Teenage angst returns

The feeling of being stuck at home with no control

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

I lived in a basement for about 15 years.

The original plan was my dad was going to build our house, but he got busy with work so we never made it beyond the basement. I should add that it did have carpeting, a bathroom, a kitchen and a bedroom that I shared with my two brothers — all underground.

We lived on a plot of farmland on the edge of a woods and next to a hay field. When you grow up in a rural area, you have “neighbors” in the sense that people live a mile or two away. Sometimes you pull over and have a conversation on the road when you see them driving.

We got lucky that a boy my older brother’s age lived one farm over, and he often crossed the field to play basketball or a modified game of baseball where you ran to a tree and back after you hit the ball.

When I got older, I biked about 10 miles into town and visited the library, where I would spend all day using the dial-up internet or reading magazines. I got really into basketball in middle school and high school, and my mom drove me to the YMCA almost nightly to play pick-up with others my age. That felt like the height of freedom.

I had a happy childhood. I had friends, I took part in sports and activities and I still stay in touch with people I knew growing up.

I also count not wait to get out of there.

Nothing against small town life, it’s just not for me. I wanted to expand my horizons, walk to see concerts, be around new people who would challenge me.

Today I live in a suburb and work in an urban university and have a family of four. I like my life.

But now like others in quarantine, our family is confined to our home. I get out to run or walk the dogs, or occasionally get take-out. The world has shrunk.

The other day I was running on the trail and noticed… nothing. And by that I mean the complete absence of sound or activity or sign of life. The world just felt dull and lifeless. It probably didn’t help that we’ve had a string of cold and grey days and it hasn’t felt like spring has arrived yet.

Normally I would find that quiet peacefulness enjoyable. But on this day I just found it depressing.

Then I sensed a feeling well up that I barely recognized, because I haven’t felt it since I was a teenager.

Stifling. Desultory. Maybe even a little suffocating.

Early on during the quarantine, we all experienced collective grief. Now the emotions change day to day and swing from anger to sadness to anxiety to fear and back and forth.

A lack of control. Like wanting independence, but the circumstances limit what you can do. And there’s not really much we can do about it but ride it out.

Others have it way worse than we do, of course. I have no right to complain. But I think we can all acknowledge that this sucks for everyone. And it makes me just want to… I don’t know… blast Nirvana or something.

If I had to give the feeling a name, I’d label it teenage angst. I never thought that as a middle-aged guy I’d be feeling this again.

Now I’m growing my hair out again. I feel stupid and contagious. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

I don’t know how this ends, but being a teenager didn’t last forever. I got out of the basement. The world opened up.

It felt freeing to step out into those new worlds for the first time. Like becoming an adult.

I’m looking forward to feeling that again.

Written by

Educator. Podcast addict. Wrote a book about creativity: http://bit.ly/thecreativejourney

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