Literally One Day as a Valet

I recently had the single greatest working experience of my entire life.

I’ve always had a passion for cars, and I have been looking for pretty much any job at this point yet have not had much luck. But after a phone call and a quick interview, I got a job as a valet worker in the Gold Coast, a really nice area downtown.

I had to purchase a white dress shirt, black tie, black pants, and black sport shoes that I would do a lot of running in. I showed up eager to learn and thankful for the opportunity. I was told the first day would be training. But really it was 25% training, 75% just learning by doing.  A really friendly worker took me under his wing and showed me exactly what to do. I went on a few runs with him then was given the responsibility of doing it myself, after only an hour.

I hear the boss say, “Hey, new guy, take this one to Lot 2, you’ll do fine.”  I turned to see a new Mercedes SLK pulling up to the curb. Awesome. I ran over and opened the driver’s door and handed him a ticket. I got in and quickly observed the controls; it was a manual. I’ve driven plenty of manual transmissions, but there was pressure involved to learn this clutch and shifting perfectly so as not to look make a bad impression to my boss and the driver and the other valet workers. I handled it fine and sped away. I was alone and in complete control of this fancy car. I made sure to drive like a taxi driver (like I was taught) while still being very careful. I parked it in the absurdly small spot and did all the necessary things before sprinting the quarter-mile back to the valet curb. If this was representative of what was to come, I was in for a fun night. And I was right.

I could go into details, because there are so many. But I’ll try to keep it brief.

This went on for some time. I initially just parked the cars, but then I was given tickets to pick up and bring cars back. This requires a pure sprint and focus on getting the car out of wherever it is and to the curb as quickly as possible. The very first pickup ticket I was given was for the “garage.” The garage is a nightmare. It is 6 stories, dark, and has only one way up and down. The parking spots are tiny and in weird corners and obstructed by poles. The “elevator” is a manlift, a vertical conveyor belt thing that seems very primitive but it so fun to ride. This is one in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUdL_st3FFw#t=0m27s

The first car I picked up was obstructed by two others, so I had to find the keys and move the cars out of the way then back in as quickly as possible. Then when I finally got into the car, I had to turn on the lights and honk the horn while driving down the maze of a garage. It reminded me of something you would see in a movie or do in a video game, but would never actually do in person. I was flying down this tiny spiraling lane, maneuvering around poles and other cars, sharply turning the wheel, in a car I have never driven. It seemed so risky. It took a lot of focus and guts.

The rest of the night was basically like that. A lot of running. Figuring out how to read the ticket so I know where the car was, and how to find the car in the garage. Taking the crazy manlift a million times. Getting into cars I have never driven before, trying to find the headlights and turn down the windows and figure out how to drive them. The rush and stress of knowing you don’t have much time to waste. Opening all the doors and collecting tips while making sure to be polite and thankful.

Oh yeah. I got to drive a freaking Lamborghini, which has always been a dream. I have not been as joyful in a long time.

In total, I drove or moved around 80 cars, about 15 of them manual or some form of manual transmission, 20 with Engine Start buttons, and 7-10 with numerous other gadgetries that I learned to use.

I got a nice chunk of change in tips, and before I left, the boss handed me three $20 bills and told me great job. I was so happy and worn out. My adrenaline was rushing; I was reliving the fast-paced night in my head while also thinking about things I could do better the next day. I didn’t even realize that I was there for eleven hours, that I didn’t eat anything, and that I was freezing.

I had a nice conversation with my cab driver on the way home. I never ever talk to cab drivers, hair stylists, etc., but I was that overjoyed. We had a fun chat then he asked how my day went, and I shared with him my experience. I was proud of my work, I enjoyed my work, and I was completely engulfed in my work.

I didn’t fall asleep until around 7 AM, and I had to get up at 8:30 because I was told to come in at 10 AM. When I woke up, I wasn’t even tired. I was happy to have a reason to get up early, and the excitement was still lingering in my system.

But when I got to the valet station at 10, different workers were there and I was told there must be a mistake because they were already full. I tried calling my supervisor, who said he is very reliable and to get hold of him about any problems. No answer or response. I called everyone I could think of but there was literally no answer from anyone. I found a few people I did work with the previous day but they didn’t know what to tell me other than to get hold of my supervisor(s). It is now three days later and I have heard nothing from anyone. No one has answered phone calls or texts, and I have gone back three times to no avail. Yes, the authority figures are a little shady / there really isn’t a main authority figure, but this is ridiculous. I did everything I was supposed to do, and they made it clear I would be working as a full-time employee at that location and later various other locations downtown.

I am pretty upset that this is happening right now. I finally find something that I need in my life that will keep me occupied and satisfied. I finally enjoy an entire eleven hours of freedom from my mind, from insecurities and questions and confusion and the same old routine. I finally find something I passionately want to do, after all this time finding passion in very little. I finally take a step in the right direction and am happy and eager for the next day and confident that everything will be okay. I find something I am really really good at. I find something I don’t want to immediately quit. But then it disappears, completely vanishes on me. One day. Just one freaking day? My jobs lately haven’t lasted long, but that’s a little silly. Yes, this should make my distant, confused, depressed state worse.

But I am not as sad as I thought I would be, at least not yet. I have been discouraged and frustrated far too long.

Let’s be real. I don’t know if being a valet is a job for me in the long run. Worst-case scenario: I don’t have this job anymore or any other valet job for that matter. I had the best single working day of my life. My optimism is back: I know that I can actually find and be fulfilled by a job. Even if for only one eleven-hour working day, I was back on track, and knowing how that feels will encourage me to find something else. I fervently seek that happiness and job satisfaction; I need that feeling and will find it again.

I’m hoping this is all one big miscommunication and I still can work with this company, or I quickly find another job as a valet, and I will once again have the fulfillment I need in my life. Maybe I would start disliking it after a few days and this is just an overreaction to finally getting a job, but I can’t think that way. It might sound silly, it might sound like settling, but I loved being a valet and that’s all that really matters.

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It’s Just a Game

I got so many Technical Fouls in C and B-League Intramural Basketball. One time, I threw the ball right at a guy’s face and shoved him off the court. Another time, I got thrown out because of a hard foul. I was lucky to not get into any fights, as my testosterone levels seemed to skyrocket for the occasion. I always look back and realize how stupid I must have looked. Sometimes my friends would be laughing on the sideline or would have to calm me down. I would call them idiots and tell them to shut up, making them laugh even more.

I have a problem. I am too competitive, past the point of being remotely acceptable. No matter the sport or game, if it involves winning at all, I tend to become a jerk.  Once people see this side of me, they don’t really want to play games with me anymore. It is sometimes funny in retrospect, but this is a very serious issue that I need to deal with.

It is hard to say how I developed this habit, but I can’t remember it being any other way. As a kid, I played all kinds of organized sports. I was pretty good, or at least had a good understanding of the nature of the sport, and I knew it. I always wanted everyone else to play intelligently, but when they didn’t, I sure let them know.

Nowadays, it is usually more about fairness and integrity. If people play the game like it is supposed to be played, and are aware of what is actually going on, I stay calm. If they recognize luck versus skill, I am okay. If, for example, they think a lucky guess or a lucky roll, etc., implies intelligence or skill, I get very offended and take it way too personally. Even if they aren’t really serious. In Trivial Pursuit, I usually get more questions right than my opponent, yet I lose more than I should because I can’t roll the right number to get to the middle for the final question. In Monopoly, I consistently don’t land on properties to buy at the beginning, which usually leaves me at a loss later. I focus on these things like they are real life, and other people sometimes get very offended and overwhelmed with my complaining nature if things aren’t going my way.

This applies to:

Yoga mat baseball in the house, a game Nic came up with. I argued balls and strikes with Frank.

Wiffleball home run derby. I got in a fight once because of a disputed HR call.

HORSE.

Church basketball.

The annual snow flag football game with church people and kids.

Ultimate Frisbee.

NBA Live.

MLB: The Show. I am so critical of horribly made games.

Virtua Tennis. I broke up with an ex-girlfriend for a little while over this before.

Bezzerwizzer. The most idiotic rules for an otherwise fun trivia game.

Cranium.

Skip-Bo. I almost broke up with that same ex-girlfriend over this multiple times.

Sequence.

Phase 10. People have ridiculous luck against me.

Dreidel. In AP Chem class, we bet money on this instead of doing our experiments.

Rummy.

Poker. Where do I begin?

Pinewood Derbies. I finished 2nd three times, which anyone else would have loved.

Keyboarding class. I had to get the highest WPM.

Spelling Bees.

Accelerated Reader points. I even took AR tests for books I never read just to get more points.

Mock investment portfolio school contests.

The list continues forever. I’m not going to delve into this that much, because I have a bunch of theories as to why I act this way, but it mainly comes down to awareness. I tend to seize the moment in any form of competition because it is the only time I really can let loose and forget about viewing things from an onlooker’s perspective. I find the actual me enjoying games, so I try to enjoy them and win them as if my life depended on it. Because it’s the only thing I know, the only time that I can live my own life. If you were in my shoes, and had so much trouble focusing on or caring about anything else, you might do the same. My distance disappears when I play games, so I go all out because I cannot get enough of the feeling. So when people say, “it’s just a game,” I notice a sense of disagreement inside my head. It’s all I’ve got, so to me, it is not just a game. It is very, very real so I treat it more importantly than everyone else. Unfortunately, that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, as it should.

Solution:  Getting this feeling from other parts of life so I don’t have to rely on just competition. So I can realize games aren’t life.

Yes, I am capable of having fun playing games and not getting too into them if I just try hard enough. And if I do get a little too competitive, I hope people can realize it is nothing personal; I am capturing that sensation at the expense of acceptable social behavior.

I enjoy games. And I haven’t scared everyone off yet…

Puppy Chow and the Art of Public Speaking

Remember when you gave your first speech in school? So humiliating. Nerves out of control. Trying to remember breathing. Talking too quietly. Swaying. Suddenly forgetting that you had control over your body movements and gestures; awkwardly forcing them instead. Thinking note cards would save you from your listeners. Finishing twice as quickly as when you practiced at home.

If any of you have ever watched me give a speech, you know that 4th grade train wreck hasn’t gone away for me yet. I cannot imagine how painful it is to watch or how uninformed you feel when I am done. Heck, I don’t even like my speeches. I…Abhor. Despise. Loathe. Passionately hate speeches with all of my heart.

After years of embarrassing treachery in junior high and high school, I purposely took my undergraduate speech requirement at the esteemed Lincoln Land Community College. I wanted to avoid seeing anyone I knew, and I didn’t have to worry about my grade as long as I passed (transfer credits don’t go toward GPA).

Our first speech was the simple demonstration speech. I was randomly selected to go the first day. Like everything school-related, and because it was summer, I put in as little effort as humanly possible. I just wanted to get this class over with for so many reasons. I chose to demonstrate how to make Puppy Chow because it is simple and one of my favorite things in the world.

Speech day rolls around.

So here I am, practicing my stupid speech with the expectation of pure hell, and the teacher asks us to come to the chalkboard to sign up for time slots 1-6. What in the world do I want in this situation? Do I want to fail early but get it out of the way? Or do I want to crash and burn toward the end when people care less, yet have to sit there dreading my turn? I can’t bear going first. A demonstration speech on how to prepare Puppy Chow, one of the easiest things in the world to make, by someone who clearly wants to be anywhere but in front of this room of people making Puppy Chow, is idiotic. So I sign up for second. This will give me enough time to see that it is possible for another human being to give a speech to a group of fellow humans and not spontaneously combust. Plus, there will not be enough time to have a heart attack from apprehension.

I sit back, try to relax, and watch Jennifer L. walk up to the front of the room. “I wonder what creative idea she has for this demonstration speech,” I think to myself to pretend like I care. She starts getting supplies from two brown bags and puts them on a table. Seems like this involves cooking.

“Hi class, I’m Jennifer, and I am going to show you how to make a yummy treat today.”

I see what looks to be a box of cereal, and maybe some chocolate chips.

“My family calls it “Muddy Buddies,” but you have probably all had the popular dessert known as ‘Puppy Chow’.”

WHAT.

Are you serious?

This is unbelievable. I can’t even comprehend how ridiculous this is.

She is making Puppy Chow also? The one person ahead of me chooses this of all things. You’re telling me I have to go right after her? How original can I possibly be? How unlucky am I? Why me? Freaking Puppy Chow.

To make matters worse, she is much more detailed in her demonstration, and she seems confident and eager to be speaking.

I instantly switch to panic mode, which on speech day is not really a switch. I clearly can’t go next, or even today, or even with stupid Puppy Chow as a topic at all. I will take a lower grade just to be able to go the next day. No, I will feign illness (I could easily make myself faint in front of the room). Maybe I will just drop the class. Better yet, I will simply transfer to another university that doesn’t have a speech requirement. Or I could even just drop out of school completely. No, I should probably finish school. This all sounds extreme, but this is how I actually respond in these situations. What is painful for others is a literal guillotine for me. In no way, shape, or form can I do this sp… “Thank you, Jennifer. Next is Curtis. Get any items you need ready and we’ll start in two minutes.”

The shock still hasn’t set in. I have no choice but to take my ingredients up to the table. For me, it is a walk of shame.

Nice, off to a fantastic start. Great confidence.

I cannot want to be at the front of the class any less than at this point.

Aww, look at them, enjoying the samples of food Jennifer is handing out…Puppy Chow. I am depressed. I am torn. I am lost. I am dead.

“Hi. I am making Puppy Chow also,” I mumble in only the most vapid, humorless, unconfident Curtis way that I know. Of course, no one laughs. I stare at them like an old person first realizing how to use a webcam, but I find nothing to work with. Seems like we have developed a nice rapport.

I feel like they absolutely know how to make this already, so every single word and action from me is wasting their time. Their precious time becomes my only interest. The words I wrote on the note cards look absurd now that I am in front of people. People who just witnessed someone else making the exact same thing, and who already had no interest in watching an insecure person give a speech. I don’t even want to hear what I say. Any will I had is gone. I wonder how harshly they are judging me. Who is this moron speaking?

Five dreadful minutes later, and three minutes before the minimum time requirement, I find myself walking back to my seat in a trance. If I am alive at this point, I am not aware of it. I have no clue what I said. I definitely skipped some steps, and there are only a few of them. I don’t think I even made Puppy Chow. I awkwardly hide a huge bag of mix I had already prepared instead of handing it out. Why would they want more? How nice of me to bring enough for everyone.

The moral of this story is, I suck at speeches. I’m awful. I still hate Jennifer L. for stealing any semblance of thunder I might have. And never again am I showing anyone how to make Puppy Chow. You melt chocolate, peanut butter, and butter and put it over Crispix or Chex, then shake it in a bag with powdered sugar. Jokingly easy.

On a more serious note, it is ridiculous how nervous I get in front of people. I envy those who can stay somewhat loose and maintain composure enough to know it might not be fun but it isn’t the end of the world. One day, I will actually be Curtis in front of people. I can be funny, quirky, intelligent, and interesting. My personality needs to present itself in front of an audience much, much better. I’m gonna work on that. Just not by making Puppy Chow.

San Francisco?

Image

I moved to Chicago for so many reasons. SF is far, far away and the people are very different. I missed simple Midwesterners. I missed chain restaurants (barely). I missed seasons, and the inclination to seize the day because the good weather is more ephemeral. I missed driving on quiet roads in the plains, just getting away. I missed playing Ultimate Frisbee with people who were actually good. I missed being able to park my car without getting a street cleaning ticket. I missed paying less for things (Chicago is expensive, but SF is ridiculous, and the rest of Illinois is dirt cheap). But these reasons are not enough to warrant a move. The true factors were family and friends. I missed my family in Springfield. I missed my family in Florida; it is much easier catching a direct flight to Tampa from Chicago, and my grandparents like driving back to Illinois anyway to visit some of their close family and friends. I missed my close Chicago and Peoria friends. I had a girlfriend and wanted to be closer to her, as a distance relationship would not be feasible.

Let’s rewind a bit. Months before moving, I had dropped out of grad school after finishing 3/4ths of a Master’s program, and my life was so hectic from that point on. I traveled through Europe alone and had some fun and also crazy experiences. I attended a Cardinals win in the NL Championship Series. I saw numerous psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and doctors. I sought the support of friends, yoga, and meditation. I read a few self-help books. I started Adderall. I started and later finished (because they didn’t work) many different antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines. I changed my diet. I realized I am gluten intolerant. I exercised more. I changed my spending habits. I checked things off of my SF area bucket list. I took piano lessons and started to learn French. I read an absurd amount of books. I worked a few minor temp jobs and got paid to participate in a bunch of fun focus groups. I tried to figure out what I want to do in life that isn’t finance. I had some interesting experiences with girls. I rented a Shelby Mustang GT and drove faster and better than I ever have in my life. I went on a bunch of hikes alone. I dabbled with journaling. I went on a cruise with my close friends and saw my family in Florida. I visited home. I started a fun relationship with a girl who had liked me for a long time. I…the list is endless.

All of this sounds like a step in the right direction, and it probably was. Realizing that I had ADHD and depression, and subsequently dealing with it with the right medicine, really helped. Being more aware of myself and of my problems also helped. It was like I was just starting to live, just beginning my actual existence. I knew it would take time to figure myself out. I was confident and had good SF friends to help while I transitioned into a new life and career path.

So if all these positive things were happening in SF, why would I decide to move back home? I don’t have a straightforward answer to that, but for one, I was playing on house money. This all sounds great but living a life of fulfillment and entertainment and medicinal help and little work, etc., are not cheap by any means. At 24, I was lucky to have such great grandparents providing some of my monetary support, but I could not stand still accepting money. I needed to get on my own, to make my own money and get rid of that feeling of guilt. I needed to say I accomplished something and earned an honest living. Every one of my friends had a job or career path at this point. I had been secretly living this lifestyle of wandering for years. On the cruise with my friends, we sat at a table for nice breakfast one morning. A nice older couple across the table asked everyone what they did or were trying to do for a living. It came to me, and I just told the truth of not being sure but doing a lot of fun things while I figure it out. The husband’s response was, “Hey, I can’t wait to live the retired lifestyle either. You’ve got it made.” I laughed sheepishly. In so many ways, this was depressing to me. I didn’t deserve any of this. Yes, it was good I was figuring myself out, but I had to stop being a retiree and start being a poor, hard-working, intelligent 24-year old. In a period of “starting over,” I did not want to be so far from my roots and so alone in my endeavors, enjoying myself in one of the nicest cities in the US. I needed to go back to what I knew. I decided to finish out my Master’s program, but at a sister school in Chicago. I decided living by myself would be the least stressful and best for my new high-maintenance lifestyle (more time alone, better sleep, diet, and crazy mood effects of new medicine / withdrawal of old medicine). I would be within very close range of my friends, girlfriend, and family. I would spend less money and find a job and feel good doing it. All in all, I moved from SF because I believed I needed a support system closer to home: family, friends, doctors, and the comfort zone that had developed over 23 years.

I pride myself on having perspective; I don’t usually judge cities based on small sample size (weather, people, food, etc). But when I lived in San Francisco, I definitely let my circumstances influence me. I thought I needed to get away, that I needed to go home to begin blossoming. I am having this same problem right here in the Windy City. My circumstances are once again affecting me: I cannot find or keep a job, I don’t care about school or the finance path, I screwed things up with my loving girlfriend because I am a distant idiot, I am spending more money than I should (the bike thief didn’t help), I can’t figure out the medicine situation, and I can’t seem to care about anything. I have seen my family and friends more but, when I am so mentally distant, all of that doesn’t help much. I am truly trying very hard but keep facing adversity, whether it is physical or mental.

It is a natural human tendency to remember primarily positive things from the past when things in the present are not going well. I miss the nice SF days, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, Highway 1, the ability to walk everywhere, the early baseball, the breathtaking scenery in the area, Frank and Nic and other awesome friends, the fun shopping, the great food, the crazy people, and the amazing experiences I had in the City by the Bay. It has been 6 months spent in Chicago, and I keep telling myself San Francisco is not for me now, but could be in the future. Well, if things don’t go right soon, that future might be sooner than I anticipated. The idea is creeping up in my head to reverse my initial decision to move to Illinois; moving back to SF could be a viable option to get me on that right track I have been seeking. True, living in Chi-town could still turn out to be the best option, and I am not giving up yet. Plus, I still have school to finish, if I decide to do so. I just hope I have perspective in whatever conclusion I reach. I will not be in this rut for long. Whether it is in Chicago, San Francisco, or any other city in the world, I am confident I will find a way to positively contribute to the world soon.

Girls

I’m so confused when it comes to the opposite sex.

The moment I meet a nice attractive girl, I already picture the future. I imagine us dating, having fun doing things we both enjoy, how romantic moments will be with her specifically, etc. I tell myself instantly that I like her, deep down. Without even knowing her at all, and without sharing with her anything about myself. I try to prove to her that we should be dating, when I don’t even know if I like her. Basically, I develop crushes instantaneously, and everything after that is confirmation bias. I think rationally about how silly or untrue most of them are part of the time, but the irrational other side of me usually overrides that voice.  It takes me way too long to realize how much I really do or don’t like someone, and I still haven’t totally figured that out.

I am so involved in the pursuit of getting a cool girl to like me that I forget about liking her. Occasionally, I get fake feelings confused with real feelings. It hinders good friendships with girls who happen to be attractive, or limits things happening with people I actually like.

Everyone likes being liked, myself included. In the past, if someone remotely had interest, I convinced myself I was hardcore interested and would develop crazy feelings. Most of the time, this would lead to me acting differently, freezing up (I am already horribly awkward) and saying the wrong things or barely saying anything at all to try to play it cool. And if you don’t say anything, the girl isn’t going to know how much you actually like her. But then again, I didn’t even know, so it was just confusing. I have gotten better at being liked in recent years. When someone likes me, I don’t automatically reciprocate the feelings. I like the attention, but I try to see what they like about me and I think about what I like in them. Then I move forward accordingly. However, in even more recent times, this has backfired. I have such unnecessary self-worth at times that I don’t understand why multiple girls like me. So I just assume it is a mistake on their part, and I get somewhat distant and confused. I figure they don’t actually know me like they think, or they wouldn’t really want to date. So I don’t let myself like them. Maybe it is based on the good intentions of not wanting to hurt anyone based on my craziness and distance in life, but it hurts them and me. In order to get past this silly step, I just need to be confident and accepting that some girls out there like me for who I really am.

I think I have had a crush on almost every single one of my female friends. It makes for awkward situations, and usually doesn’t turn into dating. Only years later do I see what I actually liked at the time. I wish I could see what I really like right now. My moods and tastes change. I hurt girls in the process of pursuing or being pursued by them. If I were surer (I don’t like this word) of what I want, I would be more assertive in going for it. The girls I have dated, I have truly cared about. But the scary thing is, they were among the crowd of girls I didn’t like but who liked me. Did I give in? At the time, I didn’t believe so. Was it luck that they happened to turn into great relationships, at least for a time? Or was it destiny that they happened to end in a not so fun way, basically because of me still being that distant, crazy guy?

I want to be a perfect boyfriend and sometimes exhibit very loving qualities that a good boyfriend would have. But other times, I am independent and if there is something I see as detrimental to that independence, I put up my walls and become cold and spiteful, at least on the outside.

I have told plenty of girls to not like me because I will hurt them. But secretly, I also feel pain, and I don’t want to get hurt either. I just want to find someone who I like, who is pretty, who is fun, and who I will open up to and be comfortable with; I want to tear down any walls that I have built once and for all, and I want the girl to feel like she can do the same. Is that possible at this point in my life? I am not sure, but I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity when it arises.

I apologize to those I have hurt based on my distance, and know that I have cared more than you think. In the future, I don’t want that part of me to be the problem. It is not an acceptable trait in a relationship. I want to become a better, less distant person from what I have been. I think this will help to clear up most of my girl confusion, whether it be in the initial crush stage or the later relationship stage.

“G and G”

My grandparents came to visit me last weekend from Florida. Every time I see them, I want everything to be the way it used to be. I want them to move back into the house down the street in Springfield so I can see them every single day. I want to be the grandchild they adored. Looking at me with glowing eyes, straightening my little pumpkin Halloween costume and taking cute pictures. Picking me up for school and listening to me name all the makes and models of the cars on the road in amazement. “Hiding” the plastic Easter eggs (containing clues to find a few gifts around the house) in the back yard for my sister and I to find. Being at every single one of my sporting events, school functions, and big moments in my life. Going way out of their way to give me a ride no matter where I was. Buying me an absurdly unnecessary amount of snacks when my friends came over. Dealing with me being a rotten little brat in such a gentle way. Going shopping to buy every living school supply and seasonal article of clothing under the sun. Happily observing me type car names I observed on the typewriter that I saw during the day, like “Chevrolet” and “Mercedes” and “Caravan.” Going out to eat at a chain restaurant around 11:30 every weekday.

I did a ridiculous amount of puzzles and played so many games of Yahtzee with Grandma. I went on drives with Grandpa to really cool houses that he would appraise, and I would always get car sick because of his herky-jerky driving style.  I was so happy to get back from my vacations out west so I could fervently tell Grandma every detail I could remember. I used to go out to breakfast with Grandpa, drink a sip of his coffee, and have pancakes without syrup because he did not want to deal with the sticky mess (I never knew syrup was a possibility on pancakes until Grandma realized what he was doing and quickly put an end to it).

I know they won’t be here forever. I am horrible at this “being a grown-up” thing. I cannot express myself well like I used to. I am not loud and annoying and talkative and pouty and opinionated and judgmental and humorous and cute anymore. I don’t know how to talk about adult things. I am still a child, but have found myself in this adult life. I will get acclimated, and that will just take time. What worries me is that they don’t have much time; I want them to see me grow as a person. I have been a little lost and will be more of a late bloomer than some, but I want that blooming process to come as soon as possible. Even though I know my grandparents have and always will love me no matter what, I owe them something, after everything they have given me. I want to show them what I am made of. If I ever make a respectable amount of money when they are still around, I like to think I would pay them back for all the things they have ever paid for, to get rid of any guilt I might have for accepting such generosity and to let them know they mean more than that to me. Knowing them, they would not accept any of it. I might be able to buy them a dinner, but that’s about it. What would be a bigger payment to my grandparents would be for me to grow up and be the best person I can be. To use my mind effectively, to make an impact on the world like they know I can do. To be as loving and giving to others as they have been. To be an amazing grandson.

National Grandparents Day was September 9th, which I always seem to forget, but my grandparents deserve more than just a day. They deserve everything I could ever give. They have provided me with love and stability in every moment of my life, and I owe all of my past and future successes to them. I hope they are around when I have kids so they can be as great-grandparents what they are to me as grandparents: the best ever.