Monday, June 27, 2005

nothing doing

As a child I was blessed with good health. I didn't have any problems with hayfever or asthma and I was athletically capable, if not inclined. So in the summer months there was nothing keeping me indoors except the blanket of melancholy that had weighed me down as long as I could remember. It kept me strangely warm in fall and winter, but during the summer it was suffocating. For years my mother shamed me for being miserable when I shied away from social attention, and lazy when I declined to play outside. Eventually, through a college psych class, I learned that I was simply depressed. But that's another story for another time.

Most people felt sorry for the indoor kids, the ones who were allergic to "outside." Those pasty children spent their summers in writing workshops and chess camps, watching from the window while the rest of us leapt through sprinklers on the lawn. The insiders did not suffer wet bathing suit wedgies or fear drowning at the hands of rowdy boys in the pool. From the outside they had no discernable social structure. Nobody was cool, no one was an outcast. Everyone was a nerd, plain and true. Oh, how I envied those indoor kids.

Sometimes I would use invented symptoms, like wheezing or blurry vision, to leverage my argument that I'd be better off spending the summer inside. I even wore a pair of my father's old glasses for an entire week, convincing no one but myself that tree pollen was destroying my eyes. I'm not sure if my hypochondria was an attempt to hide from the world or attract attention -- I was too young to recognize either of those needs or the difference between them. But I knew I was unhappy. As much as I loved sunshine, I was uncomfortable in my damp swimsuit, uncomfortable in my skin, and desperate to hide among the books, art projects and TV shows that were my most steadfast, comforting friends.

Now that I'm an adult, technology and an apartment in the city let me have my cake and eat it too: I can listen to NPR while I walk to Georgetown; I grab a sketchbook and set up camp under a tree in Dupont Circle; my computer travels with me to Great Falls where I can write, read, listen and watch to my heart's content. Of course, sometimes I just don't feel like going anywhere. Those are the days when I most enjoy being a grownup: My time and my plans are mine to do with as I please, even when I'm most pleased by nothing at all.

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