I’m a serial monologuer. I have thoughts on everything and I’m way too analytical not to convey them in a form of chronological legalese that could paralyze 83% of the world’s population.
There was a line on Doctor Who last season by Matt Smith’s Doctor – I’m not going to give his number because my very good friend Richard will start a bar brawl with me – where he says that like a Time Lord who regenerates into a newer, older self, we all change as we age and become “new people” as we progress in our journey. This really struck a chord with me and I don’t think I quite got it out of my head since it aired.
I’m 33 years old. I used to be the shyest kid in the universe. I was an only-child with a stay-at-home-mom. My singular experience with daycare was from one incident at my mom’s gym when she was down the hall for about twelve minutes. I was four. I still remember the screams.
I didn’t make friends well, was easily taunted, hated sports, and idolized my father who worked 25 hours a day and monologued and talked in legalese. I recall the first 12-13 years of my life in the same way I think about 17th century cobblers. I believe it happened, but it doesn’t feel like anything relatable to my life today.
Let’s call that Ryan something like Captain Buzzkill.
Through a well-timed 8th grade class trip, hundreds of miles from family, and following the death of my grandmother, which shocked my world, I “regenerated” from Captain Buzzy into my second incarnation, Doogie Howser. Doogie was a motor-mouth. He didn’t have a shy bone in his body and found new friends that didn’t make him feel like he was pitied. He had his first crush, first love, first shot at independence and I feel genuine pride looking back on his time. I run into old friends and they’ll ask, “Do you remember this and this???” as though this escapade of Doogie’s is legendary. I genuinely don’t remember all of it. It was such a wonderful time of my life, but it’s an echo today.
A happy echo.
Buzzy, with all the calm, fatherly presence of Alan Greespan warning Congress of an impending housing bubble, would boil to the surface when Doogie’s friendships soured and stretched, screaming about air raid drills and sobbing uncontrollably for no real reason. Doogie’s response was to adapt, jumping to clean slates with new crowds, anything to not be typecast as Peter Pettigrew without the problems. It was easy at Doogie’s time of life. Anything could be placed aside if it wasn’t convenient.
Family heartache, permanent responsibility and finally, totally falling in love marked the regeneration of Doogie into Huggles. Neurotic as he was and without a safety net, Huggles, like Buzzy, felt awkardness acutely like a tiny pebble in his shoe. Doogie was care free. Huggles was far more focused, suffering from an severe BS intolerance. He was tough on people when they needed it, but he discovered the true meaning of Christmas – family – in whatever form it came in. He was the one who tired of starting over and had no interest making friends with people who would not be there in sixty years. Huggles wanted it right from the start and forever and was the Ryan to finally take charge of his life.
Oh, and he started Poufwa and accidentally changed the world.
Huggles has been here for almost eleven years. Matt Smith reminded him recently that times change, and so must he, but that’s okay, that’s good, because the love of Buzzy, the optimistic spirit of Doogie and the focus of Huggles may yet live on in the next Ryan, and that he’s a-coming.
Also like Matt Smith, Huggles didn’t get it.
Then the out-of-towners arrived to check out the region for syrup and cheese. Two vacationers crashed at our place, one an old friend with much knowledge of interwebs and shiny, and the other his vacation buddy that Huggles remembered from the early days of Poufwa, but whom he hadn’t really spoken to in years. Doogie would appreciate the clean slate.
I have a wife I adore, two cats to put through college, a house, two godkids and a nephew. I have things I would like to do before I die, as does everyone, but I truly just want to love and live well. Huggles was born in fire because he was needed, but over time fell into the old habits of Buzzy and Doogie. Seeing his friends, making a wonderful new one, asking about their lives and at the same time examining his own brought into focus overdo changes that Huggles, that I, need to make in now I approach the world.
Que the orange lights. Say goodnight to Huggles, and say hello to the fourth Ryan.
Nigel Appleby is here.
If Nigel is a version of myself, he is the one who makes decisions because he decided
they’re important to make, not because circumstances require it of him. He’s not surviving. He’s living. He’s not a gossip. He’s selective of friends, like Huggles before him, but he has stronger confidence in who he is.
Huggles had the habit of molding his personality around the other person. Need him to be strong or compassionate or a listener or an antagonist? Need him to come on strong or need him to back off and not be in your face? He could be whatever you needed, even if it wasn’t who necessarily who he was at that moment, because he wanted you to stick around for sixty years and not get tired of him. It occurs to me there is no manual on how to be a friend, or a husband, an uncle, a parent. Every single one of us makes it up as we go along, and we deserve the right to do it without filter. Nigel is the first Ryan to accept it is your decision on whether or not to stay.
He’s also the first Ryan to break down the walls between separate lives. I am a podcaster. I’m a leader of an online community that seems silly to a lot of people but that has brought many lives together and made the world a better place. I am very proud of that. I used to keep worlds separate to avoid conversations with people over things they do not understand. Now I welcome it. Stay or leave.
I am Ryan. I am also Buzzy, Doogie, Huggles and Nigel. Who will I be in the next ten years? A husband, a dad, I hope, a friend, and someone who puts myself forward, unashamed, who will give everything for the people I love, in truth. I don’t want to spend a minute of my life on noise, clean slates, or unnecessary tears.
And I hope to deafen 83% of the world while doing it, because I am also, and proudly my father’s son.