Hey everyone, I’m here to reminisce and ramble about my youth. If you’re curious about some of the factors that influenced me, read on; if not, that’s cool, and I hope you have a pleasant day.
For the most part, I grew up in suburbia. I lived in various apartments with my family until I was nine years old, when my mom moved us almost all the way across the country to a high desert place called Reno, Nevada. The man who would become my stepdad owned a house in a south Reno suburb, and it was in that house that I would come of age and take on most of the qualities that make me, well, me.
The house was red, like a stereotypical North American barn, and one of my classmates found it hilarious to point this out. I became proud of the house, because it was mine. Sort of. I shared a room with my younger brother and our stepbrother, and despite our lack of bedroom space, we had a lot of cool shit. I had a Super NES back in Florida, and I was beyond stoked when I walked into my new living space and saw a Nintendo 64 in the game room. I say “in the game room” like that’s a normal thing, but I know that a room dedicated to gaming is a luxury. I want to say “upper-middle class luxury” but I’m not sure how these hierarchies and stratifications work anymore.
Anyway, the N64 was the first of our fancy things. The backyard (another fancy thing) featured a few small boulders for climbing, a playset replete with swings and a slide, and an honest-to-goodness trampoline. A fucking trampoline. I’m actually not sure how fancy or expensive a trampoline is, but all my new friends assured me that the trampoline was cool. There was also a hot tub, but over the years, no one maintained it and we had to decommission it.
Later, I would receive the benefits of a modest middle class upbringing, such as a stable internet connection, a computer of my own, and a mini fridge. (It feels weird to say “middle class,” since the middle class is disappearing super fast, but at the time I think we were in the middle class. Things to think about.) With the eventual departure of both my stepsisters (they chose to live with their biological mother), I did receive my own room. I keep saying that I got all these nice things, but it may be pertinent to point out that many of them were handed down from one person to another.
I’m trying to make it sound like I wasn’t a privileged person, and I’m failing, because I was/am privileged. I had almost every popular video game console under the sun, and my voracious appetite for books was never denied – my mom would take me to the book store when I wanted more stuff to read. I stopped going to school for a whole year, fucked up the online class substitutions, and still managed to graduate high school on time. Some of this was hard work, sure, but I can’t help but acknowledge that I’ve received a lot of generosity and understanding.
I’m writing this piece because yesterday, I visited the home of one of my longest-standing childhood friends. We began our friendship because he was a friend of my stepbrother, and our collective connections have remained steadfast throughout the years. My friend’s parents still live in the same neighborhood that we all grew up in, so going to their house is a great nostalgia inducer.
Speeding up a bit: due to my old, tired phone, I missed a few crucial text messages about our meeting. I showed up forty-five minutes early, and when I finally thought to turn my phone off and on again, I realized I had about forty minutes to spare before my friend showed up.
It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with my friend’s parents; they’re good people, and conversing with them is relatively easy. It’s just that I didn’t want to inconvenience them; they’re magnificent hosts, and I know they wouldn’t have minded if I walked in the house before their son, but I wanted to wait for my friend. The connective tissue that holds me and his parents in the same cosmic space.
Also, I really wanted to see the old neighborhood. When I lived there, I loved to walk around, absorbing what I now know are the hallmarks of people with money to spare: lush gardens, well-maintained yards, a car or two or three in the driveway, dogs in backyards. Lots of lights. Grills everywhere. I never felt weird when I walked through the old neighborhood – another sign I can retroactively chalk up to my privilege.
When my brother and I finally moved out of our parents’ house and into an apartment, I didn’t go for walks nearly as often as I used to. While I can pretend it’s because I didn’t have as much free time as I used to, it’s mostly and actually because I never got used to the apartment landscape. Big numbers of people crammed into small boxes and forced to make do with small spaces? I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it. So instead of embracing my new living area, I stayed inside and festered away with my thoughts.
If you’ve read some of my older stuff, you may know that I moved into a house a few months ago. It’s not my house – I don’t have the money for such an extravagant purchase – but I am once again living in a house, thanks to my brother. You’d think I might be inclined to go on walks again, but the funny thing is, my brother’s house is close to downtown Reno. It’s not in a suburb, it’s in a weird cul-de-sac that’s attached to one of the bigger thoroughfares in the city.
And as much as I’m loathe to admit it, it’s the suburban walks that I miss. While I wended my way through the neighborhood I grew up in, I saw sights that tugged on my nostalgia and covered me in memories. The house that had a ground-floor window that looked in on a kid’s Xbox setup; the place that was in the middle of a remodel but had now been finished; the house where I played Bomberman 64 with a boy a few years older than me; houses that used to have familiar names on them, that are now missing those names (hopefully due to a successful move); the house where I watched the younger child of a family friend; and of course, the house where my longstanding friend grew up.
All these memories tied to houses, all these houses home to stories, pivotal points of growth and departure in their own ways. Despite my misgivings, I attach too much importance to houses.
Or do I? My political beliefs and my ideals fall somewhere on the left, if I’m not mistaken. The far left. Screw it, I’ll claim it: I think and believe like a communist. And an anarchist. A Marxist, for sure. I believe that every person deserves a clean and comfortable place to live, money be damned.
I have very little money of my own, and I hate the corporatized work ethics that have taken hold in the United States. Most of us spend too much time worrying about where our next meals are coming from, and that’s a problem. That’s a failure of the system, though I realize that it’s actually a success of the shitty exploitative system that our greedy elites have set up … but I digress. It suffices to say that I think like an anti-establishment person.
But I live like a coward, holed up in my room in a house my brother bought and waxing poetical about the plights of the masses. I don’t go outside and fight for my beliefs, I don’t garden like I want to, and my dream of sharing books with people languishes on my bookshelf while I play video games.
It’s possible I’m too hard on myself, but the reality is that I wish for a new world, a new and better way of connecting to my comrades, but I have a history of putting my own personal comfort above my revolutionary desires. I hide. I am the white moderate.
And all of these thoughts coalesced because I took a walk through an older, more affluent neighborhood, wherein I used to live, whereby I became who I am, and now I am wondering how to square my ideals with my reality.
I love my friend, and his parents. They worked hard to get the things they have. I’ve also worked hard, in my own way, and I enjoy relative privilege and comfort. This is why, as I float through life, I want to do something to help people. To set up a community library, to grow a big-ass garden and share the literal fruits of my labor.
I think too much. I need to act.