21 in 21

by phil on Thursday Apr 10, 2003 12:15 PM

What happens when you get older?

Gist of common response (usually female):
"Phil! I'm getting older and it sucks. Twenty sounds just like too much. I look at my arms and I think, those are the arms of an older, mature woman."

Gist of common response (usually male):
"Dude, Phil! Can you believe we're going to be twenty-one. That's crazy."

Fortunately for the homo sapiens symed with a Y-chromosome, a depressing response doesn't set in till a little bit later. I did notice some existential crisis among friends:

"I'm going to be graduating soon, I don't know what to do."

I kind of want to say, "Do exactly what you've always been doing." This is a dud comment as I realize, that indeed, it's different now. The future always meant the next test and next institution hop. So upon, leaving school, the system seems to slip right from under you.

But wait, there IS another institution waiting, oh yes, good ol' corporate america.

"Phil, if there is one thing I dread right now, it's being stuck in some desk job."

Yes! The voice of mother f'ing reason.

Apple Corp. told me to Think Different, so as a result, my personal feelings on getting older are different. Yes, there is the fear of physical deformation encroachment that bothers me. I.e my skin is not as tight as it used to be. Yes, the existential crisis is also there, but I've always had a kind of fear of lack-o-purpose. Nevartehless, these feelings are usually countered by some nice positive things to look forward to.

When I look at older people and see their faces, and I see the wrinkles and creases, I can see their character. Their face is a testament to who they are much more than it is for a teenager. A person at the age of 49 (before super-deterioration sets in) has a face that has fully personalized itself to the expressive habits of its carrier. What I like is that your face then becomes a living testament to who you are. If you were a happy person all your life, it will show. If you were grumpy, likewise. I think people are afraid of this, and so they try to use makeup and fixun's to erase Nature's way. Bah. One of the benefits of being unemployed is I don't have to worry about how well my face matches the cast of the West Wing--my friends and family, as I am reminded, "Love me the way I am."

Another thing I look forward to in old age is wisdom. I have suffered a lot growing up (whine-alert) and still suffer a lot, most of it still due to the hands of emotional stupidity. In other words, I still find myself in situations that I don't endorse and end of hurting myself. When I get older, hopefully that will mean decision-making that will make me happier, yes!

But, yet, I am still afraid. This is observable everywhere, but I'll try to speak from experience. My emotional memory is getting really good, my future-seeing capability is getting really good, and my sensitivity to pain is also getting really good. Problem is, these features are getting too good, and I'm starting to see lower-order Arclets at work. With excessive emotional memory comes a staunch desire to end repeating mistakes. With excessive attention to the future comes a subduing desire for safety. With a higher sensitivity to pain means less risk-taking and more imagined stress.

Some of my colleagues have adapted well to this lower-order Arclet. Their strategy consciously consists of, "Go with the flow, don't worry about it, and take it easy." Subconsciously it involves settling into modes or repetitive comfort zones. In social dances, this involves a safe and consistent back-and-forth of communication. This becomes really funny as age sets in when conversations become extremely predictable, even on a word-for-word basis.

This "safe" strategy is also found in one's choice of activities. One turns to the nearest institution for safety, either academia, the corporate world, or to the next rebellious movement. Either way in the dangerous forest that he imagines his future to be, the young man desperately searches for an already-opened pathway, rather than climbing above the canopy to see the oasis to where everybody is marching.

This is my kind of fear with growing up, and unfortunately, I think it only gets harder as you get older.

Why can't you, in the middle of a dinner restaurant let's say, turn your chair around, put one hand on your head, and point your left hand at the waiter and say, "Canta blue nato camaleara jugado?" It'll take only 10 seconds, costs you nothing concrete, and yet, there is NO way in Hell you would do it. Why?

I try my best to reject safe modes and zones. I know I won't be able to fully win against the tide of this universal process of aging--nor is war the answer--, but I can adapt, I can modify my behavior slightly. I can do a few certain things that will keep the trains of civilization from pounding my ego, seizing my body to reanimate it for its own purposes. I can skip church, skip school, skip the mainstream media, and dive into worlds that permit openess, the world of my family and close friends, the world of fantasy in comic books and cartoons, and career-wise, into the world of the humanities.

This is my personal experiment, and I will report back on it in six months.

NB: I'll actually be 21 on April 25th--21 in 21 sounded better.

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