenties when I realized that when they had been in their mid-twenties, when I was a little kid, they hadn’t had a clue. And neither did anyone else.

Somehow, it still seems that everyone knows more than I do. As if there was some memo that went around to everyone explaining how the world is supposed to work, and I wasn’t on the recipient list. I recently realized that I come across the same way to other people, even though I KNOW I know barely anything.

Take the blogosphere, for example. I read what other people write, and it seems like nearly everyone knows more about everything than I do. Then I read my own posts or comments, and I realize that I also sound like I know what I’m talking about. Of course, when I read my own comments I know that the assertive tone I have is an artifact of my writing style, that I’m always checking facts that I think I remember before posting, and that I occasionally have posted comments that I later realize were factually wrong.

I’m just a little kid, playing at being a grown-up. And I suspect that so is everyone else.

I’m getting old. The world my kids live in is so different than the one I grew up in.

I remember climbing up on a kitchen chair to reach the rotary phone on the kitchen wall. When we got a cordless phone, it was a big deal. It had a huge metal antenna on the base and a chunky plastic-encased antenna on the handset. My daughters have a toy cell phone that sings the ABCs. I remember when car phones and beepers were luxury items.

At that, it was only a few years ago that I saw a GPS for the first time, in a friend’s high-end car.

I grew up watching Sesame Street on a black-and-white TV in the kitchen, pre-Elmo. My older daughter went through an Elmo-obsessed stage, and has two singing-and-dancing Elmos, one talking Elmo, and a big stuffed Elmo doll.

My parents got their first computer, a 486 with a 500MB hard drive, when I was twelve. When I was in high school I taught myself how to use DOS. The guy in my class who was a computer geek had a computer in the dorm that ran on two five-and-a-half inch floppy drives, a bit of RAM, and had a monochrome CRT monitor. I got an internet connection in ’99. My kids learned how to use a mouse and keyboard almost before they could talk, and routinely play games online.

Ah. I have to go build a rocking chair so I can sit on my front porch and yell at the kids to keep off my lawn.