An ode to those of us who struggle to say no, to the vets of meta-regret, the inadvertent pursuers of paralysis who know neurosis all too well. There was a time when the answer was all the above, though now I’ve given that whole instinct a shove. And yet here it stays, unwelcome and grating, yet there may be some good past all of this waiting.
And so it is now, these things that won’t happen. A rowhouse in Georgetown, a flat in Manhattan; a summer place on the cape, or likely even the lake. No as well to the Wisconsin front porch, the tropical retreat, or that elegant burb of the American Dream, Edina or Winnetka or a Grosse Pointe estate: I’ve found my place, though don’t tell me I can’t still escape. Too much a city kid to head for the hills, too tied to the wilds to take up all the city frills.
I will never have a Big Four consultant’s finesse, nor will I have a chance to dole out mass largesse, will cut myself off before the PhD or the law degree. State is a pipe dream, fading into the fog, Foggy Bottom or Superior shores, it’s all just some bog. So much for a Rhodes, for a fellowship, for the MFA. What this means for my career I can’t really say. Maybe something I write will cause someone to sway. Seize the chances as they come, I pray, and hope that keeps the doubt at bay.
Forget the perfect test score, forget those paths I never trod; I gave up any childhood fancies of running roughshod. If I strap on a pack to take the world as my stage, it will only come when I reach a great age. There will be no firm checklist of places or things, just chances for adventure, whatever they may bring. The political dream is modest at best, pull a few strings and set things up for the rest. Just make new beginnings, as Arendt wrote, stave off the ruin and keep humanity afloat.
I will not have children before I turn thirty, will have to wait more time before my house that’s all dirty. The house, I suppose, isn’t here yet either, biding its time as I grasp at new levers. I’ve lost a few people, things I wished I’d said; all lovers have regrets, but can still come out ahead. Patience, kid, your hour is near, and in the meantime let’s bury your every last fear.
Athletic glory has passed me by, though these two legs still have plenty of paths they long to try. I will never skate for a varsity squad, though I did jump in the fountain in Dahlgren Quad. I will never be the finest beer judge or sommelier, though I’ll do my part, for as long as I care. Though, though, though: any literary dreams are far down the road, my writing life still in search of its most fruitful abode. Fits and starts and gaps and frustration, does everyone who tries this encounter such damnation?
Farewell to the kibbutz and commune, wishful dreams still; utopia is impossible, though chase it we will. Untold thousands of books go unread, and TV shows or movies or music? don’t get me started, it’s all sheer dread. Hours and days lost to mindless staring at screens; nostalgia lies, it was the same in my teens. Could I have done more, what did I miss, at what point do we draw value from that monotonous bliss? Overachievers have more fun, or so Stegner said, but maybe that’s just a thought that helped get him to bed.
I won’t be the one with the snappy answer, a truth-seeker well-bred; I never quite understood why I should opine on any stray thing in my head. A wide-ranging ponderer I remain, picking up any stray fact for my gain; but even with doors open, so many close, yet there are still enough there to stay on my toes. Sometimes too free, sometimes constrained, truth somewhere in the middle, drifting each day. A world of possibility becomes a world of regret, the paralyzing fear of a generation in debt.
So here’s to uncertainty, to the things we’ll never do, and the struggle to know, a blog or a poem, thought vomit from a kid who but briefly saw Rome. But those glimpses we get, they power us through, and someday we may get a more lasting view. Maybe it comes over drinks in some energized state, maybe it’s those lonely nights to which we can all relate. Here’s to the struggle, the upward climb, while true to where we came from, windows unto the divine.