I’ve dyed my hair, I’ve painted my nails, and I’ve started doing things. This is most unusual. I’ve even bloody signed up for a 10k charity race. Is this a slightly early mid-life crisis or possibly a brain tumour? I’m not sure. It certainly is disquieting and yet, at the same time, what I am aware of is a very naked, very prominent fact that might just be connected: At the time of writing it’s just under a month until I turn thirty. My brother died in his mid-thirties. My mother died in her early fifties. I’ve already got two or three sizable mental breakdowns under my carefully chosen belt, and I’m on a treadmill where depression rolls around every few miles and anxiety is what bad Brokeback Mountain fanfiction must be to Annie Proulx: a resolute pain in the arse with a side-order of “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
I mean, I’m white and male. I pretty much hit the genetic lottery there.
I’m not telling you this so you might mount an orchestra’s worth of strings and play for me your sympathy. To be sure, there’s been a lot of good in my life, too. I mean, I’m white and male. I pretty much hit the genetic lottery there. That said, it’d be fair to say that mine has been relatively timid and quiet existence so far, but I don’t apologize for that. In my soft frequencies I have made some good choices: I have few friends but they are impeccably chosen; I have a family life that is supportive and nurturing; and I have carved out for myself if not a thriving writing career then one that allows me both financial and intellectual freedom enough to say I am happy.
But the turning of thirty seems to me almost like a witching hour, a midnight for my youth and the dawn of my indisputably adult years. In the eyes of the world I am to be transformed, whether I like it or not. So I have decided to like it–and then some.
What does that mean? What I’ve discovered is that under the now cracked layers of my youth, that had always felt tight and uncomfortable anyway, there is someone whom I, unexpectedly, quite like. Someone who feels strong, and maybe even just a tiny bit fearless. I’ve always wanted to perform, so I’ve joined a little poetry group. My novel is being published this year and I’m thinking of how to market it. I’m pushing a theater script into people’s hands. I’m learning to draw. I’m learning to play music. I’m going out to events alone, forcing myself to meet people. And I’m using my voice, even when it cracks, even when it thins, to confront that which is unfair, unjust or unkind. I’m running now, I’m running a race and for the first time I think I’m hitting my stride.
So whether I have just a few years left like my brother did at this age, maybe twenty years like my mother did, or sixty years like my grandmother, it’s up to me to decide the pace and the course I choose along the way. Well, I’m choosing a path of riches, as small as they may seem to others, and I’m choosing to reach out beyond myself and into the world because, with the time and privilege I have left, I want to make it count, I want to pass it on.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have some bad Brokeback Mountain fanfiction to write.