February 14th, 2009

zelda bar

Went to Maggie Mudd's and had ice cream cake today.

I noticed the employees, two city girls, playing around behind the ice cream counter, and thought bemusedly for a while about how much older I've been feeling lately. Most people I meet are younger than me now, instead of older. It's a strange perspective, watching college students have complicated, introspective discussions about their feelings and their social responsibilities, and realizing that their important-sounding conclusions are actually of very limited practical value. Seated in a restaurant or standing in line at the theatre, I sometimes overhear passionate dialogues about religion or politics or gender, so much like the ones I impressed myself with in my twenties, and I now find them uninteresting. Sometimes they grate on me. I'm sometimes tempted to turn around and shout, "YOU'RE WASTING YOUR TIME. WASTING IT! DO SOMETHING!!!"

Flippant talk about changing the world irritates me. It reminds me of how flippant I used to be. When you're young and self-obsessed, you see the world around you as a sum of physical parts, easily rearranged. When you're older you perceive the huge barrier between life as it is, and life as it should be, as a barrier that exists in the minds of the people you meet. Not so easily rearranged.

Over the years I've participated in many dialogues about the continuum of the human species, and the destiny of the various versions of "our" ... Our country, our generation, our culture. I still have those thoughts inside me, but nowadays I explore them as a hobby instead of an obsession. I have come to realize that despite the quality of my opinions, most of the "ours" will fulfill their collective destinies without my involvement. Other people - many of whom can't be argued with - are running around doing all kinds of things that I don't need to participate in. And somehow, against all odds, I have to convince myself that it's okay, to not be king of the universe -- to not be a genius at everything and go everywhere and meet everyone. Instead I get this very limited stack of accomplishments, and I have to call that a life.

That is what real adulthood, or perhaps middle age, is teaching me. I can still do almost anything I want, ... but I have to choose. That is very difficult.