The Duality of the Past and Present

Stasia Winslow

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    Two lives, co-existing in parallel harmony: my barely two-minute old life and my past’s 2 billion year one. On the twenty-second Monday of the year two thousand-and-three, a little pink baby arrived into this world, to two loving parents. The second George Bush was president on that fateful June second. It was a Monday, the second day of the week. The temperature in Pakistan and India had risen to a record-breaking one hundred and twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit, and far far away, my mother was feeling the heat in my parents’ simple two-room apartment. Once she started to have contractions, my father rushed her to the hospital twenty-two miles away. However, they wouldn’t admit her until she was two-centimeters dilated. Twenty-two hours later, I was born. 

    A load of coincidences, one could argue. But who am I to question fate? A series of twos that would help shape my very identity from the day I was born. You see, my destiny was laid out for me long before I emerged into this world. 

    It takes two to create a human life, and not just simply in the biological sense. It takes both our relationship with the past and our aspirations for the future to mold us into the beings that we are. And thus, begins my tale of two. This is dually a story of the past, something that is more nebulous than one would expect and the future, one that has yet to be written. Two codependent forces, one cannot exist without the other. 

    Humanity can’t agree on what came first. Was it Adam? Was it Eve? Was it single celled organisms that would evolve into multi-celled organisms that would evolve into apes that would evolve into...me? Was it simply a collection of stardust that happened to miraculously collide? Who am I to say? The origin of you and me is disputed. So let us start at the beginning of my known history, as we examine three aspects of my familial history that have shaped the person I am today: a cynical disposition, work ethic and humor. 

Cue the 1940s in Santa Monica, California. It is not the same place we think of now; the beaches, sunshine and boardwalk. Crime rates have spiked in the area since the war and so Michael Nash, a gangly sixteen year old, walks home with an increased sense of urgency. He doesn’t have much to worry about, being blonde and fair-skinned, but as he passes a suspicious looking alley he is reminded of the whispers he has heard about the assaults of Japanese-Americans. What about the Germans? he thinks. We’re at war with them too, but the difference is that they can blend right in. Deep down he knows the truth. His tall, Irish-Catholic father exemplifies the stereotype of an LAPD police officer of the time. An alcoholic, racist and violent at times; he’s shown Mike that the world is not the utopia of the Santa Monica boardwalk, which smells of kettle corn and simple joy. The world is a complicated place in which simple joy is rationed, a luxury of sorts. Nowhere is that more clear than Mike’s Catholic school, where they tell him he will go to hell if he continues to write with his left hand and categorizes him as “slow” because of his undiagnosed dyslexia. How could an institution like religion, based on ideals of love and equality, devolve into something that instills fear in its disciples? he thinks. And thus, a cynic is born. But can a cynic be born? Or are they simply raised? All I know is that the cynic gene, if such a thing exists, reared its critical head in 1972 with my mother, and was undoubtedly passed on to myself in the late afternoon hours of June 2003, when I entered this world. 

    Forty years after Mike’s story and two-hundred and twenty two miles away, on an island in the middle of the ocean, sixteen year old Nathan Winslow shoots another basketball off the worn backboard of his driveway net. The summer humidity lingers like a sneeze. Only the setting sun reminds him that he must have lost track of time; he needs to get Daniel and Joanie from after-school care! His dad is off at sea, captaining a ship for the Coast Guard and his mom works at an Air Force base during the day. Their relative absence during daytime has no effect on their expectations of him though: getting As, taking care of his siblings, working at Pizza Hut and balancing sports is simply the way it must be. In a way, his strong work ethic is merely a symptom of his parent’s expectations. Regardless, this work ethic continues to be fruitful. He makes his basketball team and is a starting varsity pitcher in the spring. He is a regular customer at the local McDonald’s, where they reward a flawless report card with a caramel sundae. He even figures out the perfect ratio of crust-to-cheese-to-sauce (go heavier on the cheese than you think you should!) at his job. From the day I first lay in my parents’ arms, twenty years after this story, my fate was sealed. Through careful example, my father would assure that I would possess the same drive to achieve that propelled him to success. And for that, I can accredit nothing but his, and therefore my, past. 

We are nearing my birth! That fateful day! We have visited the 1940s, stopped in the 1980s and here we are! Merely a decade before my birth: the 1990s. Track suits, platform shoes and leopard print are in, and unfortunately Nathan Winslow is one of the many to fall victim to the myriad of fashion maladies the decade possesses: he wears a white suit to his wedding. I think this detail is only upsetting to me, who has only seen the wedding album, but for Nathan and Jennifer (soon-to-be) Winslow, the suit was far from the focus. They were to be married! And yes, you say. Obviously, this would be a significant event to you because this was the beginning of your family. And yes, ok. But who do you think I am? There is a greater significance, naturally. This gorgeous day in Santa Barbara, represents so much more than a simple union of two people. You see, this day represents the union of two types of humor. My father thinks that saying “guess what?” to which he answers  “chicken butt!” before the poor listeners can get a breath in, is the epitome of comedy. My mother, on the other hand, has a more sneaky style. She has witty additions to a conversation, that catch you off guard and then make you realize later, that you now only realize the true complexity of the joke. And so, when I was born on the second day of the week, on the second day of June, on the twenty-second Monday of the year: I was destined to personify the union of these two styles of humor. To which you might say, humor is a trivial matter! But I have found, in my sixteen some-odd years of life, that humor is what keeps our hearts beating. It is truly a uniting factor. 

    My aspirations for the future ultimately include a combination of these values I was born into: work ethic, cynicism and humor. I am determined to work hard and find success in whatever endeavor I pursue. I seek to question preconceived notions: the world’s and my own. And most importantly, I aspire to find humor in every situation, because I personally believe that happiness is the ultimate indicator of a successful life. 

   We began this tale with a story of twos. To me, those twos represent the duality of our past and our future, and how they influence our present. One does not have to live through a political or cultural situation to be affected by it, which is one of the most striking aspects of the human experience. My grandparents, my mother and my father have all had different experiences that have culminated in one human being: me. It is my birthright to use their values and influences, and all of those of the past, to shape my own present.