Monday, February 2, 2009

Ode to Twenty-Three

Oh to be 23!

…And to be aware of what a light and free and generous time of life this is. My career? My love life? My biological clock? None of this concerns me much. Perhaps it should. I don't care. I am unencumbered. I love my life and its fullness—a flighty fullness like an escaped balloon rather than an after-dinner belly.

We all have to eat. We have to rest. We need money, we need social interaction, we need alone time, we want to fuck, we have to breathe, we want to sit around and get high and listen to music all day long. Balancing all this used to be something I struggled with and stressed over: Run or rest? Read or write? Write or draw? Work or play?

Every decision carried the weight of a declaration: If I chose to write and not draw then I was a writer and not an artist. If I chose to stay in and not go out then I was antisocial. If I chose to sneak out to see ONE and not sleep over at Sasha’s then I was that kind of girl.

But at 23 these choices hardly seem relevant. It’s “yes, and” to everything, and lo: there’s been a pleasant effortlessness to my achievements lately, as if the choosing itself were holding me back. 23 is a bottomless pit—nothing I consume weighs me down. I have so much more room in me than I used to.

* * *

At 17 I was a brooding, moody teenager. I felt a heavy, spiteful unencumbered—a don't-owe-nothin'-to-know-no one, fuck-it, nauseous kind of lightness.

At 22 and working hard on a farm, I longed for the good life I had in college: "a lot of freedom and not much responsibility," as my dad so aptly put it. But back in college, I wasn't walking around in awe of my freedom—I didn't feel that lightness in my bones like I do now.

Girlfriends nearing the end of this fine decade tell me that their clocks are ticking. Someone who would know told me that at a certain age, women feel an almost sexual desire to procreate. Sexual! What a strange application. The only sexual desire I’m feeling right now is for sex. These women are looking for not just a lover but a father, and when they meet a man, they can see the long shadows his shortcomings cast on their future.

So remote that it feels almost unfathomable is a life with my own crop of those coveted little beings. Friends who’ve crossed that divide say simply that “everything changes,” and then they get silent and contemplative and I can feel the great distance between us.

Over on this side of the divide, I wonder: is it my age or my outlook? I’m not quite sure, but I can say this: between the heavy past and the looming future, I’m finding the present pretty palatable. Let everything change when it changes, but for now: 23! And to know how good I have it!


  1. Let everything change when it said it. Would that we could always be 23 (or 24), able to partake in a little of this and a little of that. Wise from the mistakes of the past and not weighed down by a prescribed future. Just the right amount of responsibility, with plenty of fun and fucking off mixed in for flavor.

    Ah, but what if...

    What if I knew what I know now, but back in High School, when all I had to do if I wanted money for something was ask for it...when all I had to do was a few papers and some reading, and the rest of my time was spent however the hell I wanted...when I had so little that I was responsible for that trivial drama became headline news. No bills to pay and a wide open horizon, not even narrowed down by our necessarily exclusive choice of major in college.

    Of course, with age and experience comes opportunity, and while I would enjoy the ease of life in High School or the early college times, I would also grow restless very quickly, if I knew then what I know now...about how big the earth is, how much there is to experience, and for me in particular, how many goddamn rocks are our there that lend themselves to beautiful and deeply satisfying movement.

    I see now the fallacy of that yearning. Why go back to a simpler time when everything was in its infancy? Yes, responsibility and pressure were but embryonic inklings of today's manifestations, but so too were the understanding and appreciation that would've made that seem worthwhile. Perhaps, then, the ideal that I am chasing is a return to infantile innocence, a bright-eyed wonderment at everything I saw (before I started ignoring things that don't further my immediate goals to avoid being overwhelmed), coupled with blissful ignorance of anything that could be labeled responsibility.

    Perhaps that's why I climb. The only responsibility that exists is making sure you and your friends don't get hurt, making sure you have food, and making damn sure you have whiskey and firewood for the evening. The rest is wide-eyed wonderment.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking public journal entry.

  2. I'm also enjoying being twenty-three. Living with "a lot of freedom and not much responsibility" is certainly the exemplary statement for college life; today I watched passing students from a window on my campus and thought to myself, "my god, college students have the laziest walks I've ever seen." I'm sure that in your college life you're familiar with the "sweatpants all day, every day" crowd.

    But I concur that there is more to it than simply not having responsibilities. For me, in being twenty-three, I've noticed a weakening emphasis on my tendency to be strictly organized. Certainly I've not lost my habit of pursuing too many interests at once, but I've learned how to manage them. In fact, I've learned that the way to manage them is not to manage them. By letting go of schedules and curricula, I can simply enjoy the things I love to do.

    Of course, Coffeen's lectures have influenced me across the board, but especially with his "be slow and deliberate" angle.

    So, yes, being twenty-three is awesome, and "they can see the long shadows his shortcomings cast on their future," is another example of magnificent writing. Thanks.

  3. Spenser: Ok, so the "infantile innocence," "bright-eyed wonderment," & "blissful ignorance" of childhood might seem pretty cool from where we are now, except for that's probably the only place these concepts exist—in our minds when we're looking back.

    The thing about childhood, if I remember correctly, is that it doesn't feel so blissfully wonderful when you're a child. When you're a kid, everything is a big deal, every headache is a brain tumor, every disappointment is tear-inducing. Ugh. Kids are hilarious, but only when you're not one yourself.

  4. The best part about sex with twenty three year olds? There's twenty of them! Man I can't believe it took me over a year to take a swing at that one...