Sometimes I feel my life is an episode of “The Wonder Years.” Like Kevin Arnold, the teenager whose life is the center of the show, I can hear myself narrating my thoughts. It seems everyone can hear what I’m thinking but really only I can.
Kevin goes through the ordinary ups and downs of life in the coming-of-age series. He falls in love with his childhood crush. He sometimes hates his best friend. He tries to reason with his parents. His older brother is his biggest nemesis.
We can all relate, but where I see myself in Kevin, is realizing the big, important things in life, in the small, seemingly ordinary things of life.
Kevin grew up in the late 1960s when almost every social norm of American life was being tested. From civil rights to the Vietnam War, rock and roll music, to women’s liberation, what a time it was to grow up. While Kevin was impacted by these historic events, it was the happenings of his traditional, small town life that changed him from youth to young man.
I think this is what most of us experience. We’d like to think that the historic events of our past changed us in monumental ways, but in reality, it’s hard to know that you are living through history, when history is something you reflect on from a distance.
As we get older, we reunite with best friends from our youth. We share stories of childhood pranks and times when we challenged our parents. We remember what seemed like unforgivable differences between us, that turned out to be laughable and silly moments. Usually, what we think of most are the life lessons we learned through the bumps in the road, and the times that caused us to step up to find something in ourselves we didn’t know existed.
Kevin Arnold had many of those moments. Maybe that’s why I see myself in him. We all had those moments. Like the time you figured out your best friend was your best friend not because he was cool or popular, but because he was different and unlike anyone else.
There was also the time you realized that family meant more than anything in the world. That’s a hard one to acknowledge as a teenager because most of your time is spent thinking you know more than your parents and that your siblings are just distractions to what’s really important in life.
In one episode of “The Wonder Years,” Kevin, his crush Wendy Kooper, and his best buddy Paul Pfeiffer are devastated to learn that a nearby wooded area called Harper’s Woods is going to be converted into a shopping mall. This seems like the end of the world to them. It’s their secret hiding place. The home to secrets, hidden kisses and playground memories that can’t be replaced.
They vow to make sure that Harper’s Woods will remain that special place to them. They band together and attend a town hall meeting to make their concerns known, but the problem they face is that no one cares about Harper’s Woods like they do. So, they make one final visit to the construction site to respect a place that gave them so many life lessons.
We all have had those occasions in life that cause us to appreciate what made us who are today. We may not read about them in history books, but to us, the quiet moments between friends at the neighborhood park, and the occasions of reconciliation with family members are just as big, and just as life changing that they remind us we are just as ordinary as kids like Kevin Arnold and his friends.
For most of us, it turns out it is the simple moments of life between regular people who love each other, that teach us what is most important. Just like in an episode of The Wonder Years.
Abe Villarreal writes about the traditions, people, and culture of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.