Sunday, 14 October 2007

Birthdays and backgrounds


"A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age - regardless of how they look on the outside - pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. They don't want to be who they are any more. They want out. This list includes Thurston Howell the Third, Ann-Margaret, the cast members of Rent, Vaclav Havel, space shuttle astronauts and Snuffleupagus. It's universal"
Douglas Coupland

So another year of my life has dawned and the world begins again. I'd like to say that turning 28 has given me many deep insights into my life, but the truth is I've reached the age where birthdays mean very little to me anymore. It's just another day, plucked out of the ether to mark the time between two arbitrary points in space.

In fact if anything the effort of working out what presents I want and making sure I see/speak to/respond to all the relevant people is more of a hassle than anything else. It's a fun hassle, but a hassle nonetheless.

However in an effort to get my creative juices flowing I've been returning to old ideas for plots and stories to see if any of them are worth dusting off. What I've noticed is that they have a couple of themes to them that are worth examining.

The first, and the main one, is that they all revolve around the notion of time. If they're not condensing a story into a short period of time they're expanding it into millenia.

They are all obsessed with repetition and return. In my stories History always repeats and it's in how the characters deal with these repetitions, how they grow and change because of them, that I write.

So, do I see my life as a series of loops? Am I myself stuck in some kind of never-ending limbo? I think that's how I see it. I'm as welcome to endings as beginnings. I recognise that very little of my life is long term and since I believe that I never hold on to anything to make it long term.

Yet equally I concentrate on the ageless saga. How the actions of yesterday expound the moments of tomorrow, and how the conditions of both squeeze the boundaries of today. This concentration on the ages is much easier for me to understand because I know where it comes from.

My maternal Grandfather died a few months after my Mother was born. She doesn't remember him, so she has few memories to pass on to me. But his absence shaped a large part of her life. I think, reading between what she says, that it lead to her falling in love with my Dad.

My Grandmother still gets upset thinking about losing him. She loved him dearly and by the time I thought to ask her about him... Well, lets just say it's not a good idea to upset her these days.

This man has had a huge impact on my life and yet I know very little about him. What I do know is that traditionally I should have been named Alexander after him, and every year I find myself wondering about the rest.

So maybe a birthday is much more than just a hassle to me after all.

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