at sea

When I was a kid, my dad had a boat, a 28 foot sailboat. It was big enough that the whole family could sleep in it, and we would sail to Catalina Island (that’s 26 miles offshore from here) sometimes for vacations. We had mooring rights in White’s Cove and we’d anchor or moor there and go ashore on hiking trips. We also skin-dived and pet the garibaldi fish and other fun things.

I would row to the beach and skip stones. At first i wouldn’t be any good at it, because I hadn’t done in in a while. But I’d get better at picking the smoothest, flattest stones and giving them the right lateral jerk and a little spin so they would skip. By the last day of the trip I’d be able to skip the stone twice more often than not on the cool glassy cove water. I was always trying for 3 skips but never got there. My parents would drag me back into the dinghy and to our boat, and we’d sail back home.

I was a precocious kid. I mastered reading early, had huge vocabulary, spoke in paragraphs at a young age, and was always in an advanced class. Even in my weak subjects like math and biology I did better than most other kids; I was an academic star. From kindergarten straight through the senior year in high school I was almost a perfect student. I went off to UCLA as a Regents Scholar with honors privileges and the works.

Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up. Emotionally I was defenseless, my social experience was dreadfully lacking, and I had no discipline. Starting at age 18 my life slowly fell apart, and since my early twenties I’ve had an uphill battle to survive in society. A lot of my friends now are ten or more years younger than I am, and far more experienced and tougher and more resilient. I’m still 12, somehow.

I want to sail that boat back to Catalina, row ashore at White’s Cove, and skip stones. I want to get to three skips, no matter how long it takes. And then I want to sail back and start over and actually grow up this time and have a youth during my youth, and actually go through my teens and twenties like some kind of normal person instead of being too withdrawn and immature to live my life. I want a do-over.

But instead, I’m entering middle age still dragging my childish self along like a beat-up teddy bear, and watching everyone else move past me, more grown up than I’ll ever be. And I’m afraid that the only growing up I’ll get to do now is the worst part, the part where I swallow down my pride and my desire and take the half-broken life I was given. There aren’t any do-overs, and the stone only skips twice.

6 thoughts on “at sea

  1. I feel the same a lot. I don’t know what to do about mourning my missed adolescence/early adulthood. I feel like I ought to be able to move on from that but in some ways I’m stuck there.
    I can’t help fretting when I hear about other people going on to new chapters
    of their lives. I’ve lived in four apartments and never have I totally unpacked my things from cardboard boxes or decorated.
    In my mind I have a colorful life, interesting thoughts, and much to contribute, and this life always seems so close to being realized. In reality it’s been unremittingly grey. Sometimes I hate that I keep having hope.
    And I’m mesmerized by glamorous young people sometimes, or appalled, one or the other.

  2. i had that precocious childhood as well. i was quickly herded into gifted-education classes and they wanted to advance me several grades but my mother wouldn’t let them because she feared it would ruin my social development to be torn away from my peers. hah. nice work, ma.
    when i was a kid, most of my friends were in their 20s. now that i’m in my mid 30s, most of my friends are in their 20s. i feel exactly, exactly the way i felt when i was 11. if i didn’t have somebody looking after me on a regular basis, i’m pretty sure i’d be living under a pier or not at all.
    not that it’s all about me or anything, you understand.
    what i’m trying to say, in so many words, is i like you and i hope things get better for you. soon.

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