Thursday, January 1, 2009

Like Dylan Thomas, but not at all

My friend Cassidy just moved back to her hometown of Boulder. She, like me, spent a few years working in Philadelphia after graduating from Penn. Whenever we get into long conversations, we tend to reveal something about ourselves that we only thought was true of ourselves. It's refreshing and humanizing. Yes, it's a wonderful feeling to confirm that you are indeed a human person. We talked about the novel nature of our current situations.

The answers used to come simple. Up through high school, I tried to get the best grades so that I could go to a good college. In college, I tried to get good grades so I could land a job after graduation. These things happened. Around sophomore year of college, the crazy notion that I could write about music for a living entered my brain, and I pursued that goal. I did that for a job. But what happens when you don't know what you want?

I have a long list of reasons for leaving music journalism as a full-time pursuit, and I won't name those here. I'll save it for later because that's not really the point of this post. But I will reveal one very important reason: I just didn't feel the job was that important. I'm talking about the big scheme of things, the deathbed-looking-back-what-have-I-done scenario. I wanted more, so I let it go.

Now the following line has been trademarked and inserted into an upcoming screenplay by Cassidy, so don't go anywhere with it. (It actually came from a conversation she had with a friend of hers, but I'll let them settle the royalties.) I have bad unemployment days and good unemployment days, but Cassidy summed up my frustrations with one line. She called it "raging against the realization that you are just becoming an average person."

I'm not throwing a pity party. And I say this with much humility when I admit that I am proud of the choices I've made so far in my life. I went to the only college I applied to, I've written for national magazines, and I've lived abroad in a place where I didn't know the language. I like these choices. But what now?

So I live with my parents. I'm raging against getting a job just to have a job. I'm seeing more and more what's important to me, what brings me joy, who matters, and who I matter to. And I'm going to keep raging because I do see some light, however faint, at the end of some cliché filled metaphor. We all want to be big stars. But we don't know why. And we don't know how.


  1. What a great line. As I get older, that realization is certainly setting in. Growing up, it was easy to have those stars in my eyes, to live on the dreams of my potential. I rested on the hopes of future happiness through future success. That's the reality of being raised achievement-oriented, right? Now that the 'future' is here, it's like, is this it? Something inside screams no. I still don't have answers despite the quickly approaching big 3-0... but although in some eyes I've settled for 'average,' I don't have regrets for the choices I've made either. I'm still developing a mindset of living in the present and not missing the non-average moments of every day. And yes, figuring out how to be 'important' and contribute in some way, however small or unrecognized that may be.

  2. That's it, man. Every midtwentysomething's internal struggle. The illusion of what it means to be something, be it a journalist or a rock star, eventually fades into the reality of what that life is actually like. It's High Fidelity all over again, in the sense that those granny panties on the clothesline have begun to taint the "fantasy." It even happened to Duritz, for crying out loud, the man that got to rock out for a living and date -- not one but TWO! -- cast members from the show friends. Loved the essay.