23

don-mattingly1

I am 23 years old today. It feels good to be the age of a LOST number again. I’ve gone through all of them except 42, which I should get to in 2033.

Anyway, I would like to share some thoughts on growing up.

When I was 12 years old, I really wanted to write a book*. I just needed a topic and some inspiration. At the time, I was going through a crisis where I felt like my childhood was ending. I was about to turn 13 and I was maybe a month away from my Bar Mitzvah. And – I remember this so clearly – I was out to eat with my family one night at Legal Sea Food, and there was a framed article outside the restaurant titled Beyond Chicken Fingers. And I thought to myself, well, that’s just about the greatest metaphor of all time. You see, I was becoming a man, and men didn’t eat chicken fingers. I was, quite literally, moving beyond chicken fingers. I had a topic.

*This is a desire that has never really gone away.

That night I sat down on my computer and started to write my book, Beyond Chicken Fingers. I wrote about my childhood and growing up and things I was looking forward to and things I would miss and I typed out all of three pages on Microsoft Word before I gave up.

Here is an excerpt from it, and please try to contain your laughter.

I recently went to a restaurant and discovered that I was too old to order off the “Children’s Menu.” I was beyond these childhood meals, such as chicken fingers and grilled cheese, and yet I somehow missed them. I realized that as I look back on my childhood, I remember the good and bad times both with tears of joy and remembrance. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out what I should order. I went with a meal from the “Appetizers” list, and discovered that the size of the meal was not proportionately different. I did not adapt to the new meals because I did not have to – the food tasted almost the same, and the sizes were equal to that of the children’s menu. However, I still felt a sense of maturity; a sense of growing up and adapting to the world around me. I discovered that the small aspects of life, such as an Appetizer, could change a person for the rest of their life. As I sat there, I knew something was different; I knew I had changed. My sister, father, and mother continued to talk about the normal daily issues, yet I sat there pondering about the possibilities of manhood; the possibilities and the new experiences I would soon go through; and I how I would look at them differently, more as a teenager, and as a man.

Jesus, that was unnecessarily deep. A few thoughts on this:

– Semi-colons. Big fan at the time.

– Why did I write that I would miss grilled cheese? I’ve had maybe one or two in my life. I hate cheese.

– Once again, for emphasis, I was twelve.

Anyway, with all due respect to my 2004-self, the premise of Beyond Chicken Fingers is all wrong. I’m paraphrasing something I once read, but we pretend like we live in a world with harsh edges, but there are no harsh edges, there are no borders. Those hard lines are all imaginary. They’re created for convenience. You don’t know when you become an adult and you don’t know when you change because it doesn’t happen in a moment or a day or a month.

I always thought that I would feel like a different person when I reached certain milestones, as if they were gold coins waiting to be unlocked. But, no, I didn’t feel different the day after I got my driver’s license, or got into college, or got my first internship. I was happy, sure, but I didn’t fundamentally change as a person.

Milestones are arbitrary. It’s like how we celebrate 500 home runs or 3,000 hits in baseball. It’s a big accomplishment, sure, but the actual number isn’t significant. They just happen to be pretty, base-ten numbers.

I hope, as I get older, to never take myself too seriously. I hope this comes across on the blog. Because silliness isn’t excluded by adulthood. What’s excluded by adulthood is thoughtlessness. I try to be thoughtful and silly.

For what it’s worth, I still eat chicken fingers.

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