Phases

It seems like most people go through phases—periods in life when you’re really into something and then you’re not. I’ve had many, and I was thinking about them this morning and decided to make a list.

Annotated List of Phases:
(in mostly chronological order)

1. Monster trucks

They were big, loud, flashy, and powerful. What’s not for a little boy to love? My friend Bobby and I once begged my dad to take us to a truck pull, and when he finally agreed, we celebrated like we’d just won the lottery.

2. Karate

Inspired by the original Karate Kid, I made it all the way to . . . green belt. So it was short-lived. (I had no idea that crane technique wasn’t legit.)

3. WWF Pro Wrestling (and sometimes NWA Pro Wrestling)

My friend Jonathan and I would binge-watch past series of Wrestlemania on VHS. And my friend Matt and I spent a lot of time playing with these rubber wrestlers:

—highlight: seeing the Road Warriors wrestle when the NWA came to Jackson, TN.

4. BMX

Fun, but soon replaced by #5.

5. Skateboarding*

This one really resonated. It was when I first became aware of subcultures—those little enclaves of activity outside the mainstream. I was in the sixth grade, and I realized skaters were my kind of people.

6. Hair bands

And the crushes that went with them.

7. Rap

Anything at all that can be traced back to Dr. Dre still turns me up.

8. Basketball

Michael Jordan was active and winning championships with the Bulls, so it was a good time to be a fan. I played a lot with my friends, but it all went sour when I didn’t make the team in tenth grade. Even now, I get jealous when I see a really tall male.

9. Grunge/alternative rock*

It was a glorious thing to be in high school when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit. It was the perfect intersection of adolescent angst and early-90s apathy; a generation of teenagers pretending to be dead inside. It was great!

—my uniform: flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and green Doc Martens; also, a general shagginess
—sub-phase: reggae (complete with a Bob Marley sticker on my Honda Accord)
—sub-phase: The Doors (who hasn’t communed with the spirit of Jim Morrison?)

10. Painting*

I had always drawn pictures, but in 11th grade I began to realize that art was about way more than just pencil drawings of random things. It was (and is) a way of living, one that grew exponentially more important in college. However, the various painting phases of my artistic life apparently have their limits.

11. Hunting/fishing

My dad took me hunting and fishing several times when I was little, and at the end of undergraduate school, I found myself wanting to do it again (plus it lined up with a sub-phase: obsession with the movie Legends of the Fall, in which Tristan is a hunter). Yet I was never a successful outdoorsman, and I think it’s because, at my core, I’m not the hunting/fishing type; this phase was more about being in the woods or on a lake with my dad and brother.

12. Being in a band*

I’ve been in three bands (four if you count the rap group in junior high). Each was fun in its own way. The most special, though, was the one I moved to Nashville with, because we were really trying to do something with it, artistically speaking—trying to “make it.” Oh well, oh well.

13. Golf

It’s amazing how one good golf shot will make you forget a hundred bad ones. Eventually, though, you get tired of spending money on something that makes you angry.

14. LEGO

One of the triumphs of fatherhood is that now I have a justification for playing with LEGOs. This phase is ongoing.

*The asterisks denote a recurring phase.

Looks like my list will end here. I’ve had more interests than these, but many of them lasted hardly long enough to be considered phases. Also, things have grown out of certain phases that have evolved into something bigger—something more aptly called a lifestyle, like writing, which I trace back to my painting days, falling, as it does, under that greater realization of what it means to be an artist. Further still, some things are too monumental to be thought of as a phase, even though their relative duration was short, like graduate school. And finally, as I noted with asterisks, some phases never truly leave. In fact, there’s a skateboard in the back of my car right now.

What are your phases? Make a list!

 

Uncanny

It is the day of my thesis meeting. My committee of three professors, having read my thesis, will offer suggestions and provide feedback for about an hour. If you know anything about long writing projects, then you’re acquainted with the rush of relief that comes when the final draft is submitted—the seeming swelling of everything good; the easiness of breath due to  your newly expanded air. It is a feeling that lingers for some time. Well, I turned in my thesis over a week ago, so my committee would have time to read it before today’s meeting. And that feeling did come, and it lasted for two or three days, in slowly ebbing increments. It makes me wish I always had a long paper due (not really).

Yet a different, but just as exhilarative, feeling found me this morning. The last song to play in my car, right before parking and entering work (alas, it’s still a work day), was a song that I reference in my thesis: Lou Reed’s “Make Up.” Out of the hundreds of songs in my iPod, which was set to shuffle, it chose that one! It’s as if the universe patted my shoulder, letting me know that my effort was in harmony with all of existence—like the pieces were coming together, if only for a moment, and allowing a glance at some bigger picture, whose pattern would clarify in the end. My anxiety evaporated into the cool November morning, and I listened to the whole song.

An Incident on Highway 31

  • It took three-and-a-half miles for my anger to soften. We’d worked hard to leave on-time: snacks, coffee, and water, already loaded in the van; the boys dressed early; the baby fed.

But then Arthur dropped his cheesy puffs as we drove down Highway 31, and we still had twenty-five minutes left to drive. No big deal. I turned onto a side street and hit the hazard lights. He unbuckled, got in the floor, got back in his seat and buckled again. No substantial time was lost. But before we’d even fully turned back around, Arthur announced that he’d forgotten his snack; he’d picked up a couple of toys, instead. So now I’m stopping again—still not too big of a deal—a minor irritation. That is, until two vehicles managed to slip by us.

The first was turning left. Traffic rarely lightens at certain times on Highway 31 in Spring Hill, so with this being a Sunday morning, the car in front had to wait a long time for an opening. I could feel the clock ticking now. It seems churches are always either starting services or letting them out at all hours on a Sunday morning, and for a town no bigger than Spring Hill, there are an unseemly amount of churches. A high concentration of churches in a suburb of Nashville is no surprise, I must admit, but why must they stagger their beginning and ending times in such a way? I know I’m being unreasonable; you don’t have to tell me. Certainly churches don’t consider their effect on local traffic when planning services.

Anyway, we were trying to get to our own church. And finally that first car had managed its left turn. But here’s the kicker. The other vehicle in front of us—the one standing between us and punctuality—was a pickup truck loaded down with junk, and when it pulled onto the highway, it refused to accelerate above thirty miles-per-hour. We were stuck behind it, with no chance of passing, for two whole miles. (Okay, seeing this in print makes me feel really petty. But at the time, I was enraged.) I had made a serious effort to get us out the door with as little stress as possible, to get us to church without feeling rushed, and now it was all for nothing. I began wondering why God didn’t help us out—why he didn’t honor my noble effort, thinking that if he really wanted us in church, he would’ve prevented some of these obstacles. Such is the occasional pettiness of the human mind.

Some would blame these obstacles on the devil. But I think that’s a not-so-clever way to excuse ourselves from responsibility—the responsibility of realizing that the movements of the world aren’t tailored to our egos; that the schedules of the thousands of other residents of Spring Hill are not designed with my need for efficiency in mind. It’s the price of the free will we so adore. Just as I was free to stop our van so my son could pick up his snack, the two motorists who stalled our progress were free to drive up that same street at the exact time that they did, passing us by with our hazards flashing. No one was in the wrong; no one was an instrument of either divine or evil will. It was just a thing that happened in a world that keeps moving, whether we’re ready or not.