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Dear Jack

Jessie Aoife

Summer 2022

Dear Jack,

You’ve grown up in an in-between place, a place where the buildings didn’t meet the sky, a place where the smell of hot tarmac reminded you of summer. Everyone and everything looked the same, so you found inspiration in the fine detail. The cracks in the pavement became familiar landmarks of youth and we looked at the stars to find meaning. You used to steal from our parent’s alcohol cupboard only to find I’d already replaced the vodka with water. I drank it at the skate park because there was nowhere else to go. We had fake IDs to buy cigarettes but no clubs or bars to sneak into, so we explored ourselves and the people around us. Growing up in the suburbs was bleak, loud, big: growing up and homework were the only things on our schedule. But suddenly, we stopped riding our bikes and Sunday roasts became less enticing the more we had them. Family began to mean a different thing; we morphed from golden haired children to bronze footed youths. Suddenly, life wasn’t so present; we started dreaming of more than what our parents were. We started to want to leave. The crappy restaurants and pound stretchers were no longer the landscape of our experience, they were the shackles of a life we wanted to escape.

When we left, we were so final about it. We want a one-way ticket, but the tracks that lead out also lead in. When we return and our lungs begin to feel tight, we wonder why. It’s because the suburbs are loaded. They seem small and insignificant but they’re not. They’re so loud in their stupid, static quietness.

You always wanted to stay young forever. So, when hairs started sprouting from your chin and your shoulders broadened, it fucking sucked. But you leaned into the hedonism I’ve started to lose and had a good time of it. Sometimes I wonder how many garden sheds we got high behind, and how many manicured bushes we threw up in. Acquiring independence changes everything, so, when you come back here, to the place where your hedonism was born, you are reminded of what was. It reminds you that you are tired, that your friends have jobs now and are older. Your crystal cut youth is over. I think this is something to grieve, to bury.

To return to this graveyard of memory is hard. It’s a taxidermy youth! It’s a place that is probably better frozen in time (it’s a place that should be). Because when you age you see it for what it is: boring, uninspiring. We love it for what it was, but there is no future here. It is a tough place to come back to. When you have walked every walk, escaped every escape, you have no choice but to turn inward. Therein lies the not-so-fun parts of youth. We aren’t in the city here, there is nothing to distract us or to prevent boredom from turning into nostalgia that turns into anxiety or PTSD. There isn’t a skyline that represents the promise of a future, there isn’t a beautiful forest that represents the peacefulness of solitude. Just houses that look the same.

We had a golden childhood here, and a bronze youth. We buried a lot. A lot of who we were, are, and who we thought we would be. To return is to remember. When you moved away, you began to reinvent yourself and perhaps you don’t fit in your old room now because of that. You don’t have to. To feel like a guest in the house you grew up in is weird at first, but you get used to it. Home becomes a place far from here. But when you’re in your early twenties and you’re renting and moving every year or so, a static place seems desirable. It’s a very strange feeling to return to this stasis and feel … different. But we know what it means to be suburban, to have the ability to find art in the nothing, to find beauty in the mundane. We will find a way to hold hands over the cracked pavement, but better, we will find strength in the bleak skyline.

Explore the accompanying photo series, Finding Beauty in the Cracked Pavement

Jessie is an artist and writer who uses her environment and state of mind to inspire her pieces. She is interested in magic, philosophy, music, and art. 

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