Some of my favorite authors all have interesting upbringings. The best narrative writes always seem to have some sort of messed up childhood. It gave them character, it creates for a good story and gives them intrigue. David Sedaris had his own speech handicaps and quirky personality. Jeannette Walls, well, where would I start with her? Her whole life was one abhorrently amazing story after another. They’re able to channel their disturbingly odd childhood into their writing, and it makes for great reading. Whenever I read the stories of their horrifically deranged upbringing I can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy.
But me? My life was comfortable. I never had any real trials or tribulations. I am not as great as the authors I have mentioned, I don’t mean to lump them and I in the same category, but I can’t help to feel maybe things would have been different. If my dad skipped town, or my mom had six more kids, or maybe my brother got addicted to heroin at the age of twelve.
None of that happened, so I am doomed to write of my childhood with gleeful reverence. There’s no way I am going to be able to replicate sneaking in and petting a mountain lion in a zoo or having a speech therapist that made Hitler look like an OK guy like the writers have before me.
The worst thing that happened to me was when my mother would call me Sam, my brother’s name, instead of mine.
“Sa—Nick.” She would cut it off so abruptly it sounded more and more like St. Nick than the mixture of two names. Even in recollection of the deepest depths of my misery as a child, the worst thing I can think of is when my mom would call me Saint.
Sometimes I hear of people’s pasts, especially the weird ones, a part of me is envious (albeit the sick part). It’d provide so much writing fodder. I can’t help but feel Calvin’s father from Calvin and Hobbes saying, “It builds character.” I wish I had interesting character like that. If only life had been harder.
If only my parents had been assholes. Why couldn’t they have been more absent? It makes writing about my past very difficult. Couldn’t they have known that? They should have given me $50, a set of clothes and changed the lock on the house for a week and see if I survived. That would have been a great eighth birthday present. At least then I would have had a story.
Couldn’t they see that my life would be a mundane recollection of an upbringing that would be considered ‘average’ and anything but ‘noteworthy’? Why didn’t I have a lunatic grandparent that moved into our basement? That would have given me stories for the rest of my days. I could have gone on adventures with dementia and senility. We’d stuff towels into the cracks beneath the doors so the CIA couldn’t hear us. Tinfoil hats would rest upon our brow; little metallic crowns preventing aliens from invading our minds. I could recollect on those stories with reserved wonder. Readers couldn’t help but think, “Shit, I kinda wish I had a bat-shit crazy family member.” Because it would have added excitement to the hopelessly regular lives we all live.
Did I get an off-their-rocker relative? Was sat down by my mother and father and instructed about the condition our new resident had? Did that ever happen? Nope.
Instead, during my sophomore year of high school, my cousin moved into our extra room.
It was awesome. We became really close and we still talk. Out of the dozen or so cousins I have, he is the only one I talk to on a somewhat regular basis.
And that’s it. That’s all I get from that story. It makes for good TV if you’re watching The Hallmark channel but that’s it.
That kind of story doesn’t make a New York Times best seller or put you on the Oprah book list. I either need to write something REALLY captivating or something that’s total garbage. It’s black and white. It’s The Book Thief on one side and 50 Shades of Grey on the other. Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer. My life is somewhere in between. A happy, balanced, boring, mundane medium. Now I actually have to try to come up with stuff. I can’t simply think back to a catalogue of messed up memories and transcribe it on my computer.
It’s a struggle, not struggling. Without struggle, there is no growth, there is no moving forward; because it’s not necessary. Oh how I regret not running away. I wish I would have at the age of sixteen ran from our comfortable life. If I would have done something stupid, like get someone pregnant or rob a bank, I would have had a story. I’d have a voice.
People would listen to me, because of their curiosity.
What’s it like being so miserable? How does he go on with that upbringing? Why am I attracted to such mystery?
These thoughts would all go through their mind. They’d be captivated, unable to put my book(s) down. Instead, a recollection of my upbringing would lead them opposite thoughts.
Why is he talking about being content? What makes his upbringing so special? Is it possible to be any less attracted to someone with such a boring life? Oh, well… yes. Yes it is.
So my burden will continue. My ultimate first world problem will plague me for the rest of my days; there is no cure for history, no remedy to excite my previous life. Like a quarantined city block, I am doomed to avoid that part of my life.
All because my parents were nice. Because they were kind, because they were present and because I was comfortable. Because I had friends, because my siblings were normal, because life went for the most part exactly as it should have.
Such folly. If only my life had been shittier.
Then words would flow from my fingers. There would be no stopping the tidal wave of unique, endearing stories of my childhood. I would be an unstoppable colossus of a seemingly endless supply of unique adventures. With every new book the world would be left in awe with every rabbit I pulled from the hat of my past.
Alas, it is not the case. Like Sisyphus I am bound to hell; my boulder the burden of a boring, banal upbringing.