Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Growing Pains: A Very Special "What Shapes A Young Brian Spath"

This is a very crazy time of year - or at least it used to be when I was still in school.  The school semester starts back up around this part of August and that always brings new classes, new people, different environments, and different expectations.  At the beginning of each year, starting in about the 7th grade, I would always look around each classroom and think about how foreign and new each room was.  Then, by the end of the school year, I would think about how that uncertainty faded away - unconsciously really - as each class and each classroom became a part of the routine.  

I was big on routine as I grew up.  I was very particular about the time I woke up, the way I would get ready each morning, and what I would do before bed each night.  Part of this routine was watching certain television programs, namely on Sunday nights.  I was a pretty horrible TV junkie growing up: I wasn't very social and I was very much glued to my TV set before and after school each day.  Sundays were always the worst days - still a full free day but that pending doom that Monday morning brought with it.  I used to have trouble falling asleep Sunday nights because I was so anxious (hesitant?) for school on Monday.  I never wanted the weekend to end.  I'm still like that today, but now it's work instead of school that I dread (not that I don't like what I do, I just don't like the notion of work).  

I was particularly fond of Sunday nights because of the programming on PBS: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, and The New Red Green Show.  During middle and high school, I never knew anyone else who watched those shows, so it was just another form of isolation for me, but that feeling is compounded due to the fact that those shows aren't on at that time anymore (if they're on PBS at all) so it's almost as if that young Brian no longer exists as well.

I was recently watching TV and I saw a promo about an upcoming schedule change for the fall season.  Along with the school year starting, that was another transitional phase I had trouble with: programs I was familiar and comfortable with being replaced with shows I didn't care for or didn't know.  At first this transition was always unsettling, but just like the classroom, the uncertainty would fade - just in time for the change to happen all over again.

Now, these are things I haven't really thought about in a long time, but have been slowly creeping up and over me for the past few weeks.  The new school year would always hold so much promise and then I would waste so much time just watching TV.  I wish I would have read more or even watched more movies (besides the movies broadcast on KPLR Saturdays and Sundays.  When I think about the changes that each fall season would bring, I think about how now most of those changes or those shows are no longer broadcast on Channel 2, Channel 9, Channel 11, or Channel 30.  I wonder what that means for me and the memories I have of growing up.  If those shows are gone, is that part of my past gone as well?  Those half hour increments that I cherished and held onto, do I vanish with them?  Those periods were always a definite sign I wasn't comfortable with change.  I'm still not, but it seemed so much more personal back then.

I think a big reason that period (roughly 7th thru 12th grade) is such a charmingly profound period is because I was so isolated.  I lived in my own little world.  I shared a room with my younger brother ever since he was born until the first time I moved out my mom's house, but I usually had the room to myself.  This meant I had this little section of the house where I could read comics, do (very little) homework, and watch TV, which was especially great since I could make all the great comments I wanted about whatever program was on.  Now, the room is gone, the shows are off, and I'm 26.  I don't watch as much TV as I used to.  If I do, it's syndicated reruns of the Simpsons, Seinfeld, or super hero cartoons.  The climate and landscape of television has changed.  It's so foreign and uncomfortable - like continuously stuck in Sunday afternoon: nothing on TV and no place to go.  

Maybe it's just a quarter-life crisis or post-modern malaise.  TV, and pop culture in general, had such a big impact on my life and continues to till this day.  So much of that came from programs which ran for years and developed an identity - which helped shape my own.  Like I said, the climate of programming has changed.  So much TV just seems to be pandering now.  Our rate of decline has accelerated and we constantly need the next shiny thing.  Alright, now I'm just grandstanding and generalizing, but I think you see my point.  Think about the programs you watched or the routines you developed.  How did the school year impact you?  Or the changing of fall schedules?  I can't be alone in this.  I really, really can't.

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