Thursday, July 10, 2008

Growing Up In The 00's

A few days ago, I was informed that I have my first cavity.

I've gone through twenty years of flossing irregularly, brushing religiously, and going to the dentist twice a year without getting a cavity. And now that I have one, it's a little sad to me, like the end of an era. Apparently, around my gumline, growing up does not mean finishing college or graduating to twentysomething-hood or owning my own car. It means that finally, the lack of fluoride in Ohio, coupled with the recent ceasing of my dental insurance's coverage of sealants and some sneaky bacteria that create enamel-eroding byproducts, has done in one of my poor molars. I mourn the passing of the age when responsibility meant brushing your teeth without being reminded.

I've been alone a lot lately. It bothered me for a while, but now it's become a zen-like state in which I talk to myself while washing dishes or driving, daydream about swing dancing, and knit miles of lace while watching back episodes of Project Runway and yelling at the screen occasionally. At times, I feel completely psychotic for intricately planning how in ten years, I will be well-traveled and articulate, with a dog and a mortgage and no more yarn stash because I'm too mature for that sort of thing, thankyouverymuch.

Then again, I thought at age five that I would have the world figured out by the time I was twelve. And then, at twelve, I figured I'd better up it to sixteen. And at sixteen, I was just waiting to be eighteen and then all of a sudden I thought, wait, what? Life continues after eighteen? Like, I'll still be a human being and people will have expectations of me? Well, crap, if I don't have it figured out by then, I should just crawl into a nest of bees and die.

It occurred to me, some months after I turned eighteen, that very few people have everything in their lives figured out - and even if they do, there's still the world to work on. It was the best little gem of adulthood a girl could ask for: not only do I not know where I'm going, we're all in the same boat, and the band is sliding down the deck while playing Nearer My God To Thee. Awesome.

I'm really not a pessimistic person. Honestly. I just feel like the rising gas prices (which will inevitably lead to the discussion of Peak Oil, which will lead to the Doom And Destruction And No More Starbucks model of the next century), the jellyfish blooms off the coast of Japan that kill millions of fish, and the fact that Chernobyl will be inhabitable again approximately never... all of these things are such a huge burden for our generation to bear. In many ways, it's easier to look towards my own difficulties with growing up rather than examining the world that makes me wish that I didn't have to. Then again, ignorance may be bliss, but it certainly isn't very interesting.

The question that I always end on is this: how do I balance my own personal growth - in traveling, education, and leisure - with the knowledge that the resources I consume to pursue those things are becoming more and more endangered? How do I participate in the global community without destroying the globe on which that community rests?

Often, I think about the importance of educating myself, in the hopes that my personal growth will lead to a change in the world, whether through chemistry, medicine, or the arts. I like to think that this is the case. But sometimes ....

.... the answer is just too overwhelming.

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