Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy birthday to me (tomorrow)

On the day I turned 22, I took the last ever final exam of my undergraduate career and said goodbye to a lot of people that I [correctly] expected never to talk to again (despite nearly universal insistence that we tooootally needed to hang out). When everyone found out that it was my birthday, they promised that we would all go to dinner or a bar or whatever to celebrate, but I knew that they would all forget because it was the last night in Madrid for most of them and they had more fun things to do. The only person that remembered was my friend Stephanie - incidentally the only person to whom I ever spoke again - and we went out for dinner, her treat. I didn't hold it against anyone; I didn't make a big deal out of my birthday and told people that they didn't need to either. I ended up being very thankful, however, that Stephanie was concerned, because it turned out to be a really nice way to spend a birthday. After we ate, we wandered around old Madrid, stopping occasionally to sit on a bench or ledge for a bit and running into odd packs of drunk NYU kids, until 7am. The next day I left for Barcelona.

This has been an interesting year. Discounting the semester I took off between Vassar and NYU (during which I claimed not to be sure whether or not I would go back to college but knew all along that I would), this year has been my first without any externally imposed structure. No more parents paying rent, no more excuses for putting off making decisions (not that that stopped me), no more health insurance, no more assigned reading or homework. In the immortal words of rock god Tom Petty: into the great wide open; a rebel without a clue. And I choked big time. As soon as I returned to the gleaming alabaster city of all gleaming alabaster cities, I plunged headfirst into what I'm starting to now realize was a serious rut.

To clarify, I did do a lot of awesome stuff this year. I built my own bedroom in a new intentional living space, got overpaid to work full-time as a courier for a company that is hemorrhaging clients like a beeper service center, got a bunch of bitchin tats, embarked on a cross-country bike/greyhound trip, made a lot of new friends and strengthened relationships with others, and, in all of the confusion, managed to misplace my v-card, shortly before what would have otherwise been yet another in a long string of depressing New Years, insofar as I tend to view most chronological milestones as opportunities to reflect on my failures (I've been accused of being a pessimist).

But this trip has helped me to realize how fully in a rut I was. I think I was dimly aware already, but a fresh perspective and a handful of reminders of things I used to care about have elucidated it further. If I had spent the last year hanging out, having fun, working, and being creatively unproductive with the intention of it merely being a break before I got started on The Next Big Thing, there would have been no problem, but I've been stalling just to stall and that has facillitated the development of my nihilism. When I'm not distracted by projects and short-term goals I spend too much time stewing about my lack of long-term goals, which inevitably leads to the conviction that such things are illogical and that meaningfulness is an illusion. I'm not saying I'm wrong about this, but I hate to have been in a position to dwell on it so much. I haven't been writing music or devoted to an active band; I haven't been pursuing my academic or even intellectual careers (other than reading a lot more fiction than I have in years); I haven't been involved in political or social activism (even using the term loosely). The only venture into which I've been putting any effort is dating, and that's gotten me just a hair beyond nowhere. I guess I lost motivation when I lost momentum. I've forgotten what it felt like to really care about accomplishing something. I've convinced myself that nothing matters to me.

Tomorrow I turn 23. Hopefully this year I can find some of that motivation again - find a reason. Wish me luck.


Anonymous said...

come back already, there's a bunch of things i need to talk to you about.

nerpal said...

Happy Birthday, Jack!