Friday, January 18, 2013

The Aging Curve

One GIF to describe all of existence. Then again
not if you don't mind getting wet. Paris is more beautiful in
the rain. (I'm a master of crossed-up references and also
French girls speaking English kills me.)
My life is not a thing of coincidence; there are no accidents. Everything happens because of my actions and that is something one can either be glad of or wearied by. I'm writing many things at the moment as I am prone to severe bouts of what they call these days ADHD and perhaps somewhat of perfectionism derived from OCD.* The first is a book, about the only thing I cared about from about 2007-09. If I had sat down and wrote the book then, it probably would have been less cynical and doe-eyed as a 24 year old hopeless romantic could write it.

*My mom once made fun of me because she came in my apartment and my pennies were sorted in a geometric pattern, which is what happens when I clean my apartment. Don't ask why; it's just the way the pennies go.

The second is essentially an auto-biography, but in my case that results in a series of vignettes, most recording days, some merely hours. To be fair, most people's lives are mundane, and mine is as well. However, the double edged sword of inherited intelligence and imbalance has led to some moments that probably wouldn't happen to normal well-adjusted people. This is an extension of that. It was going to be a tale of aging, but that would probably anger my family of which I am the baby and therefore banned from complaining about the passage of time.

When I wrote the first six stories/vignettes, I realized after a while that I was writing in all of the peoples' real names. Of course, this could be a problem, but then upon second glance I realized that I didn't antagonize anybody. In fact, I can't think of a single situation in which another human being has ever wronged me. I could imagine scenarios in which the implicit denial of affection from the opposite sex would cause me to treat them antagonistically, but from a genetic and superficial standpoint, it seems to be a perfectly understandable position. In fact, I can't think of many people who could explicitly describe me as an antagonist either. Despite a recent disparity in friendships, I can be and am on most occasions a likable, if highly indifferent or (the more frequently used) aloof, individual. I can think of a few guys who didn't like my relationship with their girlfriends, but they of course did not realize that I both exist as an inadequate object of desire and also as a gentleman of the highest order with far too many scruples.*

*Of course, those men, being assholes, didn't get the girls in the end anyways, so I got some laughs out of their misplaced jealousy. I may have scruples, but I'm a fine purveyor of hyper-aggressive male schadenfreude .

That isn't to say that I haven't done many things which one would find disagreeable, but as a whole my parents did an excellent job raising me, according to testimony of strangers.* Yet being a gentleman is not an attribute worth lauding in the current age, it can actually be a fatal flaw. Sometimes, I found I care too much, and in truth every person I've let be has turned out better for it. There is too much of a paternal instinct in me, and sometimes I meddle and muddy the waters further. In careers, the more cutthroat or sometimes illogically brash you are results in reward. If I had to tell you the amount of times someone of equal pay-grade and status has tried to educate me on how to do my job, I could literally write an entire book about that. Why can they tell me what to do? They are older.

*This comes from Amtrak passengers. Last month, I got to sit next to a 92 year old lady from St. Louis all the way to Jefferson City. I like talking to people who have lived, and this lady had done that. She opened with a sad statement about me not wanting to live as long as she had, but said it through a smile. Everyone she knew was dead, excepting her progeny. She didn't have much that she liked doing, save gambling at the casino. She was old enough that she referred to my brothers as colored, which I reflexively had to bite back my usual retort. It was a conversation that reiterated many points that I already hold dear. My parents are incredibly giving and wonderful people. I don't want to live that long. Lastly, the US used to be (still is?) a horrible place. Still, I love talking to that generation that Tom Brokaw is so irresponsibly in love with. Case in point.

Age is a funny thing. It is both regretted as a loss of youthful beauty and celebrated as a gain of elderly wisdom. I find that neither is particularly certain for humans. Animals get wiser or they die. Humans usually don't have much to fear, so they seem to repeat the same mistakes. Wisdom is not acquired but rather a tolerance to their own ineptitude  People also don't get ugly as the age; they change. I'm an extremely superficial person at first glance, and even I can appreciate beauty in people of all ages. Beauty does not fade with time, unless you view your entire life from a static position. If you possess that ability, you obviously are a much higher power than I and deserve all congratulations.

The problem for me is I can't see myself in ten years or fifteen. I know people in their forties and their stories are those of a 25 year old, still tales of arrested development. However, once you hit a certain age* the stories aren't funny anymore, and on that note I can't remember many that I laughed at honestly. I like it when 21 year old bartenders find the stories immature as if they are bastions of adult conversation and wisdom. I also don't find it amusing that you find womanizing a badge of honor. Would I be that man at 40? Not alone in the traditional sense, but very much alone in reality. There is nothing I am proud of now. Nothing I've accomplished worth lauding. Yet many people feel that what they have done while being equal to mine is impressive even given the extra fifteen years. It puzzles me.


It made me wonder if that is what will happen, because everyone at some point was my age. A single man just squeezing by with only remote prospects of anything worthwhile in the future. Yet fifteen years have passed and now, what do you have? A wife, maybe. A girlfriend that hates you but is resigned to her fate. No kids. The same job, except the wages haven't adjusted for inflation or gone up with the minimum wage so you make the same amount you made ten years ago but your bills are tripled. So you work two jobs, and perhaps even long for your days off where you can get paying gigs doing construction or vending street-side.

Those are the oats you have sown. It's not a matter of luck or even upward mobility. It's all groundwork. You go to school, you get a shitty job, and you work your ass off. If you are lucky, you are genetically predisposed for romance or really fucking funny. and someday you get a guy or girl to rough it with you. If you plan poorly or just are so inclined, maybe you have children and accept the more rewarding but ultimately time consuming prospect of parenthood. People talk about accidents, acts of God, miracles and tragedies, but mostly, life is in your control. The crucial decisions that make or break your day to day life are yours to choose, unless you have passed them off to God or maybe your spouse. That also was a choice.

Which ultimately brought me back to my fears that started this introspection, am I doomed because I've sewn either no oats or trampled them carelessly? The obvious and easy answer is yes. Three months ago, it would have been a 99% chance that I was either going to die young, go to prison (Don't ask how, I get locked up for the weirdest reasons.), or just remain a burnout like I have been since I was 19 years old. However, I finally learned something about myself that should help everyone out. I have no enemies but myself. Sure, it would be nice to go back to being that virginal 17 year old that was neglecting his girlfriend and turning down summer internships from a guy who worked for a Fortune 500 company.* However, I'm never going to be that guy and it's nice being a 27 year old gentleman. I'm poor, friendless (outside the Internet and family), and some would argue lonely although I prefer stir-crazy. However, I'm still charming when I desire, a hard-worker, humble almost to a point of severe self-deprecation, and patient as always.** Time does not make you wiser, it highlights what defines you. I'm all right with being this man forever, and everyone should find that point for themselves and then live a little bit. The stories get better when you live them fully, not with age.

*Yes, I did that. Met a guy through my DECA presentation. It was my last summer at home with my high school friends. Idiot. I will tell you I have no regrets. I lied; I have that one. Also, kind of regret going to Rolla, and wish I'd done something outrageous and incredibly far from Missouri. Stir-crazy.
**Patient but pro-active nowadays. I've interviewed for thrice jobs in the last month than in the previous 27 years of my life.

Note: I would prefer everyone listen to the album Pines by A Fine Frenzy while reading this. The album is a great Winter album, snowy and cold for about ten tracks and then two songs that make me ridiculously happy to be alive like spring rain.



Melissa said...

You have such a talent Joe. Seriously. You need to find a way to market this. Maybe look at John Green ... if you are willing to compromise your standards to make a gazillion dollars catering to teen readers. For now, you've got me all melancholy. Maybe I'll go arrange my coins to feel better. As we've found neuroses are genetic. :)

Joseph Landis said...

You should never feel melancholy with that family of yours. Also, I would say that this was a depressing post in form, but I am actually in the best place I've been in years. So while you soak up the ukelele serenades, feel better for that.

Lastly, teens still read? I know yours do, but the rest...meh.