Saturday, August 03, 2019

Civilization & Its Discontents


I’m at an impasse right now. For the last four or five years I’ve had this craving for stability and routine and security. I’ve been pursuing those things with varying degrees of success for at least the last three. The first half of my twenties were a protracted rebellion against those same things — at first a passive rebellion — then a headlong rush.

When I came back to the states in 2016, I seriously wondered if the whole first half of my decade had been a waste and I was five years behind where I should be. And I devoted myself to normal American life with the same white-knuckle abandon I’d fought against it. I felt like I needed to get things together or I’d never have another chance. And maybe that was true.

But now, as I’m careening toward the end of my 20s, I’m conflicted. This is my normal — and apparently healthy —  mental state, btw, so don’t be too concerned.

I feel the need to keep moving forward with the plan. To buy a house. To marry someone nice. To finally suck it up and get that graduate degree everyone has been saying for ten years I need. And all of that could happen. There’s a clear path to victory on every front right now.

But the problem is, I also equally want to fly off into the sunrise and have another decade of bloody adventures. I want to ride that Trans-Siberian railway. Want to hop around the Greek isles and see the sunset on Naxos again. Want to go on that pilgrimage to Vietnam. Want to never be normal or attached to one person or trapped in one place.

I guess there’s the chance I could sort of do both. Not right now certainly, but with enough money and enough vacation time, I could do quite a bit. But I also fear that may be a lie, and it would never actually happen. The same way it would probably be a lie if I didn’t settle down but told myself I always would “someday.”

There are the practical considerations of course. The world is made of practical considerations. Like the fact that I’m getting older and will eventually get sick and die. And that takes money, or so I’m told.

But then, ironically, routine and stability seem to have hastened that as much or more than all of my misadventures before it. Two years ago, I blew out a disk in my back during my daily regimen at the gym, and at some point between the once-in-a-lifetime job where I had to quell weekly 200 person protests outside my office and the next once-in-a-lifetime job where I was (briefly) the lead public contact for an entire state while it was getting smashed by a Category 5 hurricane and then the official tasked with reporting how many people’d been killed every day to an eager media, I developed this condition where my heart beats out of time. So now I need to always have health insurance.    

I guess that’s just Civilization entrenching itself in its host.

But all that considered, I’m still alive. And I can still run 20 miles, see clearly, stay up all night, and lots of other things I’ll almost certainly not be able to do if I wait till when society would have me wait to someday, maybe, stop contributing to it.

And honestly, if you took all the money I have now and gave it to 20 year-old me, I’d have backpacked around southern Europe for five years no-questions-asked.  Of course, now it doesn’t seem like that much. Now it just seems like closing costs + 20% down on a big house. Or grad school + textbooks. Or a few weeks in a hospital. Or some other drudgery.

Then there’s the fact that I’m just not that impressed with how the world works. I learned a lot about it from wandering around on its surface, but I’ve learned even more from being part of it these past few years. And the more I learn, the more depressed I become about it and the less keen I am on really participating in any meaningful way. But that’s a whole other story I guess.

For now, I’m just where I’ve always been, not wanting to leave, but wishing I was somewhere else.


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