I’ll save you guys another deep dive into my childhood, we’ve been there before and it makes me tired. The truth about being the little weird kid who gets bullied and has no friends is this though- you also end up being stoked on things that nearly NONE of the other kids are stoked on. What I didn’t realize was just how MUCH of this also informs who we are as we grow up, and also how much I wish I wouldn’t have put most of it down in the name of being “cool”. Fuck being “cool”, the glory of not dying when you’re 27 is living long enough to be of an age where you don’t give a FUCK about “cool” and you start embracing whatever the fuck it is that gets you stoked again.
Spoiler alert: “Cool” is fucking bullshit anyway.
We took the minions to a nearby science museum this past weekend and they had a fucking blast. It started in the parking lot cause they have a GIGANTIC yellow dump truck on display and our son is currently obsessed with dump trucks, cars, and pretty much anything he can push around on the coffee table and/or floor. He was JAZZED from head to toe and his excitement was enough to get our battle-worn and jaded 4 year-old daughter jazzed too. She can be a BIT on the moody side sometimes, it’s like she’s already somehow a brooding 15 year old goth kid inside a 4 year-old’s body. It’s astounding, and her side eye is legendary.
Anyway, so we’re going around this place (The Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA for anyone that’s interested, its about 45 minutes or so outside of Atlanta and it’s wonderful) looking at dinosaurs, old cars, and moon rocks and there is ONE part that got me particularly excited. OK, TWO parts to be exact.
All illusions or perceptions of “cool” will now go out the window.
The first one was the MASSIVE collection or rocks and minerals on display. An entire room dedicated to gorgeous examples of nature’s finest (sorry weed, these things are even prettier than you!) on brilliant display for all to see. The kids didn’t give a shit SO much, but me? It was like I was that “N64 Kid” from that video, I just get STOKED at that stuff. Nerdy? Probably, but do I care so much? Nope, sure fucking don’t. Giant purple crystals, knotty formations of gold, and all manner of gems and pretty shit made by our planet are AWESOME and I don’t particularly care if it’s nerdy or not.
See, when I was a bullied, lonely little kid I wasn’t into sports. I wasn’t into playing with guns, I didn’t have a father to play catch with, and I was a good few years away from picking up a guitar and forsaking pretty much EVERYTHING. What I DID have though, was an intense desire to gain some sort of love and approval from my absent father so I would pick up hobbies that I’m pretty sure were all subconscious attempts at doing just that. He owned a jewelry/coin/baseball card shop in our hometown and I started collecting baseball cards so we’d have something to talk about. Spoiler alert: I didn’t know SHIT about baseball.
The extent of my intimate baseball knowledge is thinking about “pitcher face” when I need to stifle an erection.
My little blond, bowl-cutted ass would go stand in that shitty fucking store of his and I’d look at the cards in the display case, I’d spend my allowance on packs of cards with those stone-age sticks of gum inside, and he’d TALK to me for a little while about that shit cause it was something HE was into. To this day I can’t look at a baseball card without feeling a little sad at “kid Aaron” trying in desperation to have some kind of relationship with the man who created him, it’s not me feeling sorry for myself or anything…it’s just SAD. I wouldn’t dream to chase another human being’s approval like that in my adulthood, cause FUCK them if I have to try that hard, but we never really FULLY escape from those formative feelings either so it’s easy for me to transport back to it emotionally.
Eventually I stopped with the baseball cards cause it got to be too much for me, and even as a kid you can only fake it for SO long before you break. It was on to the next “validation attempt” and this time it was in the form of shiny things.
Seriously, this is like “public cool points shredding” but I’m OK with it.
Yep, rocks and minerals were the next thing but this time i was actually into it. Since my father was also a jeweler he would always give me little stones and polished gems, I always thought they were pretty but they would kinda just end up in a drawer. Then, right around the third grade, in between getting beaten up on the playground and being in my room feeling sad about being beaten up on the playground- I started reading books about rocks and minerals. Grade-A nerd shit right here! I learned about their composition, where they were found, and how they all went from crystals and geodes to their final form as cut stones for jewelry. I even learned to memorize the fucking periodic table of elements- willingly! I would have my mom take me to the local rock and mineral show every year and I’d bring back new clumps of pretty stuff to analyze and look at. Fluorite was my favorite, cause purple.
I’m realizing now that as much as it was a hobby, it was also a way for me to find beauty in a place that made me feel a hell of a lot less than beautiful myself. I could absorb into that and feel like I was a part of something, like I knew something the other kids didn’t, and it would get me out of my head where all I could think about was where the next fist would come from or how unwanted I felt at such a young age. Eventually this went the way of baseball cards too but more on that in a bit.
My wife and I are unironically HUGE fans of Twister. The movie, not the game. We’re WAY too clumsy for the game.
In tandem with the rocks and shit, I also got SUPER down with weather. Yep, weather. Nothing says “this kid is COOL” like a little bowl-cut with a field guide staring at clouds all day! That’s what happened though, being in the Midwest tornadoes were a constant worry and I thought they were the coolest thing EVER. Even more than that? The clouds that formed them. I was ALL about it, and I’m not 100% sure of the exact thing that sparked this particular passion but I was DEEP into it. I would watch The Weather channel for fucking FUN and when there was a threat of storms or rain or pretty much anything I would hop on my bike to go watch it unfold. When we got to the weather exhibit at the museum I had memories of this that were so vivid I could almost feel my feet on the pedals of my Schwin.
Keep the panties on ladies, this weather nerd is spoken for!
I’d have my little cloud book in hand and I’d ride off to this sort-of deserted part of my neighborhood and I’d watch the clouds form gradually throughout the day, go home for snacks, and go right back again. I knew that the cumulus clouds would turn into cumulonimbus clouds if the conditions were JUST right, and from there a wall cloud might form and then? The holy grail, a funnel cloud. Even on not-so-eventful days I was just stoked to watch the sky and see what happened. Who needs human interaction and love when you have motherfucking CLOUDS?! Yeah, ok- it might be a little sad but then again, that dude on The Weather Channel who always gets the shit beaten out of him by hurricanes is a multi-millionaire and I’m here typing about my dick, baseball, and clouds so maybe I should have stuck with that shit. Six one way, half dozen the other I suppose.
Anywho, all this has been to say- fuck the baseball cards, that shit was an obvious ploy to get attention from my shitty dad, but the rocks and the weather? That’s stuff I just got STOKED about, on my own. Sure, my dad would give me rocks and old coins (the love and attention were the tough shit to come by), but it was ME who got enough to learn about them. Nobody did SHIT to get me jazzed about weather knowledge, I think we talked about it in class one day and I saw a picture of a storm cloud and was like YES. More of this please! I didn’t give a fuck if it was cool or not, because I was already as marginalized and beaten down as a little white kid can get, so I just dove in headfirst.
We need to channel THAT energy. NOW.
Fast forward to a couple days ago, with my family at a science museum a thousand miles away from my hometown, watching my kids get jazzed about rocks, and dinosaurs, and the weather exhibit. My wife is seeing me obviously getting stoked right along with them and I explained my nerdy pre-adolescent proclivities to her which she seems to find adorable. I know, I’m a lucky bastard- not only is my wife incredibly beautiful in a “I think about pitcher-face A LOT” sort of way, but she is also loving, supportive, loyal, and she also SOMEHOW finds the nerdiest things about me awesome. FemaleGG is the Powerball Lottery of wives and I win that motherfucker every day. She doesn’t pay me to say shit like this either, cause we have a joint account- it’s all the same shit. It’s 100% true, my wife rules, and she was incredibly happy to listen to me babble on about how much I loved purple crystals and shit when I was a kid. Us grown-ups NEED to start channeling this energy before this world becomes a fucking void of bland, soul-dead, consumer culture emptiness and it might be the very thing that saves us from our stupid selves.
So why the fuck did I stop being stoked on these things that clearly made me incredibly happy? Shit, video games met the same fate for a LONG time too- it was all the same- trying to be fucking “cool”. When you’re the town punchline (and punching BAG) you pretty much resign yourself that if you’re lucky enough not to get beaten into a coma you’ll probably most certainly NEVER be “cool”. It’s just something you know, and you damn near stop caring about it entirely. For me, my shot at “cool” came when I picked up a guitar, grew my hair out, and found some other little misfits like myself. Most of them ended up being shitty friends, and I was STILL frequently the butt of the joke- the “rocks and weather” kid was still in there and they knew it. Still though, I had a chance to be a part of something were I fit in, at least a little, so it was all about playing guitar, getting high, and girls- three things that my naive little “rocks and weather” heart were probably vastly unprepared for but like the aforementioned hobbies- I dove in headfirst.
We miss the things we try to silence within ourselves.
I remember being out til 3 AM, or getting too high with some dude I barely knew, or stealing CDs from Kmart cause that one aisle didn’t have cameras and ALWAYS feeling like I was out of place. Like I was playing a part, pantomiming “kid from the wrong side of the tracks” and longing to go home, play some Final Fantasy III, and snuggle up in my bed with headphones on while watching The Weather Channel. Instead, I soldiered on, doing all kinds of shit I didn’t really want to be doing, causing a whole bunch of trouble that could have landed me in jail for a god damn long time, and being treated like shit by the very people I thought were my tribe. Fuck them, and FUCK trying to be cool. You know what that gets you? It gets you stifling your true passions in the name of fitting in with people you really shouldn’t fucking care about.
Granted, I’m glad I lived the life I did, cause it led me to music, and thinking for myself, and being the person I am today- but now that I’m 39, married, and a parent I also know that being “cool” just isn’t a fucking THING in the first place. Those kids I thought were cool? Bunch of fuckin’ shitheads. All that LSD I took at WAY too young of an age? Now I get dizzy when cars turn too fast and I think ghosts follow me up the stairs if its dark. I’m fun.
ANYWAY- the point is, I’m experiencing these things through my children’s eyes and I’m realizing that I never should have let “kid Aaron” stifle the things that made him happy in the name of “not being a dork”. I could have still played guitar, went to punk shows, and made out with questionable teenage goth girls but I would have ALSO kept those parts of myself that brought me true joy. Trying to be a teenage Jack Nicholson/Sid Vicious hybrid animal was just fucking exhausting, and I was never as destructive or downright malicious as the other miscreants I wasted time with. The less we talk about the 3 weeks the fucking popular kids wanted to be my friend the better. That ended badly cause it was fake and I knew it. They wanted to start wearing Nirvana t-shirts and they figured I’d cosign but it didn’t fucking work cause I saw through it.
I truly savor my “don’t give a fuckness” as a grown-up.
I grew up in a shitty place, I had a shitty fucking father, and I felt like a shitty little mistake who nobody wanted. I was only natural for me to go down the paths that I went down, but I missed out on SO MUCH happiness cause I cut out things that brought me joy. Is it “cool” to collect rocks and minerals? Nope. Is it “cool” to be a 9 year-old weather expert? Guess not. Fuck, I even quit playing video games cause it was considered nerdy back in the day and now here I am- a 39 year-old father who might be the most ravenous consumer of Switch games on the fucking planet.
I’m able to be the person I am today cause I don’t give a FUCK what anyone thinks is cool. I love punk rock and I love to watch Frozen. I still think purple fluorite crystals are the coolest looking thing in the natural world that isn’t named “my wife”. I can still tell you the difference between cirrus and altostratus clouds, and I get excited every fucking time I pick up my Pro Controller to dive into an epic world lovingly created for me to experience. Wanna top it all off? I fucking LOVE The Lord of the Rings trilogy and we watch it at LEAST once a year and I get just as stoked every single time, just as stoked as when my fucking mom read the books to me as a child. See- freedom!!!
I might have gone down some dark roads, I might have lived the punk-rock lifestyle, and I might have seen some rough shit in my day- but somehow, the innocence and light inside of me got to stick around. And for some reason, I’ve always made sure to nurture that part of me and keep it alive. Maybe it was so I could be a good father, or maybe it was so I could come back to the things that I loved one day when I was old enough to know that “cool” didn’t fucking matter anymore. I don’t know, I just know that we get thrown into this life and we waste SO much time seeking approval and cool points from people that don’t fucking deserve to have us spend that much energy on them and it makes me sad.
Want perspective? Find a kid and watch them get STOKED.
I’m lucky to have these little minions, cause they are constantly doing things that help me change my perspective on life. They’re astounding little creatures, maddening at times, but they have a very real ability to do things that cut right through all the bullshit. I’m so glad I allowed myself to get back into video games, I don’t have the emotional energy to write the kind of music I tend to write, I’ll always play but it’s nice to just be a listener for a while. I love the art of well-made video games and it brings me genuine joy to sink my brain into the challenge of a fantastic world. I like that I can get just as stoked as my kids for a new animated movie, because it keeps my heart big and it allows me to share joy with them- something my father and so many others missed out on cause they were too “cool” or “grown-up” for shit like that.
Life is short, and we owe it to ourselves to get STOKED about whatever the fuck we want to. Don’t cheat yourself out of joy, cause what I’ve learned is that we eventually reach an age where nobody really gives a shit about all this crap and you just LET IT GO. See what I did there? Frozen reference to close this shit out cause I’m in it to win it! Seriously, don’t stop pursuing the things that make you smile in an effort to make OTHER people smile. The joys in this life can be bountiful if only we stay open to them. Now I’m gonna go stare at some clouds before I go home to my super-hot and super-awesome wife and play video games in the nook/office she surprised me with last year.
See, it all turns out OK. Don’t let yourself get hung up on being “cool”, just do YOU. If you’re a little lucky, and not an asshole, the people who love you for all your glorious dorkiness will come along one day and the freedom you feel from having that will enable you to do anything. Like, starting a blog/website perhaps. The Ghost Generation is the direct result of love, support, and passion in equal measure. I write about whatever I WANT to write about because I don’t give a fuck about being cool and I like to think that’s why I’m getting paid the big bucks to do this. Oh, wait…;)
A brand new blog/website where these happily married, 30-something parents of 2 little minions rant, rave, and speak in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together! http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration