Evidently I am an adult now.
In the past 3 years I have stumbled into a package of life assets that could, judging coarsely, make me a so-called real grown-up:
- House + mortgage
- A job that I want to keep
- (All of the etc. that comes with the above)
This rapid windfall has meant a major change in my life and rhythms. Obviously.
I’m grateful for everything I have. And lucky. And #blessed. Or whatever tripe you want to say about it. But sincerely it’s great. But that’s not what we’re here for today.
Today is about how I am becoming a biased individual, because now I have real and vital attachments to pieces of reality outside my own skin. This makes me a partisan, for the first time in my life.
I used to be afraid of all this …
What was my goal with such a non-conformist bent? Mainly, deep down, I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t sell out, didn’t waste my few short years. I wanted to avoid the well-trod paths of least resistance or greatest safety. I wanted to make sure that in A.D. 2073, slowly dying in a hospital bed, I could look back and see that the sweat and tears of my decades were well-wrought, lived thoughtfully and not on autopilot. Fear the autopilot.
A good and worthwhile aim, to be sure.
But that one good aim was diluted by fear and anxiety, personal insecurity, delusion, and the unexpected dogmatism of youth. My immaturity meant that I had only one main strategy to maintain my beatnik status: I stayed away from the normal trappings of adulthood, as long as I could. Mainly, this meant delaying full-time employment.
This was helped by my earning a degree that was not at all an asset in the job market. So after school I interned and apprenticed a bit. I traveled the world for a year. I worked in a banana stand. I drove a pedicab. All of this, I told myself, would keep me out of the infectious whirlpool of Evil Corporate America. Partly, I was afraid I couldn’t handle committing to a “real” job. Moreover, I was afraid of what such a job would do to me.
Those who have already been through this will recognize quickly: this avoidance tactic was rubbish. After a few years, it turned out I just needed some real income. So nervously, I capitulated. I took an online support job, and my technology career rode forward from there.
Five and a half years later, I am a certified modern yuppie with
a two-car garage an Amazon Prime membership.
That’s a nice little bildungsroman. My favorite kind of story.
But so what?
So now, I am the grown-up whom I used to condemn
Astute readers will have already noticed: a key part of my old vagabond ideology was prejudice. Specifically, I maintained an aggressive, almost fundamentalist judgment against all of those who had chosen a normal, middle-class, consumerist life for themselves. I thought to myself:
“All these people have purposefully opted into blindness and myopia. They have confined themselves to the industrial-age hamster wheel. They have exchanged bold vision and passion, for faux security and shallow comforts … and khakis.”
Howard Roark and Tyler Durden would have been proud of me. They were the authors of my bigotry. They, and the usual excesses of angry male adolescence.
But now I have seemingly become the very object of this judgment. If I were to meet Younger Me today, he would probably spit bile and disappointment at me.
“What happened to you?”
… he would say.
So I have some business to do today, with my younger self.
Unexpectedly, I do not feel blind, caged, or mastered
“Nope. Sure don’t.” I would say.
“I feel more loved, more capable, better known, and happier than I can remember.
However … expectedly, this existence has come with a complex web of new powers, and consequently, new temptations. As our means expand, so too our expectations, ambitions, and the scale of our distractions. These years of transition and empire-building have not passed without the turbulence of existential conundra, nostalgia for simpler times, or nervousness about involuntary consumptive habits. Not by any means.
But importantly, the very presence of this continued turbulence and struggle is my signal that I am still very much awake. I don’t want to one day explain away the inherent inequities or hypocrisies of middle-class American life. The ability to still notice the pain of these compromises is exactly what tells me that I have not yet been fully anesthetized.
You don’t want that kind of pain to go away. That’s when you know you’re dead.”
All this being said … what if I’m just rationalizing?
Younger Me might not accept these nuanced defenses so willingly. Perhaps he would retort with due skepticism:
“Merely *knowing* that your industrial-consumer lifestyle is compromised is not enough. In order to escape its grasp, you have to opt out of it.”
Well spoken, little shit.
We’ll have to take this up in a subsequent post, then. Enough for today.