I'm somewhat glad I grew up in the time that I did. The 80's didn't have the acceptance and technological advancements that today has, but comparative abilities lead me to conclude that, yup, I'd still pick the shitty 80's over growing up a kid today. The main reason is privacy. You just can't do anything today without it being blasted all over the internet. There was a former classmate of mine that got some notoriety for running off with a 16 year old girl to Mexico and the poor wife ended up on Dr. Phil talking to the entire nation about it. If that happened in the 80's, it might make the local newspapers at best, but we'd just pretty much shrug it off and hope that he got caught eventually. It would be great coffee shop gossip amongst the old guys permanently parked on the stools down at the end of the counter. But people in Bulgaria wouldn't be writing letters to the editor of the Kutztown Patriot regarding the scandal.
Today, if a kid runs away, you have some pretty nice safety measures that take place. The Amber Alert blows up everyone's phone, Facebook kicks in high gear, and Alex Jones will tell you that Hillary Clinton stole another kid to put in soup that is secretly fed to android assassins working for the Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone is looking for you and the chances of escaping are pretty nil. You know what is another way to guarantee your chances of escaping are pretty nil? Being the worst packer of bare essentials of all time.
We're not going to go over the gory details of my childhood, but let's just say that being home was not where I preferred to be. There was an incident when I was in third grade where I had pretty much had enough of the situation that I was in. I was in the middle of reading Tom Sawyer, so the concept of running away was very present in my mind. Tom Sawyer had a bindle - a sack on the end of the stick. A good running away stick is hard to find when you live in town, so I had to resort to my trusty old school backpack.
As I was determined to leave and never come back, I decided that I needed to make sure to pack what I needed for the rest of my life. Upon deep thought, my decision was that I would of course need my dictionary. In went Webster's 1,300 page hardcover dictionary. You know what else is vital for an 8 year old? Almanacs! They are a treasure trove of information! You CANNOT possibly run away without a good almanac at your disposal. How else are you supposed to look up the bronze medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympics men's javelin? It's Georghe Megelea from Romania, by the way, with a throw of 87.16 meters.
You kids have it so lucky today. You could have taken all this information on a tablet or even your phone. Back in 1983 a tablet was a pad of paper that you wrote on. And writing is just as important as reading, so in went a lifetime's supply of tablets: 2. And you can't use blood to write on paper like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn would have, so a lifetime supply of writing instruments went in the backpack as well: 1 pencil and 1 pen. Of course you need time to enjoy the moments where you aren't working and can relax, so the little space I had left in the backpack went my favourite stories that I could read in my free time.
I left the house with a crammed full backpack containing not one item of food, clothing, or anything remotely useful to a child leaving a home and determined to live on his own. But I was supremely confident I had chosen well and it was time to get the fuck out Dodge. I grew up on one end of the town and Main Street allowed me to go down the hill and back up the other side and I found myself on the other end of town, about two miles away. I realized after walking for quite some time that I would probably need to find some work. Divine providence gifted me a gas station/mechanic on the edge of town that would be perfect for my employment needs. So I sauntered into the garage and asked to speak to the owner. Moments later, out comes Rags McGasoline, an older gentleman who looked at me and was very silent when I asked him if he was hiring. I believe I told him that I would start at the very bottom as an First Vice President, I didn't expect anything fancy like Chief Financial Officer, even though I was certain I could really shake things up at Texaco. You know what that racist bastard said? He said they weren't hiring at the moment. The gall! Dejected, I departed and continued on my way. I think I started to realize that getting a job might be harder than I had anticipated. I was walking along the road next to the cemetery when a car pulled up, and it was a police officer asking me where I was headed. I told him I was headed to Wall Street to try my hands at securities fraud, there was this guy named Bernie Madoff that I really wanted to learn from. Ok, maybe I told him that I was leaving town due to differences in management structure domestically. I don't really remember. All I remember is that he let me play with the siren and turn the lights on before we drove back home.
In all, my time away from home was a whopping 4 hours. I walked 3 miles, applied for a job, hung out in a cemetery with a cop, and didn't use one thing in my backpack the entire time. I wish that I have improved my packing skills over the years, but you can't improve from perfection of the greatest running away backpack of all time. Today I pack completely useless things like clothes, money, toiletries, and other dumb stuff that take away from precious things like books. Thankfully it didn't make the headlines of the Patriot, so everyone was none the wiser regarding my status as a fugitive and a boy on the run. Although I did write a nasty letter to Mark Twain telling him that running away is a lot harder than he made it sound. See, I told you that packing that tablet and pen was smart!
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