It’s come to my attention that some of my blog posts have been read out to students, so I thought I’d put a disclaimer on this one. This one is a bit less kid-friendly. If you skipped this warning, well then, you’re a bad example. You should always read the prompt fully before answering the question.
You’ve been warned.
Just a few more weeks left.
My brother looked over at me one afternoon. “So, you got a 9-5 job and turning thirty. Thiiiiiirty.” He paused and looked out of the car window into the distance, took a deep breath, and exhaled before turning back to me. “So that’s it, huh?”
I searched his face for a sign of sarcasm. There were none.
That’s right. Only a few more weeks before my youth is gone forever and my body begins to slowly degrade.
First look in the Mirror
A look in the mirror was all I needed. How did I go from looking like a 22-year-old at 28 and a 30-year-old at 29? One stressful year (before the habitat) sticks in my head, much unlike the hair that used to sit on top of it.
Why does turning 30 feel so damn scary? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last two months.
How much of it is in my own mind, and how much of it is the external pressure? I haven’t started to feel old yet, but does anyone ever? Do most 70-year-olds feel like a 20-something year old kid stuck in an ever increasingly shittier body? I’m guessing the cool ones do.
This post is simply an attempt understand and file those feelings, which is difficult to do, probably because of the Alzheimer’s kicking in.
After the mission, I found myself waiting for a plane to get to the U.K. In the waiting area, a young man approached me with an odd mix of trepidation and confidence. “Excuse me…are you Brian Ramos?”
My brain raced. Should I break into a run? Hit him preemptively? “Get away, creep!” my brain screamed. “Stranger Danger!”
My mouth denied the request. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“Oh, great! My friend said you would be on this flight. She told me about the Mars thing you did and I wanted to ask you about it.”
“Oh, yeah. Sure.”
A few minutes later, we found ourselves in separate airplane seats, at least until I heard a voice behind me say to the stewardess, “Can my friend sit near me?”. She looked around the empty flight and obliged.
I joined him, somewhat begrudgingly because for once I had been seated next to a beautiful woman sitting alone. I had concrete plans to sit there and not make conversation while simultaneously playing twelve scenarios in my head about starting a conversation with her until it was too late in the flight to do it without feeling like a weird person.
He ruined all of that.
I was then put through a life-interview from this guy who at first, I looked at as a peer. After some-time he explained his motives, “Thanks for answering me questions. You see, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.”
“You and me both, man,” I answered.
He seemed to ignore the comment. I remembered feeling that older people were supposed to know better because they’ve been through more.
But that’s a positive of getting older – realizing that older people are and have been basically full of shit forever. Because we’re all figuring out what it is we’re here to do. I mean, isn’t it curious that the most miserable people around always seem to know exactly what others have to do to be happy?
In one instance, the boy leaned over. “Can I ask you a personal question? And I don’t want to be offensive.”
I smirked but tried to hide my excitement. “Of course.”
“You said you went to your Master’s degree at 27, right?…..Well, why did you wait sooooo long?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Holy crap. I’ve become the old guy. I didn’t know.
Must be the dementia.
Just days earlier, I gave a presentation at my old university. I had added an advice based on lessons-learned slide before the presentation – something that tied my living on ‘Mars’ to their experiences at ISU. During the talk, I looked up at it and said, “This is some advice for you guys I thought I should share.”
When I turned back to my peers, I was struck by the moment. What appeared to be about a quarter of the class leaned forward and touched their pens to paper, taking notes on my advice. Holy shit. For the first time in my life, adults are taking notes on something I’m saying.
“Stop! Don’t write anything I say,” I wanted to yell. “I don’t know what I’m doing!”
After all, isn’t that who we all are? A bunch of people trying to figure out what the hell we’re doing in one way or another.
A second look in the Mirror
A brush of my hair shows a thinning head. Still in its early stages, but if genetics are any sign, the future isn’t bright. If hair retaining is the U.S. economy, my dad and uncles are reflections of the great depression.
Why?! Why does my lower back hair seem to only grow stronger with age while the hair on my head slowly moves out of the neighborhood. Is it the same hair traveling? Are they just snowbirds moving south for the winter as a part of the grey migration?
What biological imperative does that serve? Why is it that old pubic hair thrives like federally protected everglades while head-hair increasingly depletes like the Amazon rain forest?
For a few years, it was difficult to see the progression of my friends’ relationships. We are, after all, creatures of comparison. I watched as everyone settled down, got apartments, engagements, etc. They seemed so happy.
Now they’re beginning to have kids. Thank the lord for them. When I hear those children scream and see them bite other humans, I feel at peace with my life choices.
But the thoughts still roll in.
I’ll wonder if I missed my chance for young romance. Am I too late for the gaze of a woman who doesn’t want to let me go? Did I give up the chance at having a long time for a relationship to grow and blossom? Is there even such a thing?
Will there still be someone out there that will love me and support the oddball lifestyle I’m pursuing?
Not quite old, but with 10 years of history being an adult, there’s a natural tendency to reflect and regret. How many hearts did my insecurities selfishly break? Did I make a mistake by letting great women go?
Other times I remember that those decisions let to knowing what it was to kiss someone in Paris who made you forget the rest of the world existed. To know why poets wrote poetry.
I remember the things people would say when I was younger. “You don’t want kids?! That’s going to change.” “You’ll never get married that way.” “I think you’re just afraid.”
This is an idea that has baffled me from day one. “I want 3 kids!,” people in high-school would say. “you can’t have just one!”
People talked about having children like they were ordering cheeseburgers at McDonald’s. No thought went into the lifestyle changes they would bring, nor the sacrifices necessary to be a good parent.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine and told him I was working on gaining European citizenship. He made a joke about being able to offer European and American citizenship to a future wife. I laughed at the realization – perhaps I can replace my hair and physical attractiveness with money and opportunities.
This may be my only chance.
Goals and Dreams
The worry here is mostly self-inflicted. I have in the past worried that I’m going to lose my wanderlust, or ability to be creative. I’m afraid that one day, I’ll walk into the woods and the crackle of the leaves and sound of the wind will not overwhelm me with calm and belonging. I worry that one day I’ll witness a sunset and not long for an adventure, or look into a fire and not become cognizant of the beauty of existing. In that world, only tax exemptions and Rite-Aid© reward points will get me all hot and bothered anymore.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to travel. My heart wants to be a nomad – not running away from the world – but towards it. I’ve wanted to show that it was not only possible, but a way to live in understanding rather than fear.
Despite turning 30, those around me continue to say what they’ve said forever: what I’ve never bought into, but somehow stopped myself and rode the line in my life choices just in case.
“It’s good to travel now,” They’d say. “Do those things now. Because once you get older you can’t do that anymore. Your only choice will be to get married, have children, check the weather on t.v. every day, grow resentful, and complain about taxes while you wait for your inevitable death.”
Ok, they don’t say that last part.
In every part of the fear is the one question: Is it too late? What will people think of an older traveler?
The hardest thing to deal with isn’t not knowing what you want to do with your life. It’s having known what it is you wanted, but realizing you’ve let external social pressures, self-doubt, fear, secondary dreams, and poor planning stop you from making it happen. While many people look at the places I’ve been and say, “you’ve done things right,” I can’t help but know I could have done it better.
I hate everything.
With each day, it feels like the grumpiness grows. Not in my heart, but certainly my brain.
The other day, a 21-year-old told me age is just a number. I fantasized about punching them in the face.
Another time a kid said, “You need to make the most out of every day,” right before taking a sip out of his PBR at a shitty bar. I shoved him on the ground in my imagination so that I would not break a hip.
At 29, sometimes I feel like I’m 12 and other times I’m 80. I will still hop on a plane to anywhere in a moment’s notice. Only a year ago, I was climbing a Nicaraguan volcano without issue. Sometimes I run up the stairs too fast and feel like I need an inhaler. WTF body?!
Maybe it’s trying to tell me something about where I thrive.
My most immediate example of old age is my step-father. For as long as I can remember, each morning he would start the day off the same way. Three simultaneous sounds would pierce through a bathroom door, hallway, and my bedroom wall.
First, I would hear his pee stream hitting the water in the toilet bowl. At precisely the time of splash-down, a loud fart would begin and sustain itself as long as the pee stream like a musical note held to the limits of a flutist’s lungs in a well-timed orchestra. Meanwhile, the percussions would come in with a deep guttural sound of hawking a loogie into the bowl, completing the trifecta. These three sounds would be my haunting alarm clock for years.
I’ll never forget the day. About two months ago….I was in the restroom, using the urinal. I squeezed to start relieving myself. At the same time, without warning nor permission, a small toot came out from my butt.
I was mortified.
Had I lost all control?! Is this the end?! My body is starting to disobey me. How long before I need diapers? Days, probably.
Time is ticking. In just a few weeks, I’ll be old and decrepit.
Still the deadlines race in my mind.
How much longer can I stay focused on the future, and the goals I need to accomplish before leaving this Earth? How much longer can I live in the past mistakes or missed opportunities? How many doors need to open before I’m convinced the Language of the Universe has not closed itself to me?
The Good / Checking Myself
You heard it here. There is some good about entering the 3rd decade of existence.
This is one thing people tell you that’s completely true: Getting older results in your caring what people thing about your life choices pretty much non-existent. I’m done with deadlines that aren’t set by me.
My ability to create isn’t fading with age. A big imagination is one of the things I was born with, and that’s not going away with any physical change. My fear should be procrastination and letting my creativity and ideas die with me, not losing the ability itself.
My ability to love has only grown stronger, and still deserving to be loved. It’s important to be thankful for the pain of goodbyes and healing nature of the embrace of someone you haven’t met yet. My fear should be in avoiding treating others badly out of insecurity, settling for someone I’m not in love with out of fear, or mistaking being alone for loneliness.
I need to remember that my dream is not dead, but stronger than ever. I am not too old to pursue it, just more sure about it. For those who have read The Alchemist, I need to understand that I need to work in the Crystal shop, but only fear becoming the crystal merchant. I need to be cognizant of balancing the oil in the spoon while seeing the wonders of the world. I won’t be too old to see the world, but will just need to wear a cap so as to not sunburn my balding head.
A third look at the Mirror
I look back at the man in the reflection. The smile wrinkles in his eyes are stronger than ever. He’s been lucky to laugh a lot over the course of 30 years.
“You’re not dead yet,” I say to him.
“So get the fuck out of my way.”