Tuesday, July 17, 2012
On Getting Older
Did you see that? I got 2.5 seconds older just in the time it took to write that sentence. My life has not gotten 2.5-seconds-worth more enjoyable or easier since I began writing, but I did move 2.5 seconds close to my next medical checkup, as well as two and a half seconds further away from the days when medical checkups were just for guys who called me “young man” and told me to turn down that garbage I was partaking of aurally.
That’s what I think people really unhappy about when they complain about getting older: That the aging process has taken place without life noticeably improving. Between the ages of 26 and 32, for example, I planned to become debt free, improve my time running a mile (to “bad” from “so bad you’d rather not say it aloud”) and become well-known by writing a book. What I got, instead of any of those accomplishments, was knowledge.
There was, for example, the knowledge of the wide world of debts one can accrue through buying a place to live. There was the knowledge of four-syllable conditions that can afflict the knee joints of people who take up running too late in life (it turns out that the whole “consult your doctor before starting any exercise program” messages you see on treadmills isn’t a plot by doctors to increase their customer base, enacted by making exercise-machine makers put them there after a few too many drinks and some incriminating photographs).
And, of course, there was the knowledge that the book-publishing world can make a guy well-known only if he’s willing to write about things large numbers of people want to read about, such as whether or not Charlie Sheen, as of today, still has a Twitter account.
So I can’t say that I’ve lived up to the amount of progress I’d envisioned six years ago. And now I’ve got six fewer years to Make My Mark on the World. This is a concept written into the DNA of many of us who will grow to be Hollywood screenwriters, presidents, or possibly even a respectable profession. It’s the inclination we have to take whatever we do well and make sure a good number of people will have heard that we do it well, and maybe one day you will even be so well-known that people will complain to committees appoint by Jimmy Wales that an online encyclopedia entry about you lacks neutrality and reliable sources.
Unfortunately, writing is what I do best, but not about Charlie Sheen’s social media activities. The kind of writing I like to do requires that people be interested in reading, and reading is not something that people in general enjoy doing, as it usually demands that they concentrate, and who wants to do that when Charlie Sheen-related news could be breaking at any second? It also often requires that they be willing to learn things they’d rather not know, such as that Ronald Reagan raised taxes and withdrew from Lebanon or that their recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day aren’t met through texting.
So the odds of my Making My Mark on the World that way aren’t good. This means more and more 2.5-second periods of time are likely to go by without my feeling that I’ve used them in an exemplary fashion. Which means one day I’ll probably be just another bitter man regularly in need of medical checkups and regularly calling my son “young man” and telling him to turn down that garbage he’s partaking of aurally.
But that brings me to a point I hadn’t been thinking of: Somewhere between the ages of 26 and 32 I did have a son. I suppose I did use the time (re)productively after all. And now I have the chance to accomplish something in the years ahead, even if it’s just passing my knowledge along. My son is currently at an age where his priorities typically consist of a) asking his mother and I to buy him new toy cars based on Pixar cartoons, b) ignoring the toy cars based on Pixar cartoons we’ve already bought for him because another child his age has a different toy car based on a Pixar cartoon and that’s the one he actually wanted all along, and c) convincing us to let him stay up one hour longer each night so he can watch more Pixar cartoons and get more ideas for toy cars to ask for.
That doesn’t mean that one day he won’t appreciate knowledge regarding how to minimize debt accrued through real estate purchases, the best treatments for four-syllable knee joint conditions and which book publishers are looking for the most creative explorations of the Charlie Sheen-on-social-media genre.
In that sense there’s still time for me to Make My Mark on the World, even if it’s just a small corner of the world cluttered with toy cars based on Pixar cartoons.
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