Most of the people who know me personally are probably laughing at this title right now. Everyone knows I don’t really change all that much. I dress the same way I did when I was in elementary school, I get the same haircut, I eat the same shit, and I try to avoid new technology. (For example, I didn’t have a cell phone until maybe four years ago, and I just got internet in my house last year.)
But contrary to popular belief, I do change, if only a little bit at a time. Look at it this way: take two people who know a guy, and then send one of them away for ten years. Bring them back together, and the one who’d disappeared for a while will be surprised to see how much that person changed. The guy who stayed, though, won’t think much of it because he’s seen the subject every day of those ten years. It’s like that.
There are four things that I’ve noticed about the ways I’ve changed of late, and I find two of them mildly disturbing, and the other two disgustingly shocking.
--I don’t remember anyone’s phone numbers anymore. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t have a mind for numbers, but I still retained maybe ten phone numbers in my head that were absolutely essential to me, among them my home, my grandparents’, the library’s, my best friend’s, my cousin’s, and a few others. Now, I can’t even remember my own cell phone number. It’s crazy. The only thing I can think of, aside from early senility, is that since I can just save phone numbers on my cell phone, my brain has decided it no longer needs to waste space on this remembering them. This is mildly disturbing.
--I can’t remember directions anymore. I used to be a parts driver for the City of Elmhurst, so I had to have a map of every place in my head. I knew the suburbs and a lot of the city like the back of my hand. Now? I remember very little of it. Again, senility comes to mind, but a more likely suspect is the GPS I have in my car. Who the fuck needs to remember directions anymore? Hell, when was the last time you gave directions to someone? This is mildly disturbing. (It should also be noted that this seems to go for cab drivers, too. When I was a kid, cab drivers knew where everything was. Now, as an adult, whenever I get into a cab, I have to give the fucker directions. And that’s even WITH the GPS they usually have. How the fuck is it possible that cabbies don’t know how to get to Midway?!)
--I’m losing my ability to spell. Shit that I should know is no longer in my head. I’ve always been an excellent speller. Straight A’s on that one throughout my entire life. This one I lay squarely at the feet of spell check and auto correct. This is disgustingly shocking because I’m a writer, and I should know these things. I’m supposed to be smarter than this machine when it comes to this kind of thing.
--This is the most disgustingly shocking thing of all. I’ve always been a fan of bookstores. Once upon a time, I would take my weekly paycheck and go to a bookstore and peruse their wares. I would inevitably spend too much, but it would always be worth it, considering my prizes. Even though it was more convenient and cost-effective to shop on Amazon, I resisted for a long time. But then the mom and pop bookstores disappeared from my area. And then Borders disappeared. And I refuse to shop at Barnes & Noble because they were the ones who started the remaindering process. Where the fuck else did I have to go?
I gave in. I haven’t bought a book from an actual store in maybe three years. Yeah, I know. But the thing is, during that time, I forgot the bookstore experience. I’d gotten caught up in the cold, antiseptic (but ever so convenient) practice of buying from Amazon. And this is not to knock them, because Amazon is a fabulous thing. I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars with them, and I’ll probably spend even more before my death.
But there is beauty in an actual bookstore, and I’d forgotten that until I’d gone to see Weird Al Yankovic at Anderson’s in Naperville. (It could have happened a month previous, when I’d gone to Joe Hill’s signing there, but since he had an actual show to put on, I paid attention to that and not my surroundings.) I sat down in the stacks to read while waiting for my turn to meet Weird Al, and directly in front of me was a bookshelf loaded down with glorious, wonderful books.
It’s hard to say how I felt in that moment, letting my eyes drift over spines and covers. My heart quickened, thinking about how much I would enjoy having each and every one of those books in my own collection. My head opened like a rose in the morning sun, and I found myself glancing up over whatever I was reading to admire the view before me. I felt like I was 20 again. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this sensation. I started calculating how much money I had in my pocket, and I felt the almost overwhelming urge to grab a handful of books to take home with me.
I resisted, since I’m trying to battle my way out of debt right now, but I know that the 20-year-old version of me would have lost that struggle.
So how about it? In what ways have you changed over the years? And are you disgusted with yourselves or proud? Let me know in the comments below.