Recently, I had the pleasure of living through yet another birthday. Naturally such a day led to a multitude of existential crises, though these particular doubtful reflections may or may not have been unnaturally propelled by a misery inflicting headache and the incessant yammering emanating from within my intestine that morning. But this leads me to my point: as I approach my third decade on this planet, the collegiate urge to throw back a metric ton of Pabst Blue Ribbon and consume enough cake to cause a rhinoceros to develop adult onset diabetes is waning.
The celebratory practices consummate with my early twenties no longer appeal to me. This notion was of course exacerbated by the Weekend at Bernie’s hangover and bagged meat bowel movements, but the heart of the revelation rings just as true in its un-embellished form. Perhaps on some level this urge to relax and reflect on birthdays has always existed, but the effects of peer pressure induced expectations have lessened. I no longer feel obligated to over-imbibe, over-indulge, or over-socialize in order to affirm my existence, and I certainly do not desire to be exhausted and curmudgeonly throughout the subsequent 48 hours because of a night of poor decisions that I strain to remember.
Another evolving concept that pervades the birthday edition of me can be summed up in a Fleet Foxes lyric which simply states “So now that I am older than my mother and father when then had their daughter. Now what does that say about me?” The statement is not factually accurate (I am still 3 years younger than my mother when she gave birth to me and 6 years younger than my father, thank you very much), but it does echo the same set of impending expectations. You are well aware of the expectations that I speak of. That by this time in my life, I should be getting married, having babies, joining yacht clubs, establishing robust portfolios, putting down roots, etc.
These youthful indoctrinations are further given weight beyond my aging flesh through the actions of others I respect tremendously. People are getting married as if the millennia old bond is going out of style, they are establishing careers with reputable companies (now with fewer benefits!) or they are investing in land. It’s bad enough when the majority matures, but when your friends do it too? That will really fuck your shit up and make you question each and every minute decision.
I think we have tendency to measure ourselves in terms of success and direction using those dearest to us as reference points, especially on the day everyone you’ve ever known reminds you how old you are (Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg). You’re probably wondering why I am rambling on about expectations and friends and highlighting pretty desirable changes associated with moving into a more mature life stage. Well, the rub lies in the admission that the older I get, the less I want these things for myself.
Do I want to get married? Sure, eventually, but definitely not now. Would I like to buy property and have a place that I can legally call home? That sure would be swell, but with some caveats. Namely, I don’t want anything resembling those cookie-cutter McMansions that I spent my formative years imprisoned in. No thank you. I would take a 100 square foot shoebox in the Bronx over that any day.
I do however, have serious qualms with the idea of putting down roots, and it is for highly personal reasons. I want to make it clear that I am discussing roots tied to location, not bonds with other human beings. You simply cannot lead a pleasant or worthwhile life without opening yourself to others. That being said, I just cut my locative roots of 25 years, and though life was borderline unbearable immediately afterward, it has become the most freeing choice that I have ever made.
The idea of handpicking a single area to engage in the same routine until the day I die is at the least nightmarish. I would sooner strut into a Fenway bar wearing a Derek Jeter jersey (Derek Jeter is a baseball player for the Yankees. The Yankees are bitter rivals with the Red Sox who reside at Fenway Park. Savvy?) shouting obscenities at the locals until they ripped me apart in a fashion not too dissimilar from those Miami zombies.
All of this expository nonsense is not meant to diminish these more traditional life alterations associated with aging, in fact, far from it. The impulses that lead many down a path eerily similar to the one that was laid before them on a linear red carpet as a child are legitimate, powerful, and many. Perhaps the most important of these impulses is the pure desirability of nesting, coupling, accumulation; all of those benefits inherent in “growing up.” Engaging in any one of these can be an undoubtedly pleasurable experience.
Why would I not want to aspire to pleasure, safety, progeny, and fiscal security? Well, I have an immutable chip on my shoulder, for one. I simply don’t have it within me to do what everyone else is doing, even if it may be the most prudent course of action. More importantly, I thrive in the challenge of creating my own atypical way of doing things. It’s a messy, risky life that I choose to lead and the older I get the more courage I gain to see it through. There is no ultimate pay-off in sight, and I pretty much do it because the oscillation of success, failure, and everything in between gets me off.
One last point in regard to my personal inclinations and for clarity’s sake I refer to a recent conversation I had with a man much wiser than myself. I had just finished my second semester of graduate school, and the professor was gracious enough to reward our insomnia inducing, Foursquare library mayoral campaigns (I won two) with a few pints of sudsy, golden, hoppy depressants.
The conversation was dicey at first primarily due to the reaming our brains’ suffered because of this man’s absurd expectations and ignorance of the importance of proper sleep cycles. Soon enough, however, our minds and apprehensions were successfully lubricated by approximately one liter of ale, and the most innocuous topics arose in conversations: “How about that weather?”
My classmates and I naturally began discussing our ideal climates in addition to the regions in which they reign. Now, New England (where we all live) is infamous for its fickle weather patterns. You could even say that its weather is characterized by its distinct lack of patterns. In response to this, Southern California and in particular, San Diego, was suggested as the pinnacle of climatological perfection. Initially, we all agreed. How couldn’t you? SoCal is a notoriously sun drenched, geographically astounding, and outdoorsy place to be.
At this point, our professor chimed in with contentious premeditation. Now, perhaps he was just playing devil’s advocate to our thoughtless worship of a romanticized ideal, but the end result rings true. “I don’t like it there. The weather is uniform to the point of monotony.” Now, he was referring specifically to repetitions of precipitation and cloud cover, but on another level the statement exemplifies the crux of my annual existential crisis.
I simply do not desire a clear-cut plan or to feel obligated to a singular trajectory. As the wrinkles on my face become ever more cavernous, I slowly accept this truth. I want to live in flux, in the trenches, and unsecure. Currently, this manifests in my refusal to adhere to the expectations of society and my own youthful desires. I am certain that my silent rebellion will one day shift to another facet of life but for now, I am Peter Pan and I refuse to “grow up” until I have charted every inch of Neverland (insert Michael Jackson molestation joke).
So when I am asked how my birthday was by acquaintances near and far, I will refer them to this article. Just because you ask a simple question doesn’t mean that you are entitled to a terse answer. In fact, I think it would be incredibly enjoyable to over-analyze every simplistic query and respond in a verbose, over-wrought fashion. At least then small talk wouldn’t be such a droll affair. But hey, my life is great, and though my existential crises become ever more labyrinthine and my hangovers progressively more intolerable, at least I have been afforded the privilege of obsessively fixating on them with the aid of magical white pills that ease my suffering.