On Looking Back Ten Years

Seen many places:

THEN : May 1996
NOW : May 2006

1) How old were you?
THEN: 22
NOW: 32

2) Where did you work?
THEN: Payless ShoeSource, Charlottesville, Virginia
NOW: EB Games, Cary, North Carolina

3) Where did you live?
THEN: Charlottesville, Virginia
NOW: Raleigh, North Carolina

4) How was your hair style?
THEN: Short, but not too short, and parted on the right.
NOW: Buzzed down to beard stubble length.

5) Did you wear contacts?
NOW: No.

6) Did you wear glasses?
NOW: No.

7) Who was your best friend?
THEN: Michael.
NOW: Still Michael. And Jason.

8) Who were your pets?
THEN: A cat–Mozart.
NOW: Many cats–Woody, Percival, Galahad.

9) Who was your partner/romantic interest?
THEN: Sally.
NOW: None at the moment.

11) Who was your celebrity crush?
THEN: Teri Hatcher, for Lois and Clark.
NOW: “School Reunion” has rekindled my love for Lis Sladen.

12) Who was your regular-person crush?
THEN: I don't think I really had one. The relationship with Sally was, err, odd. I'll leave it at that.
NOW: A teller at the bank the store uses. If Liv Tyler and an ex-girlfriend had a twenty-something daughter, that's exactly what this bank teller looks like.

13) How many piercings did you have?
THEN: None.
NOW: None.

14) How many tattoos did you have?
THEN: None.
NOW: None.

15) What was your favorite band/singer?
THEN: 1996 was smack-dab in the middle of my John Lennon period.
NOW: I could list a dozen bands or singers, but my musical moods are so fickle these days I can't say one's favored over another.

16) Had you smoked a cigarette?
NOW: Yes. I took up chain-smoking for a three week period in 1999, and discovered it just didn't take.

17) Had you gotten drunk?
THEN: Yes.
NOW: Oh, yes.

18) Looking back at your decade-ago self, are you where you thought you would be in 2006?
Fuck no.

I look at the April-July 1996 period as one of the happiest periods in my life. Strangely, it wasn't that I was doing anything special–I was managing a shoe store, for crying out loud–but I felt like things were going my way. I'm not sure where I thought my life was heading–maybe that's why it was happy, because it was so aimless and directionless.

August 1996 saw some major changes in my life. My role within Payless changed–I took a position that put me on the road four days a week. My relationship status changed–I met a divorced mother with a young daughter–and broke off my relationship with Sally–which had always been defined by its lack of definition.

In retrospect, if I could change both of those….

I took the position because I needed new challenges, new horizons, and the travel requirement was simply gravy–mileage, a company expense account, and my natural tourist instincts. But the challenges I had were ones of other peoples' making; my job was to fix their mistakes, a travelling troubleshooter, basically. If it were new challenges I needed, there should have been other ways of getting them, instead of staying in a job that two years later would have me feeling trapped and resenting the two years I'd wasted.

As for the relationship, while I would never call Sally the one-that-got-away I can say that the new woman was the one woman I should never have gotten involved with. In my politer moments I say she “had issues with monogamy.” In my angrier moments (and they still happen, when I hear the wrong song on the muzak at work), I say the skanky bitch slept with my boss while I out of town on a business trip. When she said she'd made mistakes in her life and she'd been given a second chance, I believed her in my youthful naivete. What I realize now is that I was the safe guy she could take home to her mother to at least present the appearance of having grown and matured. We broke up in May 1997, and it was painful and it was angry to the point where it was done by phone, when I got back from a weeklong business trip, and I told her that whatever of mine she had at her apartment she could keep as I wouldn't be coming back for it and I never wanted to see her again.

I'd like to say that the break-up was the end, but it wasn't. The pain that was continued for a long time, and eventually sent me on an emotional skid that bottomed out in '99. Details aren't forthcoming, but I will say this–I kept the promise I made on the phone: I never went back, I never saw her again.

I hit bottom. I lost my job. I drank. I smoke. I did drugs. I lost my will to live.

And then my grandfather died.

Somehow I started pulling myself back together. I was the one without any clear direction, with no place I needed to be. It made sense that I'd move in with my grandmother temporarily, to help her get herself situated. Other people might have been bored out of their skulls. I worked on my writing. A few months later went to work for Electronics Boutique.

Which brings us up to today. Ten years ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be here–I couldn't have imagined living in North Carolina or wanting to live in North Carolina. Ten years ago I wouldn't have thought I'd have published two stories with one about to be published (and praised by David Gerrold, no less) and having other irons in the fire. Ten years ago I wouldn't have imagined I'd be the liberal I am today. Ten years ago I wouldn't have thought I'd have the DVD collection I have now.

And that's what really matters in the end–the shiny plastic discs. đŸ™‚

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