If You Told Me about All This When I Was Fifteen I Never Would've Believed It
My best friend these days is my personal trainer, Adam, a man whom I pay to hang out with me. That isn't a knock on Adam. He'd probably hang out with for free, except that he's a poor pre-med student, with a beater car, and needs the money. Adam is twenty-four.
Working out with Adam is the highlight of my day, something that extends far beyond the mere homoerotic bent of two buff men pumping iron together. He's an interesting guy to talk to--well read, up on pop culture, sharp sense of humor. But what I find most fascinating is that, at his age, I was falling apart, slipping into dark corners that would hold me hostage for years to come.
Adam struggles with a lot of the same conventional crap I struggled with then--no money, job cutting into social life and other passions, a lack of personal space. Plus he's got the added pressure of being pre-med. And then there are the women who drive him nuts, the "Please Call Me, Baby" women you can't get off your mind at two a.m., walking in the San Francisco rain, down a median on the Great Highway, because you just saw her leave with some other guy...
I'll come into the gym and find Adam, who may or may not have slept, with some crazy story about his car getting stolen, or some ex-girlfriend emptying his bank account, and there will be desperation, urgency in his voice; and every minute seems to matter to him. And it's crazy. And it's hectic. And it'll keep you up at night and has you pulling out your hair. But you feel it. And I miss that. Wounds heal but the nerves don't always come back. My days are a sleepwalk.
And it pretty much all has to do with getting older, I know. Nothing profound. Finally at an age where I have my shit together (or as much as a guy such as I ever gets his shit together), I am not hanging on somebody else's every word, not waiting for the phone to ring. Left. Right. Doesn't much matter to me. Two sides, same coin. At forty, things are just...different. And this is the part I struggle with.
I remember overhearing my mother say to a friend once, "You couldn't pay me to live through my 20s again." In my 20s at the time, I thought she was nuts. "This is fucking great!" I thought. "The 20s are awesome. I'm young, I'm strong, I don't compromise...." Yeah. Like so many other things, I eventually saw my mother was right about this too. Not only couldn't you pay me, I would've be able to survive them again.
Working out with Adam, hearing about whatever madcap adventure or heartbreak is commanding his attention, I try to impart sage advice, or at least try to explain the things you can't quite see at 24. Why? Who the fuck knows. Maybe in a weird way I am trying to talk to myself at that age, not that Adam is a fucked up mess like I was. He's just a normal kid, a good guy with a bright future. But 24 is a bitch of an age. And you can't explain what is going to change, other than to say "You'll feel much differently when you are older." Which people used to say when I was 24. And I wanted to punch them in the fucking head. Like Against Me! sings at the end of "Tonight We Give It 35%," "If you told me about all this when I was 15 I never would've believed it."
You want to do so many things, see your path so clearly; you're a bull being held back, so you buck and snort, and just want your chance to get out of the gate, because there is so much to do. But all this shit stands in your way. You've got asshole roommates (but one day you'll have your own place). You have no money (but one day you'll be set). You have no time to do what you want. But one day you will. And when that happens you see nothing has changed. And it would be devastating. Except you don't feel so passionately about anything anymore. That desperation, that yearning, that urgency is gone. Heart broken too many times, too many near misses and letdowns, too many times getting knocked down and getting back up and getting knocked back down, and now you're just used to it, who knows. Yet, the weird part is, this isn't a bad thing. Rolling with the punches, life on life's terms, whatever you want to call it, you've found a way to survive. Just "surviving" isn't sexy, but it's a helluva lot safer, and it leaves you time to the focus on the things that really matter, the wife (to be), the kid, working hard to leave your mark.
Don't get me wrong. I still have more than my share of panic attacks and tragedies and moments that feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and I sometimes I wish I could disappear. Not saying that goes away. Only that dealing with those moments is a fucklot easier now than it was then. Of course now, your body is falling apart. Mind's stronger, figured some shit out, but your back is going, hamstrings pull more easily, you need your fucking hip replaced, you have to get up five times a night to take a piss and you're tired all the time.
If you would've told me about all this...