It is surely rare when my dreams take on a visible shape in what I see around me. In other words, in my life I imagine how things would be, and it is rare that how things would be or would have been in my mind actually make it to reality. For instance, I think about my coming of age. This may surprise some or maybe not, but I didn’t have the coming of age in my teens or in high school. I didn’t have some moment where I realized who I wanted to be or even in another coming of age, didn’t just take a chance and peck a girl on the cheek while I was really young. Not in high school at least. For whatever reason (perhaps having gone to five schools in six years between 6th grade and 11th grade; or maybe because my teen years were full of other crises that really kept me inwardly focused on me and family) I just didn’t branch out, take risks, have teen drama or even have some crazy teen love story.
But my imagination was always vivid about what it looked like. It looked like a young kid taking a risk doing something crazy in high school, being a cast off in many ways, but finding himself being challenged to do something completely unlike myself and having a crazy girl love story because of it. In that girl love story, she would like me, we would make out once in weird circumstances (stay with me, this is not that kind of dream), and then I would find out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be because I was only a ploy, and then I would take risks and do dumb things because of my anger that people would just write off because I was “just a kid in love.” Those dumb things would involve some incident of stealing a drink in my young boyish confusion, making a fool of myself in front of others, and playing with revenge just for the fun of it because it would be cool. And all the while I would still be a cast off, but I would have had a mix of crazy teen experience like…a rash of bad judgments, first kiss, doing something out of comfort zone, being a public fool.. that reflected me becoming something- becoming more comfortable with myself and challenging the norms and finding freedom. It’s just part of being a teen right?
But my teen life was not like that. It was very staid and proper and fearful really. I am extrovert who loves to be in the public eye and enjoys attention and recognition and having fun, but that was far from me then. All this being said, my imagination above was exactly what I watched tonight with the movie “Rocket Science.” That movie is exactly…and I mean just about exactly…how I envisioned my coming of age. I laughed so hard watching that movie. I almost cried it was so funny. That movie played out growing up so well and gave me some very good moments of gut check pain and laughter because of one one teen’s crazy first year in high school in Jersey and with the adventures of the high school debate team and his misguided love story with the debate champion. I loved it because it played out what I kinda wanted but didn’t get. Now that doesn’t mean that I wish I could do my life all over. In fact, I don’t regret that my teen life was full of other family crises (hospitalizations, deaths) any more than another who wishes their loved one didn’t die. True, I am reminded of the many ways my life has developed well from the coming of age in college, and that means a lot. But I am also reminded of the ways that I still need to come of age (grow), the adventures I would like to have and how that movie played it out in such a hilarious and cheesy way.
Obviously, if one looks at my life, that would be love. I have been quite successful throughout my life in everything, but I have not been as playful or adventurous or successful or even memory worthy there. No funny awkward moments. No weird meet the parents moments. No dramatic breakups. Just strange comings and goings. I have stopped, started, halted and feared in this respect. But I do want the adventure. The ups and downs. The awkward moments. The good times and the failures. The impetuousness and innocent confusion of youth. I say this because I realize that I love these coming of age movies because in this one part of my life, I still seem to be the freshman in high school with the stutter, afraid to take a risk but learning to come out of my shell. I have had some experiences after high school, but this movie only laughably reminded me that I haplessly more innocent and confused and inexperienced I am than I would have hoped. But that’s okay. That’s really okay I believe. Sure, I want those adventures (good or bad), and envy at times those who do and wish it were me back in high school that would have taken that risk or had that experience. But where I am at is really okay, because the goal is not to arrive or force it or figure it out. I don’t need something else or need to have any other experience. As the kid comes to realize in the end, after all the adventure, the coming of age is really about realizing you don’t have to figure it out and that I can actually stop trying to figure it out. In other words, I can just be me and take what comes. So even though I love watching the coming of age movies because of what I dream of happening, I can let go of figuring it all out and just enjoy the experiences and life I have in front of me. Now that’s coming of age material there!
Maybe this makes sense for you, maybe it doesn’t. But it is a great movie, and one of my favorites. The real takeaway is similar to my statement above about “But where I am at is okay.” In the movie, the narrator announces close to the end that it was at this point the kid stopped having the voice in his head that was his ideal voice, and instead just started speaking as he was. In true coming of age style, the great takeaway for all is simply that we can only be ourselves, no matter what our imaginations or the outside world tells us we ought to be, including love.