There are stepping stones that confirm that you’ve aged with a fair amount of certainty. Sometimes that’s all it is though: aging. These signifiers don’t always allow credence to the brushstroke versus the splatter. We all notice the splatter. We notice the graduations, the first home purchase, the marriage(s), the kid(s). The nuanced steps are the gradients that slide us into who we are, sometimes without ever noticing. There’s a slippery slope that, for better or worse, we’ve all attempted to tread. We tread with the slope, against it, or simply let the act of sliding occur with varying levels of awareness. You don’t realize just how much of life is mere preamble until the paragraph ends.
It was my first real apartment in “the city” and it was moving day. I had lived in nearby apartments that were simply of the moving-in-with-friends-out-of-necessity ilk throughout college and just a bit beyond. This was the one I allowed myself to choose. I am a proven-terrible decision maker because of endless dread stemming from the concept of making the wrong decision and it haunting me Ebenezer Scrooge style. By that point I had come to terms being truly anxiety ridden. I granted myself cold-sweat clemency. Anxiety asylum. I allowed the worry, the unavoidable buyer’s remorse when signing contracts, and constant questions about locale. I made a choice and to it I stuck.
I was not in the city. I was in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was on a busy corner and it certainly bustled. It was one with affluent gift shops festooned with ornate flower pots. There were linen dresses here and there with sun hats that mixed with noisey youth. The aging hippies with money were the common ground between. I was across the street from and upscale grocery store with a noteworthy cheese and olive oil selection. What this corner did have that made me feel justifiable sense of urban living was a bus stop. This bus stop was on my busy street directly in front of my apartment. This is where I chose to park when moving this day–at the damned bus stop.
I had driven around the block prior and had surmised that there were only two options: park in a renter’s personal parking space, or the bus stop. I clearly chose the latter. Something like the heft of a hypothetical argument with a neighbor over their parking space got to me. I thought briefly, my brain shrugged it’s shoulders, and the decision seemed easy. I mean I had to move, right? This must just be what happens. Limited anxiety somehow, just an abundance of specious reasoning, my other damnable quality surrounding decision making.
I parked, turned on my hazard lights with a cavalier flip of the switch, probably put my hands on my hips and gave a self-assured nod and began moving. I moved for the better part of a day. I moved without help for the most part. I was terrible about asking for help. I sweat, I lugged, and I schlepped. Two-and-a-half flights were climbed and descended innumerable times. Not a grand climb, but worth mentioning when done alone. I think that was the inherited martyr in my blood talking. Some sort of bleeding strand of DNA dramatically yelling, “Look what I did for you!” handed down from my mother that is better left for any other time than now.
The onset of metropolitan summer dusk had begun to take hold. A friend called to offer assistance with the last of my larger effects to which I acquiesced. I may not ask for help, but I don’t have any reason to turn it down at this stage. We made the trips. We moved the furniture and even at the barely-ripe age of 21 I knew to offer a beer to my friend helping me. Jobs well done and libations well deserved. A few sips into the beer I looked out the front windows of my new apartment to see a police car parked next to my car with an officer scrawling on a pad.
I hustled down the stairs in a manner only true youth are able. I flew through the door and the cop looked at me knowingly but asked, “Is this your car?” I told him I was moving. I told him that I couldn’t find a place to park. I told him that I tried to leave room for the bus. He said nothing causing me to be more impetuous and I began to lie. I told him that I had only been there for a short time and that I wasn’t very familiar with “the city” and asked for mercy. He slowly looked up at me from his ticketbook. He leaned his head back so as to be able to look down at me more and said that I should move my car immediately. He did it so with his eyebrows raised as high as the muscles in his face would allow granting him ultimate dad gaze. I yelled my thanks as I ran to my car. After the encounter with my new local law enforcement I went back in drink more and regale my friend about how I got away with one.
I didn’t learn from this. There could have been a lesson. There should have been a lesson. I did not come of age. This was not the memorable splat on my canvas. This was a forgettable brushstroke. I simply should not have gotten away with it because it was not a situation worthy of a mere warning. Perhaps the cop saw something in my eyes. Perhaps he saw the true naivete tumbling out of my mouth between my fumbling words. I want to round this out with a bow on top because of lessons learned but I can’t.
This is one the small insignificant things that make me the adult that I am. I was on my bike this morning with my solitude and my anxiety set in fostering rehashing of this memory. I don’t know why as I can’t really recall the impetus of the thought coming on during a beautiful bike ride. What I can recall is the wash of embarrassment that came over me. I can recall how stupid the whole thing felt. What a dumb kid.
I remember getting married. I remember buying my first house. I remember the birth of my baby girl and take stock of every subsequent smile. I can’t remember why I changed or when. I know it wasn’t one of these life moments or maybe even all of them combined. Maybe it is the little stupid things like thinking I should park in a bus stop while moving, only to have a police officer wag his finger at me, that makes me better about the decisions I make with my daughter. Her existence certainly made me better but perhaps only by virtue of allowing me to dig into the wealth of stupidity that I harbored prior to her existence. She may have just blinked into existence in my life recently, but I have been making questionable decisions for the majority of my life. These poor decisions mixed with near-crippling anxiety regarding most decisions yet to be made will certainly give me a fair amount of building blocks betterment.
Sure, buying a house forces a certain degree of responsibility. But there’s something to be said about the nuances that slip by on the slippery slope to becoming yourself. Looking back on it all, there had to had to have been less-than-desireable parking spots. As a multi-modal traveler, I couldn’t imagine parking at a bus stop. I took the cops warning for granted. All of this meant nothing until my bike ride this morning. But I still remembered it, recalled it, and only now did I extract something good out of something long since covered up. The lessons yet to be learned may still be buried within by examining those little brush strokes surrounding the splatter sometimes. I didn’t take note of this stroke as it occurred but I notice now as evidence of my canvas changed.