Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unspoken Expectations


On Monday night I opted against skiing. Again. This also happened on Sunday, when Curtis desperately wanted to go skiing and I talked him out of it.

“It’s really cold outside,” I protested, as he packed his skiing gear for after church.

“Well, we could dress with a lot of layers,” he replied, without looking up.

“But it’s really cold. You’ve never skied in weather this cold, and you don’t know how slow your skis go, and how badly your face stings, and how miserable you will be.”

“You’re right. I don’t. Can we pack gear anyway? In case you change your mind?”

I didn’t.

“Curtis didn’t spend hours upon hours on dark ski trails regardless of the weather or temperature during his teenage years,” I thought to myself. “He was in a gym under fluorescent lights, running up and down a wooden court.”

While he spent hours sweating through jerseys, I was doing permanent damage to the circulation in my hands and feet. While he was twisting ankles and breaking his nose, I was face planting in snow banks around sharp corners. While his state championship was hosted in a major arena that was temperature, mine was hosted in twenty below, requiring that I soak my feet every evening in tepid water while I gradually raised the temperature, wincing against the excruciating pain of bringing my feet back to life.

No, he didn’t know.

Despite this lack of knowledge--the pain I was surely protecting him from, the experience that would surely cool his enjoyment of the sport--I couldn’t help from walking away feeling like a bit of a loser. The hardcore, do whatever whenever mentality that so many Alaskans pride themselves with is one that I can accept only with conditions. And that makes me feel like even with our recent move to return of the state of my birth has come with expectations I cannot meet.

When I lived here before, I would have skied in any temperature, any time, any place. When I lived here before, I hiked at midnight in the summer, because it was still light out. When I lived here before, I walked around in a t-shirt when we broke freezing for the first time in the spring.

At the same time, last time I lived here, I was in high school.

When I was in high school I would also stay up until 4:30am talking to my best friend. I would eat Oreos off the pavement on a dare. I would spend days and weeks on end doing little more than schoolwork, sports and sleep—with a rare crash-and-burn occasion.

And even though I still spend many of my waking hours in school buildings with adolescents, I am clearly not a teenager anymore, which begs the question:

Am I excused from nighttime, below-zero skiing ventures, without failing to meet unspoken Alaskan expectations that I have set for myself?

I vote yes.

1 comment:

  1. I second that.

    It's very strange that we have opposite yet parallel lives in this sense: here in Hoboken, everyone is young and full of energy. The nightlife is 7 days a week and everyone hops on the PATH train at least one or two of those nights for a 13 minutes commute into NYC to enjoy the city that never sleeps. Friends meet routinely at 8 or 9 pm for dinner, after enjoying happy hours that don't start until 6 or 7.

    On St. Patrick's Day, the town is TEEMING with revelers as people go from pub to pub, from house party to house party. On weekends in the summertime, the train is crammed full of 20 and 30 somethings heading to the Jersey Shore. In the wintertime, the waterfront is still crowded with runners, bikers, and strollers.

    And yet I've managed to do little or none of that (except the waterfront bit) since I moved here almost 4 years ago. We go out to dinner - at 6 and are home in our pjs and on the couch by 8. I go into the city maybe 4 times a year and then I usually go straight to 57th and 1st to visit my aunt and then it's directly back home again. We leave town for St. Patrick's Day because it's a mess of booze and half clad girls dressed like leprechauns. And as for the shore? Well, we made it there 3 times in 2009 and not once in 2010.

    I fail to meet the standards of the average Hobokenite however I take advantage of this town in other ways, such as early morning walks in the summertime before the commuters are up and about and prix fixe early bird specials at the expensive restaurants.

    But hey, there's nothing average about us, right?