A young girl stands in the doorway pressing the screen on her mobile phone, oblivious to my need to enter the building. I am not in a hurry. Her jeans may be a size too small, her shirt may be an undergarment. Had I not known how to read a calendar, this could have been 1984. I ask politely if I may pass and she smiles and steps to the side but does not break eye contact with her phone.
The only television in the place features a baseball game. The clerk behind the counter is the owner of the deli, efficiently taking orders with a smile as the group of hungry high schoolers begins to filter to booths and tables.
As I unpack my messenger bag and get to work, I can feel eyes on me while I quietly remove old content from the store window and replace it with current, upcoming events. Who is the white-bearded man, older than any of their parents? He’s too young to be retired, but too old to be putting up posters for music festivals in local storefronts.
Thirty-four years ago I roamed the same halls these students walked to get here – the deli is right next door to the high school from where I graduated. I feel these students watching me and immediately think of The Breakfast Club, when Carl the janitor enters the library. You all know the scene.
These kids have no idea who I am or where I have been, or that I am from here but in a different time.
Just a short couple of years ago I was making six times as much money in the IT industry, working in a cubicle Monday through Friday. This felt…normal for a man my age. This is what we do before we retire and play golf or watch Murder She Wrote at 1:00 in the afternoon while we wait to die. Riding a bicycle to deliver parcels and post playbills is not where I saw myself at 17.
Or 47 for that matter.
An urge to stand up and gather the attention of these young minds was overwhelming, but I did not. These children, discussing weekend exploits at parties, video games, music, and sports didn’t seem to have a notion of what happens outside the walls of adolescence. I remembered being that young and thinking the world will take care of me, from my first job to my last. From my wedding to my retirement.
I was unprepared.
The message would have been to begin planning for your future immediately, because the world changes faster than a clock can tick, especially in this modern era. If you’re not careful, before you blink you will be 30 years old and a young parent without a career, scraping by doing what you are good at to put food on the table. All of your money will be spent supporting a family rather than saving, and before you know it you are 50 with a meager nest egg and a need to work for the rest of your life just to survive.
Truth be told, no one cares that much about who I am or what I do. They were probably looking at the big white beard and thinking this is what I do in retirement for fun. Regardless, I felt like Carl the janitor, doing a simple job and brimming with ample amounts of wisdom.
Yeah, my existential crises are pretty tame and yeah, my kids are probably pretty tired of it