The older I get, the more I yearn for the toxic culture of my childhood
Lately, something has been bothering me. It bothered me a lot.
I grew up in a very WASP-y, hoity-toity neighborhood. My childhood was one of private schools, hearing people ask which beach club (or country club) we belonged to, and having friends who owned their own yachts.
At some point, I was expected to graduate from college and get a master’s degree at Princeton. I walked away from it all because the toxicity it produced in me was horrible. I attribute a great deal of responsibility to my sexual abuse, my drug use and my possible trafficking in the people around me.
When I ran away, I found more genuine people in NYC projects. I found my friends living in abandoned warehouses, I met convicted felons who showed me more kindness than anyone in my college, and some of my closest friends are active gutter punks.
Recently, I caught myself ordering disturbing amounts of Benedictine eggs and walking into a vineyard. I even ordered The WASP cookbook.
So what is the problem?
Ever since I had a nervous breakdown in college, ran away, and was trafficked, I’ve made it a point to get away from the “preparatory life” I was on the verge of succumbing. I never wanted to go back there.
I want to point all this out because I really hate the type of people I grew up with – with a few exceptions who know who they are. Hate is a strong word, that’s why I use it. I can’t stand the sight of my old classmates or anyone like them.
Lately, however, I find myself nostalgic for the bad old days. I find myself wanting to hang out on a yacht or a speedboat. I want to occasionally see a golf course or have a personal cabana on the beach club. Sometimes I even wonder if the people around me even have a riding area.
I started to miss the look of the marble hallways, old wooden columns, and the Princetonite-chic look of so many things I was used to. I miss lighter brunches and watching people dine by the sea.
No lie, I feel like it – and the fucking pep-pep, rah-rah of prep school spirit. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, I can’t understand why I yearn for a world that’s made it so clear that they don’t want me in it.
In reality, I know I don’t really want to go back to that kind of life.
For someone who ran away from these people because they were so wrong and so cruel, wanting to go back to these ways is alarming. When I asked my mom what was happening to me, she actually had something that made a bit of sense.
She said: “We tend to crave what we grew up with because it’s a source of comfort as we get older. That’s why I decorated the house in red and gold and why you do the same in your house.
Is that right?
Up to a point I might be able to see it, but there is a problem. Although I no longer have the instinctive hate reaction I once had with the appearance of old money, I don’t really see why this is happening now and not earlier when my father passed away.
My father, like me, hated the pretense of living in an upscale neighborhood. My mother only recently started adopting him. And me? Well, I moved to a more sane/civilized/honest realm and was able to work on healing the traumas and wounds of rejection of the past 30 years.
While I grew up with it, my home life wasn’t entirely part of that world. It was just what I was surrounded by. I was the weird kid with a Romanian accent for the first four years of school. After that, I was the weird kid with shitty clothes. So…it’s not entirely my past, you know what I mean?
I know that if I went back to that kind of life, I would be miserable again. I also know that no one in these circles would want me. I dress too oddly for them. It’s a society that prides itself on being conformist, and I’ve never had the time or the inclination to fit in.
It’s a time when I don’t have the answers and I can’t explain them.
Feeling the call to all the old money methods I’ve been exposed to bothers me on a visceral level. I’m happy when I’m in a warehouse. I’m happy when I see graffiti art being made, or when my friends and I have heated discussions. That’s where I ran.
Why do I want something that I ran from? Besides, why would I want it when I have every reason to associate it with pain? I see navy sweaters and immediately assume that people who wear them hate me! It’s Pavlovian.
I’m not used to being unable to introspect my feelings or find a reason why this might be happening. It’s strange. It’s totally on the left for me.
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I don’t know what that means. Part of me wonders if I can even try to come back to this life. I don’t know if it’s even doable, all things considered. I’m still an outcast by nature from my past.
Maybe in another life, I’ll feel ready to go back. I’ll try at the old university, finally graduate, and smile politely without having a clue who really wants to be around me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll like it now that I’m older.
Maybe then I’ll be ready to acclimatize to the culture that surrounded me in my hometown and surrounding areas. Maybe it was just a matter of age or just part of me being the awkward goth of the neighborhood. Maybe I had to get jaded or make money on my own.
Uh, probably not.
I still don’t know why I find myself missing it. But damn, it’s weird and filled with Saudade. Am I the only one who understands the places and people you know are no good?
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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based in Red Bank, New Jersey. She writes on lifestyle, psychology, finance and relationships.
This article was originally published on Average. Reprinted with permission from the author.