Give or take. . .
It was 1995. I was in my early 20's and I had, about 4 months earlier, moved my entire life across the country to the West Coast.
Though not the first, it was, easily, the largest reinvention I had ever undergone.
I brought little with me in that cross country trek in the old Chevy Corsica. My musical equipment, my basic necessities and just enough of everything else to get by til I got settled. But, as with any reinvention, I left so much behind for good.
Somewhere, tucked among the boxes, was at least one of the Calvin and Hobbes book of comics collections.
In November of 95, the strips creator, Bill Watterson, announced he was ending the daily. I remember being quite sad hearing that. Calvin and Hobbes had been the strip that I felt most connected to in my life. The often solitary boy and his stuffed tiger in his wonderful imaginary world.
During the next 20 years, those comics would be a beacon to me. The more I tried to find my place in the adult world and struggled with my reluctance to let go of the threads of my own childhood that were such lifelines. . .
Recently I have read a few articles about Bill Watterson. One a graduation commencement speech he had given years back and, another, a recent Washington Post article/interview about the Calvin and Hobbes strip.
This is from the commencement speech:
“Creating a life that reflects your values and
satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that
relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person
happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a
subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of
some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job
because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities
is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay
home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his
potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some
not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who
you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell
yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
Can I just say I adore Bill Watterson!
And there are two other things I'd like to say here and now.
Calvin and Hobbes continues to be that lifeline. Though now, after shedding that desire for an "important adult life" years back and fully embracing and returning to the imagination and paracosms of my youth, it is an easy line to grasp. One of gratitude and simple acknowledgment.
A "thank you" of grand proportions from my beautiful world.
And two, that the Calvin and Hobbes strip, when I do indulge in it, is not a mere nostalgia trip. I still feel it's tug of emotion and possibility. I still believe that many people would look at my world as the "stuffed tiger". . . appearing still and lifeless on the outside. . . because you'd have to be inside to really understand the vibrant world within. That used to feel odd at times but, now, all these years later, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Ever. It's meant to be this way, if only to protect and preserve it.
And like other things I recall so clearly from childhood and throughout my life, I still see that final panel of that final strip. Calvin and Hobbes going off on their sled, heading down the hill, and the final words. . . "Let's go exploring."
It's winter many places. Maybe snowing. When it does, get out and see that world in it's newness and as the blank white page waiting to be written upon.
(It's good to be back)