Birthday Blues

5 March 2014
12:05 PM


Only ten days to go before I turn twenty-eight. Naturally, I am thinking about the past year, if I have “accomplished” anything. I think it was a week ago when I stumbled upon this link again: Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age.

Naturally, I looked up what people did at twenty-seven.

At age 27:

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. dropped out from his job at General Electric to become a full-time writer.

Henry David Thoreau went off for two years to live alone in a cabin at Walden Pond.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.

Memphis millionaire Frederic W. Smith, whose father built the Greyhound bus system, founded Federal Express.

Scottish botanist David Douglas discovered the Douglas fir.

Ernest Hemingway published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

Boston dentist William Morton pioneered modern anaesthesiology after learning that inhalation of ether will cause a loss of consciousness.

Jimi Hendrix choked to death on his own vomit after ingesting wine and sleeping pills.

Janis Joplin died of an overdose of whiskey and heroin.

Conceptual artist Piero Manzoni crapped in 90 small cans which were then factory sealed and offered for sale at the price of gold.

Bob K., first degree murder, in prison for life with no chance of parole.

Jessica Schram trolled MySpace for seven straight hours during work.

Remember that letter I wrote you, where I was lamenting about a lot of things, and then segued on how I sometimes think about Rafa Nadal, and how we’re the same age, and yet he’s at the top of his game, or something like that?

I was despairing, I know, but you made me smile when you wrote me back:

“I’m sorry, Rafael Nadal. We are not playing tennis. I used to get depressed thinking about how much John Keats had achieved by the age of 26, what an accomplished poet he was. But, I reminded myself, this is not 1821. I do not have wealthy patrons. And yes, Rafa is contemporary, but you, my dear, are not playing tennis. It’s a completely different world.”

8 March 2013

I could almost feel you rolling your eyes =) But I needed it, what you told me. I needed someone to grab my shoulders and shake me back to reality.

The human drama has a seemingly infinite number of twists and turns, plots and subplots…Virtue is rewarded, or punished, or ignored. Some dreams are realized; others are dashed on the rocks of reality. Some people seem to be born knowing what they want to do with their lives; others have to make it up as they go. Prodigies die young, accomplish little, or achieve greatness. Problems elude years of determined effort, only to be solved by an accidental blunder. Great artists die penniless, leaving works that later sell for millions. Success is attained despite overwhelming odds; failure is snatched from the jaws of victory. And some people’s lives are useful mainly as examples of how not to live.

Whatever the pattern of your life turns out to be, honor your achievements…[and] the small personal victories of everyday life.

While there is no such thing as the typical road to success, it typically looks like this: set a goal, try something, fail, try something else, fail, and repeat over and over until you find something that works. Once you find a successful method, keep using it until it doesn’t work any more, or until everyone else starts doing it, or until it’s not fun any more. Then try something new. If you get stuck, hang in there and give random chance a chance to send you that unexpected left turn.

Ultimately, all you need to do is figure out who you really are and just be the hell out of that person. Don’t waste time making yourself into a pale imitation of the person others expect you to be. Why live someone else’s stupid miserable life when you can go live your own stupid miserable life! Be yourself or die trying!

Your life is an open book, and this is it. Start writing.

from The Book of Your Life by Earl Vickers

There are some people I know who are afraid of getting older, as if there’s never going to be enough time to do whatever it is they want to do. The minute I turned twenty I was probably like that–ticking off the years with an impending sense of doom, like I have a large Gantt chart of things to accomplish, and time is against me.

And then there are some who are like my sister, for instance, who seems oblivious to the years passing. She turned thirty last February but it was just like any other day. She knows she’s older, but it doesn’t seem to penetrate through the fog of not caring. I wonder if it’s just a defense mechanism, or if it’s a bomb that will explode on her face later on (waking up one day, realising that she’s forty, and wondering what the hell happened).

I guess these days, I want to be somewhere in the middle–someone who recognises that it would be good to do something worthwhile with my life, and yet believes that age is just a number.



One thought on “Birthday Blues

  1. I think what I try to remember is that good work comes from a lot of days being added together, which is — in fact — the only place that years come from. If I strive to have more good work than not in each day, the days will take care of themselves. Good work, to me, is very flexible. I’m writing a whole series of poems on the topic.

    But mostly, I say: I completely stand by my comments on tennis and Rafa and John Keats. I was not rolling my eyes. But I was shaking your shoulders.


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