Pretend We’re Dead
Sometimes you run into an old song, one you might not have cared about all that much at the time, at a point in your life where it suddenly seems more important because it reminds you of another, earlier point in your life where things seemed a lot simpler, and maybe even happier in some ways.
I’m thinking right now of Thanksgiving, 1992, when I’d just moved to San Francisco. It was the first major holiday I’d spent away from North Carolina. I had dinner with the lesbians on Potrero Hill who were friends of my roommates, all of us expatriate North Carolinians. We were all different flavors of happy and excited about how we’d escaped and were carving out new lives for ourselves in a place that still seemed exciting and new.
My God, it’s been a long time. I was so young then. Everything seemed new and exciting. It’s just not like that anymore for me, and I miss it sometimes. I’m happy with a lot of things in my life right now. I love my boy, no matter what. I love my new career; in fact, it’s one of the only things I consistently enjoy these days, even though it comes with some stress of its own. And I’m OK with where I live, if not terribly excited about it. I’m not unhappy per se (I sort of am tonight, obviously, but that’s another story) but there’s this lack of intensity.
I know a lot of that comes with age. I’m not 28 years old anymore. I don’t have my whole life ahead of me. In recent years, I’ve become a lot more serious about attempting to have the career I never had when I was younger ad cared more about having a good time, mainly because I woke up one morning and saw myself heading down a path toward becoming a 62-year-old greeter at Walmart and it scared hell out of me.
Some of this lack of intensity or whatever is likely related to the lack of a social context in my life. I’ve never really been a social butterfly, but in recent years, I almost seem to have given up on the idea of having friends. I can see the progression; a lot of it started when Mark and I coupled. I’ve always been a person who needs a lot of time alone, and once we started living together, I became more and more stingy with the time I might have shared with my friends. Moving to North Carolina, where I really didn’t know anyone anymore, really increased my isolation, especially after Mark started working in San Francisco so much. Most of my closest friends probably had no idea what a dark period that was for me because, well, I wasn’t sharing it with anyone. I was unemployed, spending most of my time completely alone in an apartment on the east side of hell, and not doing much else. Throw in a little bit of cancer, the loss of any measurable self-esteem, and a financial paranoia that made me give up many of the things I still enjoyed (random, spontaneous travel is a good example) and you have my first two years back on the east coast.
It got better, obviously. I’ve reinvented myself these past few years and I’m generally happy with the results. Again, I’m not in my twenties anymore, and things will never be quite the same as they were then. My priorities have changed. I don’t drink and smoke. I’m not looking for a party. I don’t chase boys around till all hours of the night. And I have absolutely no desire to start doing so again, even though I have no regrets about doing it before. That’s not how I want to spend my time now. Alas, I’m often not sure how I do want to spent my time (which is a pretty big problem for me lately) but I’m pretty clear on how I don’t want to spend it.
Maybe I’ve just become too serious or just given in too completely to my midlife crisis. I feel like I’ve aged about ten years in the past two months. Granted, there have been some major external forces involved in that, but it didn’t happen in isolation. I very much fear becoming a boring, vaguely sad man that no one wants to be around. I also don’t want this to become a boring, vaguely sad website that no one wants to visit, so I’ll shut up soon.
I miss 1992, but it’s not coming back, and the 1992 version of me likely to return. Neither is the 2001, the 1986, nor the 1997. The trick is to figure out what the 2011 model should look like.