Some of the things about the documentary I watched the other day have stayed with me. That’s usually a sign of a good film, but in this case it’s also a sign of an interesting person. The film is called Wizard Mode, and its protagonist, Robert Gagno, is a young man living on the Autism spectrum, who also happens to be a world class pinball champion. As a child, he went from struggling to communicate at all, to discovering pinball, to now having a ton to say. That alone is pretty remarkable, seeing the changes from footage of Robert as a youngster to watching him navigate the world as a young adult. He expresses himself very well in the film – better than many of us who aren’t on the spectrum, actually – and some of the thoughts and ideas he puts out there are fascinating to me, mostly because they mirror so many of my own thought processes.
Robert is quite self-aware, and constantly questioning things – his feelings, his dreams, his reactions to the world around him. Why he thinks and does and feels the things he does, and which things he would like to change in order to achieve something he wants. That someone who has so much else on his plate to deal with – the expression of emotion, for example, is something we often take for granted, but that he is constantly thinking about and working to improve – he appears to have a better handle on how to human than most of us. Robert is always analyzing things – himself, other people, and the world around him. I felt so drawn to him watching the film that I found some of the things he talked about to be eerily uncanny, as the same things have passed through my mind, and yet I’m been unable to express them as well as he does, thus far.
One such comment could have been almost easily laughed off, had it not been for the way he worded it. I mean, how many times have my friends and I joked about how “adulting is hard” and not wanting to grow up because not having responsibilities is way more fun. I still collect toys, for pete’s sake. I prefer movies and TV shows that skew younger than I am. And I still enjoy reading books I read as a child and young adult, often more than I enjoy reading books written for grown-ups.
It sort of even explains why I also have a hard time writing books for grown-ups. I have so very little experience actually being one, and you’re supposed to write what you know, after all. In my head, I am nowhere near as old as I am in my body.
And while many of my friends have gotten married and had kids and careers, many as well have not. Those are the ones I hang out with most often, because they still can. Marriage and kids and careers looks like it takes a toll on social time, really, and while I’ve never been a partier, I still like to spend quality time with certain key people.
Anyway, it’s been a running joke for, like, 20 years or so. In fact, I’m pretty sure that, at larger family gatherings, at least, I’d still be seated at the kids’ table, simply because I don’t have any children of my own, and am therefore not viewed even by family as any kind of actual adult.
And that is mostly okay with me, because many of the things I associate with being an adult are not things I want for myself, anyway. The times it bothers me most, I think, is when I can’t be an equal to a friend I want to be there more for. I don’t drive, so I’m zero help to someone who needs a ride somewhere. I can’t get you home safe when you need me to, and that bothers me.
But I make an amazing passenger, because I will never criticise your driving. I may have asked my brother to slow down on hills and such once in awhile, but that was because I was getting nauseous, and not because I felt he wasn’t in control of the vehicle. I’ve never felt like -I- was in control of the vehicle, though, so I think it’s best for all of us if I remain a passenger. Plus, my reflexes are not dependable at all. Stupid body/brain disconnect.
So, this kid, Robert, this young guy – he’s sifting through the job market, as we all do, and at one point muses, “Does growing up mean you have to stop having fun and doing the things you love?”
And I thought, “Yeah, kid, I guess it kinda does.”
It made me a little sad. A tad sad, you might say.
Obviously, growing up doesn’t mean you have to completely give up doing things you love. You’ll even find new things you don’t even know you love yet. But in terms of global adult population, the vast majority of us aren’t doing what we love as much as we wish we could. Many of us don’t even know what we love, not with the same degree of passion that Robert has for pinball.
Many people have jobs that they love, but most of those aren’t even a person’s absolute first choice for what they want to be doing with their days. It’s fantastic as far as jobs go, but that’s not the same as having a passion for something. Many people have jobs that they enjoy okay, and they pay their bills, and still make time for passion projects on the side. If staying home and spending time with your family could be a job, many would do that. Many wouldn’t, but that’s a different situation.
The simple fact, though, is that life slips by, and most of us aren’t spending the majority of it pursuing things we are passionate about. Sometimes when you do, the passion dies, and then you’re stuck looking for something else you can love just as much. But I think for most people, there’s just never enough time to focus on what you love, and that’s kind of sad, in a way.
The good news is that, when you do find that thing or those things, and you make time for them, that time becomes more precious. It becomes time well spent, and best spent, and contributes to your growth as a person. You value it more, because you know you’ll never get enough of it, let alone too much. It becomes something you share with others, be it people with the same passion for it, or people with a passion for seeing you passionate about something. Either way, it connects you to the world a little more.
I guess I just think it’s sad that the adults who came before us made a world wherein there is so little place for passion, and excitement and fun. Growing up may not mean you have to give those things up for good, but it does usually mean you have to curb it back and save it for special occasions.
Growing up usually means that has to be enough.