I was moving this weekend. Please accept the following Christmas story as late.
My first Christmas of university was probably the final moment of my childhood. I could get into what I think childhood is but I think telling the story would be way more interesting.
It all started when I moved to a crazy place called “The House Famous”. If you read back through some of my blogs you’ll probably read more about it. Essentially it was a house I lived in with four other people that included some pretty rigorous commitments. We committed to talking to each other and resolving conflict. We committed to consulting other house members on purchases over ten dollars. We committed to living on what was “enough” instead of wasting money. We committed to serving the homeless and impoverished of the area we lived in.
When I write all of that down it sounds idealistic and romantic and a little bit crazy. The reality was somewhat different. I remember how good it felt to be stretched by these commitments, trying to line up my actions with my beliefs. Trying to be Jesus to people in the community. I also remember how hard it was. I remember shivering while eating dinner because we kept our heat so low (save money on electricity!) I remember going hungry because we shared cooking duties and sometimes I didn’t eat what was being cooked. I remember skipping out on studying to hang out with people in the house and having both my marks and my future social situation in university being affected.
I used to live in a very comfortable and cushy household as a kid. Little was asked of me. I was free to do what I wanted and got what I wanted most of the time. Then I moved into a place where I was pushed, pulled, and stretched in many different directions. I had to make so many different choices about how to spend my time and what to fight for.
The first (and only actually) Christmas that occurred while I was living in the house was marked by a two week absence. I finished my last exam. I moved back in with my parents, sleeping in the guest bedroom, I bought Super Mario Galaxy for our family’s newly acquired Wii, and I spent five days playing it pretty much all the time until I absolutely destroyed it. Collected every item, completed every mission. For an entire work week, I did and thought about nothing else. It was the sort of thing you would do as a kid on summer vacation. No other time pressures are on your mind. No one expects you to help with food. You have no sense of the needs of others. It was the last moment that I can remember being completely irresponsible for a long time and feeling no guilt whatsoever about it.
After the break ended, I went back to the house to discover that most of my housemates were upset that I had left for so long with little explanation. They felt abandoned by me. I thought back to my five days of Mario and felt guilty. I mended the bridges and resolved to do better.
Three weeks later I told them I was moving out at the end of the school year. The pull between being involved in the house and being in school had gotten to be too much to manage for me. I didn’t have the energy or the time management to move in. It was a very responsible decision.
That Christmas is that last time I remember the blissful ignorance of childhood. Now, even when I rest, I am aware of the pressures and responsibilities I am avoiding. Every time I play games, voice in the back of my head reminds me that there are other things I could and probably should be doing.
I think this is an essential part of growing older and growing more mature. If you can happily ignore your own responsibilities and others perceptions of you, people are going to get pretty pissed at you. People generally don’t like others who think only of themselves. God’s not really a big fan of it either. It kind of makes you an asshole. I remember this Christmas with fondness, but in the same breath I am glad it will never happen again. I’ve moved on. I’ve learned it’s time to put the work week of video games away and start asking people about their work. I’ve learned to check the clock with an eye to how many minutes I’ve burned on myself. In some small way I’ve grown up, and around Christmas time I’m glad for that.