When I was in the seventh grade, I learned about Valhalla. For those that don’t know, Valhalla is a place in Norse mythology that warriors would go when they died. A place to wage war during the day and enjoy blissful evenings. For a long time, I imagined how cool it would be to go to Valhalla and live forever. It wasn’t until I was almost twenty when I realized where the true Valhalla resides.
Corinthians puts it best when it writes, “When I was a child I thought like a child, acted like a child, was disciplined like a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” It’s a classic verse which makes up one of about three Biblical verses I know. Another cliché goes as such, “When you’re young you can’t wait to get old, when you’re old you wish you were young.” Yes, yes, everyone in the continental U.S. has heard that ancient and yet wholly tiresome line. I never really believed it until recently.
It was the other day in a class of mine in which we were reading a short story about Barbie dolls. No joke – it was all about childhood identity. However, the Barbie dolls made me think of my childhood pastimes, and then for some reason all I could imagine was Valhalla. The thought came to me like Thor’s hammer across my skull and I was totally stricken with the thought of how much I really enjoyed childhood.
What made it worse is that life now really does suck in comparison. Growing up, I had everything I wanted. I don’t mean to say that in a way that makes me sound spoiled, I suppose I should say, “Everything I needed, and some of what I wanted.” It’s funny how the things that were needs as a child are not even simple desires as an adult. My needs were food and fun. I was a smart kid and didn’t have to try in school – so education was fun. Each day on the streets of California I would bike or play street hockey, play G.I. Joe, or do something of a war-like make-believe with my best friend Mark.
This was something he and I did when we were in elementary school. We were raised on Kung-Fu movies, Schwarzenegger movies, and cartoons. Delusions of grandeur ran rampant. We had toy guns, Mark had a fort that was up a large hill in his back yard, and we would either attack and secure the fort or abandon our position in time of defeat. It got highly intense, although we knew that we would never die. At night, I went home to a mother and father that loved me and a little brother that was a general pain in the ass. But in the end, I can’t single out any event of my childhood when I was so severely sad that it affected the person I am today.
I miss that time so much. Generally, I think I was both tanner and thinner, and I also enjoyed life much more. The world now is saturated with things that some call sins, but I call indifference and cowardice. No one pretends anymore because the people of the world in which I live are to busy being stressed or wasted. We drink poisonous drinks that attack our livers; we smoke dirty smoke that slowly chokes our lungs. This is not Valhalla. It’s not heaven or purgatory or even hell – this is reality; sometimes a more frightening place than the concepts of any other veracity.
More recently, I’ve tried to get back to Valhalla. I know I never will. I know it’s a place I put away long ago along with the little notes that read “Will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no.” I haven’t been back to California in about four years, which is how long it’s been since I’ve seen or spoken to Mark. I’m sure he remembers our Valhalla, just as I do, and has rightly locked it away in his mind for all eternity.
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