COLUMN: Do we actually evolve, or just grow up?

Mike Christopherson
Mike Christopherson

It’s evolution when over many, many years our fins transform into actual limbs and we crawl out of the water and start to breathe air on land.

But does it qualify as evolution when, as established, solidified adults, we look back on the things we did or didn’t do as teenagers and young adults, the way we actually made an effort to make ourselves look back then, and the surroundings we placed ourselves in, and our jaws hit the floor?

Or do we simply develop (arguably) better, more refined tastes over time? As we age, do we become more dignified, for lack of a better word?

My wife and I helped our oldest son and his handful of college roommates move from one house to another last week.

They are not fully evolved. They are not finished products. Clearly, their frontal lobes are works in progress.

I should clarify. While doing a bit of heavy lifting myself, I left most of the grunt work to the young strapping lads. As the owner of the pickup that handled the majority of the move, I concentrated most of my efforts and focused my particular set of skills on the intricate engineering necessary to make sure some of the massive loads of couches, mattresses and box springs and stacks of boxes didn’t tumble out of the pickup bed during another run between houses. 

I’m master of the bungee strap. As yet another mountain of moveables slowly became ensnared in a paralyzing web of colorful, stretchy straps with hooks on each end, one of our son’s roommates looked on in wonder.

“That’s really impressive,” he said.

And that’s when I let him in on one of life’s most important lessons:

You can never have enough bungee straps. I asked the kid, who possesses a vast array of longboarding and snowboarding skills and even jammed on his banjo for us, how many bungee straps are in his current inventory.

“Uhhh…zero,” he replied.

Well, then, I told him, it’s time to start building his inventory. Buy a half-dozen of varying lengths to get started, I advised, and then for the next couple of years, every time he goes to a hardware store to pick up something, make sure to grab a couple more straps. They do have a life span after all, I explained to him; they lose their elasticity, or their hooks fall off.

“I shall get some bungee straps!” he said with a level of excitement that gave me legitimate hope for the future.

My wife, meanwhile, led the colossal effort necessary to clean the house to the point that the landlord would feel compelled to give the boys back at least some of their security deposit.

She scrubbed, wiped, scraped and chipped away at things a human should never have to look at or smell, much less touch, even while wearing rubber gloves.

But they’ll get there. Years down the road from this particular point in time, while owning enough bungee straps to fill a small garage, these young men will live in more presentable, sanitary dwellings. They’ll eat better, healthier, more real food. They’ll drink beer that tastes like something.

I’m not trying to be all uppity or superior. I’ve been where they are. One night in college, my roommate and I went to one of our favorite bars – its pool tables had the smoothest felt and shiniest balls in the whole city. The bar one night was promoting some strange beer, “Sam Adams Boston Lager,” so we ordered a couple bottles. After our first gulp, it took every fiber of our willpower to not spit it out all over that glorious green felt. We were astounded by how awful it was.

And it’s a lager. It’s not some chewy, ultra-hoppy sludge that you can’t see through. But we were still works in progress. We quickly ordered a pitcher of some watery, mass-produced domestic lager and practically dumped it over our heads to wash away any reminder or remainder of the “Sam Adams” incident from our bodies and minds.

A few years later, it was one of my go-to beers. And I don’t mind chewy, ultra-hoppy sludge, either.

Did the structure and composition of my taste buds actually change? Did my brain somehow modify itself so that I not only preferred beer with more body and flavor, I was also no longer content to live in an apartment with roommates who’d rather lay a blanket over the top of a mountain of smelly dishes than wash them...and then sleep under the same blanket later?

I think Ijust grew up. And as we grow up and mature, we evolve. But it’s more internal. If you notice your limbs actually changing, you should probably call your doctor.