Friday, March 17, 2006

"I am 28. How do I grow up?"

Just found a really profound article on Salon.com completely by serendipity. A woman who is the same age as me is also having an existential crisis across the other side of the Atlantic. She asks, "How do I grow up?". I am asking myself that question day in day out, when my mind wasn't numbed by voyeuristic online reading and I reflect on my current sorry excuse of a life. She's achieved far more than I did for the same amount of years that we've inhabited this Earth: she's got her own place, she's got a 'fulfilling' job (mine would have been too if not for the bitches in my office), she's had proper relationships, she's got great friends that she sees on a regular basis (I do too, yet I'm lethargic when it comes to keeping in touch, as I'm currently lethargic about pretty much most areas of my life). But yet, she's talking about the difference between an 'on-paper' life and real life, the life that you go through in your head on a day by day basis as you carry on the job of living. I have the same questions too. In particular, the ones about finding and interacting with kindred spirits:

How do I know the difference between not being attracted to an individual and not being open to a real relationship? Conversely, when I get crushes on those cute pierced young men who work in the record shop, how do I know the difference between a genuine emotional connection and the thrill that comes from receiving attention and not feeling so lonely for a bit?

And the answers to to her questions, I am truly amazed to find, are actually more than semi-intelligent. That somebody who's a bit older and wiser actually managed to articulate empathy with our confusions without being the least bit patronising. And yes, really, the answers shifted my perspective, helped me think about the problems in a new light:

In fact, as the subject line of your original e-mail was "How to Grow Up," I might go so far as to say that the ability to act without knowing everything is one of the key attributes of an adult. You're going to have to make the best choices you can make at this particular time.

Without a belief in a core self, however, in the sense that Fredric Jamieson talks about the "depth model," it is difficult to see action as action rather than gesture. What I would say to you about adulthood, to liberate you, is that certain actions are just actions, not gestures. That is adulthood. When you get a flat tire and have to fix it, that is not symbolic. That is a flat tire. When the roof leaks and you get a new roof put on, that is not symbolic of middle-class existence. That is keeping the rain out. So I speculate that for your generation, schooled in postmodernism, part of moving out of the postmodern maze, which contains in its complexities many cruel intellectual traps, is learning to see action simply as action, not as gesture. You are not your iPod. You are not your pants.

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