Next month, I turn 40. This blog is eleven years old, which means it spans the entirety of my thirties. I wish I could tell you that, looking over it, you can chart my moral, aesthetic, and philosophical progression. Hell, maybe you can but I can’t. Mostly, what I see are false starts, unexpected directions, a few failed dreams, and tiny glimmers of success that few people have seen and which I don’t fully understand. I’m not complaining, exactly. This is life, after all. Few of us live the grand, theatrically adventurous lives of someone like Orson Welles; most of us are closer, in one way or another, to John Williams’s Stoner or Thoreau’s people living “lives of quiet desperation.” I wish I could tell you that I feel wiser and more assured, and maybe that’s true in actuality, too, but mostly I just feel more resigned to life’s troubles and less passionate about potential futures. Some of that is me; some of that is the ever-churning (but rarely improving) world. I suppose resignation is a better mode than raw anger but I was hoping to find a fruitful in-between stage. Perhaps there’s still a radical, open-hearted, community-minded man in me. I won’t look for him with an expensive sports car (can’t afford it) or by bedding 19-year-olds (not interested) but I’m sure the journey will be riddled with plenty of other midlife-crisis clichés that all the twentysomethings can laugh at until it happens to them.
Anyway, Terry Teachout put up a recent blog post that means more at midlife than it might have at age 28, when I started Quiet Bubble. Unlike blog memes of a decade ago, he didn’t ask that it spread or that others respond but I’m doing so in the spirit of the thing. Here we go.
Five things I wish I had:
1) A loving, committed relationship.
2) The ability to turn off my ruminating thoughts, especially at night.
3) A flat belly.
4) A good sense of money management.
5) A working Olivetti typewriter with all the ribbon, cleaning supplies, and spare parts that I would ever need
Five things I wish I could do:
1) Standup comedy.
2) Dance well.
3) Withstand rejection with equanimity, and without taking months to recover.
4) Play bass guitar and upright bass.
5) Swim across the English Channel. (Why? I don’t know but I’ve always wanted to do it.)
Five things I wish I’d done:
1) Have children.
2) Visited New Zealand and the South Seas (which I suppose is still possible).
3) Asked out more women in high school and college.
4) Lived in a log cabin, in the mountains, for a yearlong stretch.
5) Gone to a college outside of the South.
Five things I’m glad I did:
1) Write a book with one of my best friends.
2) Ran a half-marathon.
3) Visited Paris for two weeks, at exactly the moment—age 22—when it could do me the most good & introduce me to the most new things.
4) That 4-day whirlwind trip to New York during a blizzard in February 2005—so many museums, galleries, restaurants, the Village Vanguard, cold smiling walks, and walking through Christo’s Gates in Central Park over and over again.
5) Published one great open-hearted short story, and one great open-hearted essay, that I’m truly proud of. Maybe that’s all I’ll get from my fiction and creative nonfiction, and maybe it’s enough.