I hope time doesn’t change him

I think it was Betty Davis who said old age is not for sissies. But it was Tolstoy who said the biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age. Old age sneaks up on you, and the next thing you know you’re asking yourself, I’m asking myself, why can’t an old man act his real age? How is it possible for me to still be involved in the carnal aspects of the human comedy? Because, in my head, nothing has changed … Elegy, 2008

Long weekends have a way of breeding a complacency concerning the time I have at my disposal, mainly that I have a lot of it when nothing could be further away from the truth. It’s like being given a whole box of Jaga Pokkuru potato snacks. It’s a hedonistic pleasure party until you’re down to the last pack. Then you start appreciating the abundance you had at the start, right about the time when it’s too late. It’s south side of the human condition, the firestarter for most human-related tragedies. The idea that no matter how far we see ourselves away from mortality’s line, still we end up being sucked into its gnarly jaws. The commodity that’s tradable is merely more time.

I watched 499 minutes worth of films over the weekend. I rarely watch films with an agenda in mind, treating them more like thought massages, a less strenous activity for my restless mind to indulge in just to rejuvenate. But there was a unifying theme to the movies I picked out over the weekend – fear. All good drama evidently requires a fear  component, the threat of losing something, for the tale to be really worth the yarn.

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But among the more obvious fear totems on display, the one that struck the closest eerie chord to my soul was not the 4,000 pound shark. That totem is easily banishable. I merely need to stay on land and it becomes completely irrelevant. I think we sometimes forget that many of our fears are temporary, and more importantly, self-inflicted. That back-breaking mortgage that’s been keeping you up at night was really not inflicted by the heavens, no matter how you may feel that it was.

Mortality, or a fear associated with it, is not something we can simply ‘stay in land’ to avoid. We’ve built an existence around managing its eventual appearance but it finds even the best of us, the most athletic, physically attractive or financially secure. Perhaps it’s the common line that God created to at least bring the entire species, from the strong to the weak, to the table occasionally for a conversation.

I am not afraid of growing old. I have accepted that my knees are no longer able to endure a leap from the top of my front gate when I forget my keys. I’ve found a way around that, just carry a spare in my wallet. That’s not the eerie chord that the film struck in me. Instead it is the fear that I am not growing old in commesurate to my age. Like David Kepesh in the film, it sometimes feels like ‘in my head, nothing has changed’.

I do recognise that human maturity is not a biological condition but a product of our environment. Basically, we change when we have to. Presumably there is often a corelation between our age and the responsibilities we take on that often drives our need to mature according to society’s expectations. I don’t think I’ve had to ‘change’. No marriage or kids yet to remind me that the rules of life have changed dramatically. In my mind, I still see life governed by the same game rules as it did 10-years ago. It’s not that life has not slugged me down with a few right hooks. It has. But I’ve not adjusted my ring strategy. I’m still using the same ones that worked well for me when I was younger, and naturally it’s getting increasingly hard to put up a good fight, or better yet, win.

 

 

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I know you are, but what am I?

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“What are you really good at?”

It’s one of those questions that from the onset can appear rather cliche but is actually rather cumbersome to answer. Well, it’s cumbersome for me to answer.

I have never been able to answer that question neatly. No thematically-sound ribbon and bow to cap off the package like ‘cricket’, ‘excel formulas’ or ‘wet t-shirt contests’. While others seem to build a consistent narrative around their interests, mine often feels like randomly torn bits of paper strewn haphazardly on the floor. ‘Naming kaiju species’ may score you geek points with an overgrown 90s latch key kid but most people would probably give you nervous smiles while ushering their kids quietly out the back door. And ‘lazing around and binge-watching TV shows’ is not really a skill, no matter how good you think you are at it (I’m really good). I was told recently that I am good at explaining concepts to people in a relatable way. But that’s still a few words too many compared to ‘cooking vegan meals’.

There appears to be no supporting infrastructures for the things I am interested enough to develop. I love writing, but I did not develop an interest in it because I used to read a lot. In fact, I only picked up reading nearly a decade after I started writing for publications. Yes, the horror. I love football, but not quite enough to head to a field and kick a ball myself. I played music for nearly 20 years, but had very little interest in hitting music stores unless I absolutely needed to.

Perhaps it has to do with just how fundamentally non-obsessive I am. I certainly retain an interest in many peculiar things but nothing quite enough to shape my existence. They are but stringy moments of unadulterated passion that never amounted to a season. Ironically, when I was a raging discontented teenager, I used to aspire towards being a balanced adult.

I may have taken that aspiration a little too seriously …

 

 

 

 

Don’t fight it, feel it …

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“We always employed people based on their personalities rather than their experience” – Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records

I’ve given fiction a bit of a rest these days. Not sure why, but I see interesting fiction books these days a little like stale coffee, a semblance of something I could’ve loved but have absolutely no interest to partake.

I’ve been pouring myself into memoirs, from the awful to the sublime, notable to the inane. I am currently 145 pages into the tell-all memoir of Alan McGee, the man who discovered Oasis and founded Creation Records. It’s an easy read, interesting only because of the context of the subject and what it means to me as a indie music fan growing up in the 90s.

But then on page 121 of my copy, in the midst of tales of drug hazes, tour debauchery and Kevin Shield’s ridiculous perfectionism, McGee weighs in on a bit of HR advice. That had me removing my snug-tee indie boy hat for a moment and putting on my HR one.

The concept is not new. Progressive companies have been discussing for years now about the relevancy of a curriculum vitae and how it can limit the potential of both employees in securing jobs they are truly passionate about; and employers in hiring a talent that is just waiting to be discovered.

The concept has always been appealing to me, but why? My mind shifts to the academic answers; because it gives a subtle fist towards outdated bureaucratic practices and of course, the ‘Can’t train an old dog new tricks’ rhetoric. There has to be fundamentally more than that. There is.

The main, I guess fallacy of ‘experience’ is that it immediately assumes that we willingly embody every bit of experience we’ve gathered. That is true to an extent but it very often negates the ‘how do we feel’ part.  A career path is not something you can scribble on a paper at 22 and assume it would define your work life for the next 38 years. Very often we have to experience some ‘career’ before we even know what we really want. Some people are lucky and find that at 22, others not so and find them at the smokey end of 39. We extend this concept to cars and to an extent, life partners but we ignore it when it comes to work. We shouldn’t.

‘Personality’ focuses on the ‘now’. On what is in front of you. It’s exciting, energetic and potentially revolutionary. It’s not what I had, it’s what I want. You can buy yourself a dictionary and be forever comforted by the notion that you have at least one grammatically reliable book on your shelf or you can take a punt on a saucy, possibly awful memoir and experience a left turn into the psyche of the unknown.

We must take that chance … all of us