As The Thirtying resumes for another week, I got the email from Dan, lamenting the short length of this week’s column. I scrolled to the bottom of the email, I was faced with something that, yes, was shorter than previous columns, but was still of a formidable length. The wordcounts of his low days are still light years beyond my best days. I bow to his skill. Enjoy…
i really think we should be able to vote in your elections, the young woman with the Irish accent says, it affects us too, how it turns out.
i know what you’re saying, the douchebag American replies as he stares down her shirt. i wish you could, too. All that’s missing is a baby at the end of the sentence.
d’you know if i could, were i living there? i was able to vote in the uk elections when i lived in london.
i don’t think so, he says, you could probably just vote in the uk because- well, ireland’s technically part of the united kingdom…
I cringe, think about this twit who is the reason everyone else in the world thinks we’re arrogant. If she were from the UK, she would know it. She wouldn’t have been waiting around for some asshole American to explain it to her.
But she’s patient, or she pretends to be. no, she laughs, way more gently than I can imagine being, that’s northern ireland. i’m from the republic of ireland.
He stares blankly, like she had just explained that she was from Titan, the sixth moon of Saturn, and not the planet itself. I can’t take it anymore.
who would you vote for, I ask, if you could?
barack obama, she says. And then Johnny America steps toward me and sticks his hand out. He introduces himself as a reporter, a name I don’t remember.
i’m with abc news, he explains. 20/20. Not a regular on-air guy with those jowls, I think, but I shake hands like a big boy and offer my name to the dude who not only didn’t know that Ireland was a separate country from the UK, but thought that he understood it so well that he could explain it to an irishwoman… USA! U-S-A!
After a moment, a couple of older American women overhear us, and soon the five of us are engaged in a discussion of Obama, Clinton, and the decrepit spectre of McCain, in a bookstore in Paris.
It’s easy to find community among people who are all fish out of water- even if you don’t all like each other, you can find high school goths or college freshmen or people who dropped out with a year left in the undergrad to play music, whomever. A bunch of Americans and an Irishwoman in France in an English-language bookstore on the banks of the Seine. Communities are made up of outsiders, the uncomfortable.
Finding a community, building one and being a part of it- one that consists of your peers- is one of the more severe challenges of the thirtying, especially when you’ve landed in a new place, or your old friends are settling into routines that leave little room for much more than an occasional double dinner date.
So how do you do it? How do you avoid settling into the pacifying comforts of getting older without clinging to post-adolescent discomforts, which would be phony?
Where are the people you seek?
You don’t get the ease of a prefab community as you get older. Unless you’re recruited into Scientology or looking for Jesus, no one is kicking down your door and asking you to show up, to express your uniqueness and potential. You can’t fall into a group of zinesters and then pick it up through osmosis like you can when you’re twenty. The dynamic is different.
Communities become self-selecting through the thirtying, because we are old enough now to not be waiting for someone to show us what to do or how to do it. You have to figure it out yourself- you’re a grown-up.
You get what you give, in these cases… you have to contribute before you can have it, and finding yourself is less and less of an excuse. There’s less hunger for you to shine because a lot of your peers, the people you’d have met and been inspired by half a decade ago- most of them have other shit going on now, real jobs and wives and long-term, live-in boyfriends, maybe kids, seasons of six feet under to get through on DVD… You have to be a contributor before there’s a place for you, because the community is self-selecting. No one is convinces your songs will be beautiful before you’ve written them. Not anymore.
All of this is to say- the creative communities you may seek, as you’re thirtying, they still exist. But to find them, you have to accept that you’re too old to fuck around.
And thus concludes this week’s lecture. I am your professor, Jonas X McFucksword, making it all up as I go along. Next week, I will take myself entirely too seriously, but also offer up at least three really good dick jokes. Be brave.