I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but I believe it was in the Fall of 1993. I was living in Polk County at the time, working overnights at a plastics plant in Lakes Wales while attending school full time at the Polk Community College. For, perhaps, the first time outside of my early childhood I was at a healthy weight and exercising on a regular basis (it was, for the record, Slim-Fast that time…not something I’d suggest trying in retrospect). I was living with my friend and co-worker Bill in a nice apartment that we managed to keep clean. We had a decent sound system and an entire wall of VHS tapes and CD’s to entertain us. I had a comic subscription at an awesome shop in downtown Winter Haven, and had established a small circle of Polk County folks to play games with on a regular basis.
It was my first real taste of being a grown-up. Of independence. It was great.
I made regular pilgrimages back to St. Petersburg on the weekend to stay with my Mother for a few days and see my friends. On one of those weekends, I was running around by myself all day on a Saturday with the windows down, enjoying the alternative music programming that was on 88.5 WMNF. My hair was long, and my grunge look was in full effect. I felt good about myself and what I had accomplished. I was smiling and singing with the radio, when it suddenly hit me…
I liked me.
That thought had never occurred to me before, and there have been many times since that I’ve forgotten it, but in that very moment I was utterly and completely happy to know myself. “Here’s a guy,” I thought, “who I would enjoy hanging out with. He’s pretty damned cool.”
I think that for most of us it is rare to have those moments. I think it’s even harder to today, with the proliferation of technology. I was forced to be in my own head that day. I couldn’t distract myself with social media or handheld games. It was just me, myself, and I. No talking. No texting. No phone calls. Just spending time getting to know the person who lives in my head and discovering that he’s a person I am happy to know.
This isn’t a screed against technology by any means. It was just something that occurred to me earlier today as I was driving to work…
Listening to music.
Just alone in my head…in my car…having a moment like I did 24 years ago…
And realizing that I still find myself to be a pretty nifty guy.