I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’l lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.
[...] Ellen had said, 'You're past thirty,' and now for the second time in my life I felt dizzyingly untethered, but whereas when I first moved to London that sensation was buoyed by the expectation of long-dreamed-of experience and ballasted with the deep resources of youth, now I had learned that you cannot choose what falls away, and every time you start again the possibilities are shockingly reduced. Presumably the last time we experience this is when we give up, so it's unsurprising that the panic is greater with every round. [...]
Why not someone else? Why not those people tonight? Why not all those people who sail through life free as birds? Why not them instead of Edith?
He moved away from the bedroom door. He thought about going for a walk. But the wind was wild now, and he could hear the branches whining in the birch tree behind the house.
He sat in front of the TV again. But he did not turn it on. He smoked and thought of that sauntering, arrogant gait as the two of them moved just ahead. If only they knew. If only someone would tell them. Just once!
He closed his eyes. He would get up early and fix breakfast. He would go with her to see Crawford. If only they had to sit with him in the waiting room! He'd tell them what to expect! He'd set those floozies straight! He'd tell them what was waiting for you after the denim and the earrings, after touching each other and cheating at games.
everyone struggles tho
(the old couple at bingo night)
But it gets harder and harder to enjoy facing the mirror. Who is that old lady? Where is her waist? I got resigned, sort of, to losing my dark hair and getting all this limp grey stuff instead, but now am I going to lose even that and end up all pink scalp? [...]
[...] "Once, when I was in high school, a counselor asked me to come to her office. She did it with all the girls, one of us at a time. 'What dreams do you have?' this woman asked me. 'What do you see yourself doing in ten years? Twenty years? I was sixteen or seventeen. I was just a lump. This counselor was about the age I am now. I thought she was old. She's old, I said to myself. I knew her life was half over. And I felt lie I knew something she didn't. Something she'd never know. A secret. Something nobody's supposed to know, or ever talk about. So I stayed quiet. I just shook my head. She must have written me off as a dope. But I couldn't say anything. You know what I mean? I thought I knew things she couldn't guess at. Now, if anybody asked me that question again, about my dreams and all, I'd tell them.
[...] "'I'd say, 'Dreams, you know, are what you wake up from.' That's what I'd say." [...]
Now he was having an affair, for Christ's sake, and he didn't know what to do about it. He did not want it to go on, and he did not want to break it off: you don't throw everything overboard in a storm. Al was drifting, and he knew he was drifting, and where it was all going to end he could not guess at. But he was beginning to feel he was losing control over everything. Everything. Recently, too, he had caught himself thinking about old age after he'd been constipated a few days - an affliction he had always associated with the elderly. Then there was the matter of the tiny bald spot and of his having just begun to wonder how he would comb his hair in a different way. What was he going to do with his life? he wanted to know.
He was thirty-one.
something useful to remember: everybody worries about what they're going to do with their lives. it all ends the same way..
What do you do about death - in this case, the death of an old father? If you're a modern person, sixty years of age, and a man who's been around, like Woody Selbst, what do you do? Take this matter of mourning, and take it against a contemporary background. How, against a contemporary background, do you mourn an octogenarian father, nearly blind, his heart enlarged, his lungs filling with fluid, who creeps, stumbles, gives off the odors, the moldiness or gassiness, of old men. I mean! As Woody put it, be realistic. Think what times these are. [...]
[...] He couldn't speak to Amy of the solitary death in store for her. There was not a cloud in the arid sky today, and there was no shadow of death on Amy. [...]
[...] One of the great moments in “Neighbors” occurs when Peter parts from Vlasich and Zina. “Riding into darkness, he looked back and saw Vlasich and Zina walking home along the path—he with long strides, she at his side with quick, jerky steps. They were conducting an animated conversation.” Peter’s loneliness is in that last sentence, and so is the splendid and perfect blindness of the lovers, who will get immense mileage, maybe even years, from conversation about their situation, followed by conversation about how they used to have conversation about their situation, followed by—what? Misery, some happiness, children perhaps, the final collapse of the porch, acrimony, bickering, recrimination, thickened waists, life.
There's an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.
It's the beautiful thing about youth.
There's a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.
I love my life, but I haven't felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.