Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Portentous Menacing Road of a New Decade: Turning Thirty in the 21st Century

The following was originally published in 2012 (in a slightly different form) as an editorial foreword to the online lit publication Hipster Fight! At the time, I served as the fiction editor and was on the eve of my 30th birthday:

           The Portentous Menacing Road of a New Decade: Turning Thirty in the 21st Century
      As much as we try to avoid it, time pushes us on and our lives inevitably go through tumultuous periods of change and refashioning in the same way that art movements tend to do. No, I’m not writing a bathetic “Sympathy” card for Hallmark or openly trying to ape F. Scott Fitzgerald in one of his more reflective moments; I’ve simply come to the conclusion that once I feel well adjusted, the fates irrevocably throw a wrench into my stagnant and predictable routines. Long term relationships wear out their welcome, jobs end unceremoniously, you poke your eyes out after realizing you’ve murdered your father and married your mother, rebound relationships end as quickly and as drunkenly as they began, you throw away all the crap you’ve been holding on to for several years including all those Eagles LP’s that your uncle gave you and you never really liked anyway but you kept out of some sort of familial guilt or a perceived and confusing rite of passage…but on to the next adventure, amirite?
     I should note that I’ll be turning thirty within a week or two of you reading this. The youthful indiscretion that has propelled me into writing Carver-meets-Salinger flavored fiction and maneuvered me into working for an online literary journal is tapping out its misguided end to the beat of a Replacements b-side. Little will change I’m sure, but it is a time for the fa├žade of serious reflection tempered only slightly by some self-effacing humor.      In these waning time-trials of my twenties, people enter and exit my life as if I were a booth attendant at Grand Central Station. They greet me, stand around for awhile and then pay their fare (or vault the turnstile) and move along. Some of them make return trips, others purchase one way tickets and send me friend requests on Facebook as a consolation prize. Later, I notice they’re married and have a young daughter named Sydney, Madison or Isabella and a son named Jackson (all their sons are named Jackson for some reason…). I click on the picture just to confirm that it is in fact this person’s baby. I’m satisfied by the similarities in facial structures that I compare against my knowledge gleaned from watching hours of DNA testing on Maury, so I move along to stalk some girl that I had a crush on in middle school. She currently works at a salon and still lives down the street from where we grew up, hmmm…      
       Turning thirty, in an era that has obsessively embraced the cult of youth, means less than it used to; at least it doesn’t have the same connotations as it did for Nick Carraway. “Thirty—the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm. Thinning hair.” It would be easy to get sucked into the cadence of Carraway’s thoughts at this point in my life; I’m newly single and feeling slightly melancholy and bitter about it; many of my friends are either in lengthy domestic partnerships or even married, so I see them less and less (hi Justin, Joel, Cassie, Brandon et al); and my hair has certainly been thinning for several years now, as evidenced by my regular viewing of the Bosley infomercial. Ultimately though, I’m more likely to be swayed by the fact that I’ve read The Great Gatsby upwards of ten or twelve times at this post-grad school juncture of my life.  
     Eventually it occurs to me that maybe we’re not so different, me and this Carraway fellow; both getting carried away with our own mortality while losing friends to the adult world at large…and yet as much as I can commiserate with Fitzgerald’s narrator, I keep my doubts that much will have changed once I wake up on October 16th (hungover, no doubt). I will have technically aged a year over night, but the Nirvana posters will still hang in my room, keeping watch over stacks of used novels and upright piles of vinyl.  
     The portentous quality of aging that we’ve all stayed up nights dreading is balanced only by the promise of a still distant and opaque horizon.  So we march on, ships against the waves borne back…never mind, I am aping Fitzgerald.   

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