In the late 1980’s, when I was in my senior year of high school, my girlfriends and I would often buy alcoholic beverages, drive up to the desolate roof of the Kings Plaza Mall parking lot in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, get out of our cars, and sit around in a circle on the floor to play truth, dare, and consequences. It didn’t matter if it was winter or summer or how deserted or eerie the parking lot was. Fun, freedom, and adventure were our modus operandi. Sure there was crime and problems around us, and we were far from naïve, growing up with Manhattan a mere 30-minute drive away, and a mix of tough guys always around us, but we were pleasure seekers for whom danger was more of an idea than a reality. Life and laughter were synonymous for us.
Of his years in Paris, Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” I would say the same holds true for Brooklyn. Growing up in Brooklyn is an unforgettable experience. My girlfriends and I lived through racial riots and turmoil. We witnessed friends getting murdered, and others getting terminally ill. Our city life immersed us in a frenetic pace early on, but we always managed to take time outs to celebrate the good in life, and to cheer one another on. Against many odds, we all flourished in our own unique ways. We learned from one another, and from the evolving world around us. Our bonds were intricate and deep, so unlike today’s manufactured Facebook connections. We were interested and invested in one another, and in the world around us. Our computer-free lives afforded us the opportunity to write each other notes in full sentences that we passed to one another in the halls of high school. The summers that I spent away at sleep away camp, my girlfriends wrote me long, detailed letters full of the daily gossip – there were no meaningless acronyms to make our lives feel bland and generic.
Each of us were dreamers as much as we were realists. We were devoted to family, to exceling in school, and we all aspired to our own definitions of greatness. But we weren’t opposed to drinking and the shenanigans that came with it. Sitting up on the roof, with the world seemingly below us, we good humoredly harangued one another about boys, relationships, rumors. Truth was what we demanded. Some of us took the dares, requiring us to execute some ridiculous and embarrassing feat, such as spilling the beans about some deep-held secret. The consequences were that we all grew comfortable being ourselves.
Our collective desire to live our lives to the fullest, and our camaraderie enriched my life as a teenager, and continues to inspire me as an adult now, too. I was fortunate to be part of a spontaneous bunch who was always in pursuit of entertainment. We loved to go on what we called missions. We plotted escapades, like driving out to the club Speaks on Long Island to take a picture of ourselves all standing in front so that we could brag to our guy friends that we went there, too. Sometimes the jaunts were more random—driving up to Monticello to take pictures of ourselves climbing mountains while striking poses, or driving into Manhattan to eat in Little Italy or China Town at 2 am. These were the days of endless adventures: dancing all night at clubs, singing and dancing piled into one another’s cars, and hanging out every chance we could. We were not opposed to kidnapping one another to go on one of our sprees. “Sure, we’ll get you home in 15 minutes,” we promised, stopping by one another’s house at 10 pm, instigating each other to join the party, only to return home in the wee hours of the morning.
In retrospect, truth, dare, and consequences was so much more than just a game. It was an outlet for us to become ourselves. An opportunity to take chances, to inspire one another to step outside of our comfort zones. We were learning about honesty, risk, and that there were no terrible consequences for looking foolish at times. In the laughter we were not questioning, but living. At 17-years old, we may very well intuit our future destinations – I would contend that there’s something within us that knows from very early on what our route in life is. But too often we let fear and insecurity win out. We listen to others and mistake their fear for our own. We miss our exits and let ourselves get detoured, only to have to work at finding our way back throughout our lives. Being up on that roof, secluded from the world below, there was a candor that enabled each of us to seek the truth within ourselves. We dared, and held one another accountable to the dares. In many respects, we nurtured one another’s dreams.
Perhaps our future peeks out at us from those high school years. Certainly our sense of adventure, our definition of friendship, of fun, our relationship to learning and to taking chances blooms during adolescence. As we evolve and grow the struggles change, as do the opportunities, but deep within us are those adolescents from long ago. Our awkward, questioning selves don’t vanish. We just learn how to manage them and cultivate them into our future identities. Perhaps all that we become is the result of all that we were at 17-years old and the people we surrounded ourselves with– all the truths we shared, the dares we took, and the consequences that we encountered, lead us to become who we are.