At age 7, I used to lay on the grass lawn of our suburban home, head cradled in my hands, staring at the clouds drifting past. I was acutely aware of the sounds reaching me and they would begin pulling pieces of me to their sources; the dog behind the house barking, above and to the left a small plane passing by, the swish-swish-jerk of the sprinkler across the street, the passing cars, and in the distance a tractor trailer roaring past on the highway.
On summer nights, when it was too hot to sleep in the beds, my father would leave the front door open and lay out bamboo mats on the living room floor. I would lay for hours taking in the night sounds. There was a party going on several blocks away and suddenly, I was there, dancing to the music, wandering around the party, only to sneeze and find myself back on the living room floor.
Or the sound of the train whistle from several towns away would have me wondering where it was going. Where would I want to be going at this time of night on a train? I couldn’t wait to grow up, to get out there and explore the world of these sounds.
When I reached my teens, I realized that I could chart my own course towards futures that used to seem out of reach. I devoured piles and piles of books, building new worlds inside myself, and forever living in this imagined but very real future.
As I grew into a young man, I continued living with this future focus. It astounded me to see others glide into new abilities and graceful poise with ease. I continually felt “late.” It was like everyone else got the invite a couple of years ago and I just found out about the party. I was always feeling like a “late bloomer.”
A sense of being out of sync continued. But it swung the other way. I was in constant angst, frustration and impatience for the future to hurry up and arrive! I dove into technology, innovation – anything ‘new and improved’ caught my eye. I lived on the bleeding edge of innovation, always the way-early-adopter and impatient for the rest of the world to catch up.
Other times I would be walking down the street and see someone looking at me. I would see them and think, they look kind of familiar…where did I see this person? Awkward. They would turn out to be someone I worked with at a job just last year and would be miffed I couldn’t even remember them.
And then I met M.
She was my opposite in so many ways. I didn’t think too much at first, but within a week, I was smitten, enchanted; I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I loved the way she would stop me in the middle of one of my “big fascinating idea rants” and say, “Don’t you love how those flowers smell?”
“What? What flowers?”
“On that tree we just passed.”
“Um. Oh yeah.”
At first, it would drive me nuts when I was talking about some big amazing new idea that was oh-so important and her eyes would drift over to a baby in a stroller walking past. She would start talking to the baby and I would just stop and wonder, what was I saying?”
After a while, I did start to notice these “little” details. It was like I was so far in the future that I couldn’t even notice the present.
It’s been over two decades since beginning my re-entry into the “real world.” A part of me still feels like I’m late, but in the last few years, I’ve begun to get this sense that perhaps I’m a bit early.
You know that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is dating the bald guy? Jerry says, “What is he, from the future?”