Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gasoline and Teenage Angst

*This was written last semester.*

After a normal day of class, a brief rehearsal, and a night of folding laundry I was exhausted by the tedious nature of my life. I use exhausted here meaning frustrated to the point of numbness, not tired (we all get tired, but we are hardly truly exhausted.) I needed to shake myself out of this apathetic pit I was swiftly falling in, but I forgot how. So I hoped in the passenger seat of my best friend Alex’s Honda Element and we drove. This is a common occurrence; night drives to shake of the day’s events.

This one, however, was different – it was fueled by much more than gasoline and the teenage angst we never grew out of. It was driven by an all encompassing confusion of what we were doing with our lives. Here we are given the gift to question the world. (Did you know that in the classical sense academia was a privilege that only the upper echelon of society got? A privilege that allowed them to question society, teachings and life itself, yeah not everyone was able to question life only the lucky.) A gift that we once were so excited to receive that now we feel we are wasting.

But who to blame? Should I blame myself for letting my education slowly fall from in between my fingertips? No that would be too convenient, and not fully the truth. Should I point my short little fingers at Winchester, and its lack of excitement. Nope, that would cancel out the small town charm that I’ve grown fond of. I choose to direct the full unrestraint anger towards this messed up society that I was helplessly placed into.

Before I continue I’d like to make a quick note on the subject of this post. I know that countless others have written on society and its downfalls, many surpassing my wildest literary capabilities, but oh well.

As I sat letting the scenery of Northern Virginia blur right by me, I realized that society has become more restricting than ever. Our communal fear, as a society, has stripped us of our freedom. It has built up invisible wall separating the individual from ever connecting. All I wanted tonight was to pull into a stranger’s driveway, go to their door and share a story or two with them. Sadly I knew this was impossible, not because there was a physical barrier of sorts, but because fear has made all strangers look dangerous.

We live in a world of disconnect, a world where we float aimlessly around bumping into each other, but never staying long enough to get to something deeper. Forty years ago you could cross the country hitchhiking. Forty years ago you could leave your front door unlocked and not fear intrusion. Sure bad things were happening, but they were sugar coated with the all encompassing “that would never happen to me.” I mourn for the loss of this, and hope that every adventurer that feels stifled mourns with me. I mourn because as a drove down the winding streets of Northern Virginia I knew that every door was a door closed to me, that every passing car was a ship passing in the night, and that every stranger would forever remain a stranger.

My question is why is that? Have we really become so scared of the unknown? These questions are lofty I know but where are the answers, because I can’t seem to find them.

When I was training to run the high ropes course I ran this summer I was taught that there are two types of fear; “perceived” and real fear. This was intended to help us convince kids to try to face what they were afraid of; in this case it was climbing. My instructor broke it down like this real fear is a feeling we hardly ever face, it is looking straight into a tigers eyes and knowing you will its dinner in a few second. It is an emotion that triggers a response in our bodies so strong that we can do the unthinkable. This fear is real as its name implies. The rest of it is perceived it is having the information that you are safe but believing despite it that you are in danger. Our daily lives are full of "perceived" fear and it is only when we surpass it that we grow.

That is why I propose a change. I propose that we let down our guard; I’m not saying hitchhike across America or put yourself in harm’s way, just open your whole self to what is around you. Extend a hand without knowing what you are reaching towards and gladly accept whatever meets you. Give up fear, because if we continue to fear mankind then we continue to detach ourselves from the glory of what we are.
In possibly the simplest quote I could find good old Ralph Waldo Emerson says
“Do what you are afraid to do.”
Sounds simple right.


  1. you bring up such a good point.

    education was once so prized; and now we view it as a burden.

    as technology advances (making our capability to seek a 'greater knowledge' easier) the more we seclude ourselves from one another.

    its all so sad, and very confusing.

    nice post.


  2. Our communal fear, as a society, has stripped us of our freedom.


    This is great - keep writing and exploring I can't wait to continue reading.