Seeing the Past (Through Two New Lenses)
When I was ten, my best friend got glasses. I was jealous.
I wanted glasses. I don’t know why I wanted glasses, but I definitely wanted them. I told him this! I wanted to wear them; I wanted to try them on, and I remember he let me, for a second, in that way that you let a friend do something for a second but then immediately end it because your parents said if you break those glasses I swear you will be grounded for the next seven years.
- “Pursuit of Happiness” — Lissie
- “Sun” — Emma-Jean Thackray
- “Sweet Cream In It” — Jel
- “Eye Know” — De La Soul
- “Better Thangs” — Ciara (w/ Summer Walker and GloRilla)
- “Sweetest Chill” — Siouxsie and the Banshees
- “Lives of Insects” — Samuel S.C.
- “Good Enough” — Mudhoney
- “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” — Brinsley Schwarz
- ”Television” — IDLES
- “Crystallized” — Samiam
- “Return to Hot Chicken” — Yo La Tengo
- “Money (Girly-Sound Version)” — Liz Phair
- “Amity” — Elliott Smith
- “Feel the Music” — Guru (w/ Paul Ferguson and Baybe)
- “Just a Test” — Beastie Boys
- “Changes” — Joy Oladokun
- “Broken Horses” — Brandi Carlile
I also told his mom that I wanted glasses! What a weird thing for a kid to do, I now realize, but seriously I really wanted to wear them; I wanted my eyesight to go square and be forced into getting glasses. I was jealous, and she let me know this is a curse you do not want, my child.
The dream died, that day; the peak of learning how COOL GLASSES COULD LOOK crashed hard as I also learned the inexhaustible hassle that eyeglasses actually bring upon a person. The management and care, the cleaning, the upkeep, the losing-them-and-then-paying-for-new-ones-ness of it all. I realized how lucky I was — I actually have great eyesight! I jokingly brag about it to my kids! Glasses, like braces and broken bones, are just an unfortunate thing that happens to other people!
I’m writing this after a few months of headaches. I’m writing this after noticing that, as I shifted distances, things focused a little slower. I’m writing this after finally signing up for vision insurance and, with the boldness that comes from a totally-covered exam, I finally got my eyes checked.
I’m writing this with glasses.
I’m writing this with what has been explained to me as “computer glasses,” which are like regular glasses but instead of correcting a genetic eye issue, they are correcting the general idea of being old. They’re readers, essentially, and with that designation comes a lot of … very weird feelings.
With care and luck, humans grow old. This is normal, and there’s nothing as exhausting as reading about someone whining about getting older. Especially when that person is me. Because I’m only 44. I’m not old. Glasses are not exclusively the purview of the old. Every word I spit out talking about how old I feel is actually a legitimate insult to old people and people with glasses and really honestly everyone, if you want to know the truth.
However, there is no denying the psychological impact of taking a step like this. Complaining won’t help, but ignoring the very real feelings won’t either. We brush off the anxiety of aging, even at a young age, as something superficial and self-focused. But there’s something very real about it, especially when those touchpoints come after a few months of ignorance. When the slow approach of time builds like a trickle of water, ready to burst all at once.
It still surprises me each time I’m reminded that the 90s were 30 years ago. There are very unique feelings when an album that came, in my estimation, AFTER my formative music years — albums from college, or albums from when I moved back home to start my adult life — hit the 20- or 25-year mark. Not because I’m suddenly rending my garments over my age — again, I’m not even close to old — but because of how much life has occurred in between. I think of albums that came out 25 years ago — Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty, Elliott Smith’s XO, R.E.M.’s Up — and think that these are late-era albums. These are, like, the new ones. These are not albums that have been around long enough to see me graduate from college, move back to my hometown, get married, have two kids, publish a book, and get glasses.
Yet, there they are. We don’t see time happen in real time, if that makes sense. We only capture time at certain points, and in those certain points we’re expected to fully comprehend and accept how much of it has already passed.
All of these things are really nothing, honestly. We are often afraid to grow old not because of the actual age, but because of the change. I grumble about glasses, but, honestly, I’m joking — I’m not mad about glasses, and in fact, as you can tell, I’m living out some kind of weird 4th-grade dream. I am shook, though — whether it’s from a feeling of betrayal, like learning that food you used to love now gives you heartburn, or from a lack of control over my own body. Or, maybe, like every milestone I’m just still trying to adjust.
Just remember: dreams do happen. Maybe they’re hastily-communicated dreams at the age of 10, and maybe they’re actually pre-destined by the physiology of aging. But dreams do happen. Aim for the stars. You might finally get those glasses you always hoped for.