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[muse] Wasted on the Young - Transience Divine
May 14th, 2007
04:31 pm

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[muse] Wasted on the Young
There was such a bad reaction to Jim that I'm going to go with James instead. I won't stop anyone from using Jimmy, but I'm going to change what I call myself. There are endless silly pros and cons and more exciting options, but hey, it's just a name.

I've been thinking about youth.

I'm in awe of a friend of mine. She has a husband, a career, a house, a dog; she's had a history of excellence in Rocky and been a leader of the community since before I joined. She approaches life as a vibrant adult, grounded but still growing. So I've always looked to her as a role model. And she's a year younger than me.

Some part of me still conceives of myself as a student, a youth, a troublemaker without a cause and without the wherewithal to be a true rebel. When I teach or organize or lead, it's with a tongue in cheek chic of a boy among boys. I have the experience and understanding to do more. And the capacity to take the endless responsibility and the responsibility to do it to my full capacity.

But there's plenty of time to be old. I never want to stop adventuring with life. I love my younger friends as peers, and I think rightly so: I'm always being impressed by their initiative, maturity, and experience. I don't want to give up my million playtime projects or get a job with a title that pretends to define me. I don't want to settle, or even settle in.

The brochure for life doesn't advertise any good packages for this. I want the best of both youth and adulthood. I'm supposed to be getting a pet (if not a child), a car (if not a house), start drinking beer regularly, stop getting too excited. But I don't want to be a tree: I'm a pond plant, growing deep roots while still living in a totally fluid world.

And it's not just me. The brochure we got was out of date when we were born. We need a new paradigm. A phase in life that acknowledges how changeable things are in the era of the internet, where people discover new interests, communities, careers, selves every five years.

I'm writing up a description of who I am when I'm at my best, in my zone, getting the most out of the incredible life I've already built and discovered around me. I want that to be James. Maybe it's time to re-read King, Warrior, Magician, Lover.

Thoughts? Is it a bore to read my inner musings? I know others are in similar situations: has anyone else found such a paradigm?

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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From:d_day
Date:May 14th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
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Tracy and Ruthie are damn cool :)

On a related note... I have something that bothers me. When I meet new people I have a hard time not asking "What do you do?". I hate that question. It places too much importance on what people do for money. It's also terribly presumptutious (sp?) because it is generally accepted that "do" = "job".
At my High School Reunion, as the Doctors and Lawyers milled about asking this question I made a point of extending the answer a bit by included unexpected details, like about my acting or working on the house.

In the end I think it's all linked to my contempt for the fact that we all have to work so damn hard for so much of our lives, instead of living in a big Hippie Utopia.

I need to find another easy "getting to know you" question that doesn't seem too odd.
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From:senor_don_gato
Date:May 14th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
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I hate that question: "What do you do?" Last time someone asked me that, I responded that I sleep and read and walk a lot, I perform most weekends, I spend a lot of time with friends, and so on .... Sometimes my answer annoys people, but more often than not it allows you to speed past conventional, empty conversation. If you come up with a good, non-awkward "getting to know you" question, let me know : )
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From:g_w_s
Date:May 15th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)
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Yeah, if someone tells me what they do for work in response to that, I will typically say "besides that.. 'cause everyone works." If someone asks me the same question, I'll usually start off by saying I'm a singer, or I live for the outdoors.. or I'll just start making it up. I rather enjoy making up elaborate back-stories on the fly. I've definitely convinced people I was a street performer in harvard square before - not that I can actually claim the same credit that those (mostly) talented individuals possess, but rather I consider it a tribute - artists often hold more interesting lives. I usually fess up after I've broken the ice and generated a few grins.. (I have a few friends that are regular performers in the square, so it is in fact at times wishfully vicarious).

My question suggestion: don't worry about not making them feel awkward, because the people you really want to meet are going to be intrigued by awkward questions.
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From:little_e_
Date:May 14th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I was recently fired--for a while, every time someone asked me what I do, I'd get all shifty eyed and just try to run away. Oh yes, the day I got fired, I went to dinner with a bunch of my husband's workmates (lawyers, all of them.) "So what do you do?" "I got fired today, thanks for asking." :(

Now I tell people I'm a 'freelance artist'. It's almost true.
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From:jrising
Date:May 14th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
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I love Tracy and Ruthie, and I hope I get to know them better, but it was you I was talking about, dummy.

I totally agree, and I usually try to ask different, more wordy questions because a person's job isn't what I'm usually interested in. In the right situations, I've used "What's your gig?" with some success. It more directly asks what a person does for money, but with less implication that that's their life.

I'm still holding out for the big Hippie Utopia. I don't know if this is what you mean by having to work so hard, but I was talking with my mom about how hard and confusing life can be. The brochure made life look so easy, and so cut and dried. We'd all get a rewarding job that would disappear into the hours from 9-5 except for providing occasional dinner discussion topics.
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From:little_e_
Date:May 14th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
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I find myself in the odd position of being 'an adult'--married, living independently, expecting my first child in Sept/Oct--and yet still 'feeling' like a teenager (college student at the oldest.) I routinely side against other parents and with thier kids--if someone on one of the LJ parenting communities I'm in posts that their kids seem to be mysteriously angry/grumpy at them, and need advice for dealing with this 'misbehavior', my first impulse is to ask what they did wrong to piss off their kid.

There's a whole politics here of authoritarianism and duty/responsibility-orientation verses freewheeling and utilitariansim--statistically speaking, parents tend to be more conservative, and they're certainly far more conservative than the population with which I prefer to associate. The result is that I can't stand most parents. (I think the conservative boring bullshittery of most parents actually motivates a decent portion of the anger and resentment you find in 'child free' people--it's not so much that they hate kids/babies as that they hate parents and everything parents stand for and don't want to be one of those people--this leaves me in the amusing position of often agreeing with CF folks.)

I like to think that I can be an adult without forgetting what it was like to be young, that I can be a parent without becoming a bellowing authoritarian. I think the trick, ultimately, is to have a goal in mind and pursue it. So long as you're happy with where you are and where you're going, I think everything else will basically fall into place.
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From:jrising
Date:May 15th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
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That's exactly it. Adulthood is supposed to be authoritarian in a broad sense of acting from a societally-supported position of authority. I love authority, but I hate the world of expectations and power-structures and conservativism that it's built on. Because I reject that world of adults, I'm left feeling like a child.

And I'm sure there's a way to keep the anti-conservative aspects of youth, but I don't want it to be by being a kind of half-child/half-adult... but it's tough to formulate what that other goal is.
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From:little_e_
Date:May 15th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
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To me the solution is to adopt the trappings of adulthood while rejecting the attitude--'Hi, I'm a parent, and I have far worse things to worry about in life than if my kids see the occasional boobie! Did you know that there are children starving in Africa right now?'
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From:richenza
Date:May 14th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
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I think that the real trick is to get what you want out of life, not what you think you should want. You're hardly the first person to run up against that.

That said, I like being settled - it's what I wanted. I live a stereotypical life in a lot of ways - and lot of people judge me negatively for that. I guarantee you will never get a consensus on "supposed to".

I think the important thing is to be comfortable with yourself. There's a lot of extraordinary stuff to do and be, but even ordinary can be extraordinary if you're doing it with love.
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From:jrising
Date:May 15th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
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That's beautifully said. Everyone's adulthood is bound to be different; what makes it adulthood is that you've chosen it to be that way.
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From:revolos55
Date:May 15th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
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I'm not a fan of moments where I have to be, as I call it, an "adult-type-person". Every now and then I can't avoid the societal pressure to grow up, be responsible, think about the big picture, get a sensible job, listen to my boss, eat my vegetables, pay my taxes... blah blah blah ad nauseum

I'm still waiting for me or one of my friends to win the lottery and start the Hippie Utopia I've been hearing about since high school.
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From:g_w_s
Date:May 15th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
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Do hippies carry blades? hmmmmmmmmm....... not sure about giving that up. =)
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From:siderea
Date:May 15th, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
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http://xkcd.com/c150.html

I know others are in similar situations: has anyone else found such a paradigm?

I dunno: have I?

I sorta feel I'm in the opposite situation: I've always looked forward to adulthood avidly, and now that I'm here I love it. To me, it's always meant autonomy and liberty and getting to spend adult quantities of money on toys and playing dress-up. :D Still no mortgage, no car, no kids, no spouse, no college degree (at least for a while yet), finally settled down with a real job after 10 years and absolutely no sense of conflict between this lifestyle and being an Adult. I note it freaks out some of my peers, but apparently that enjoying-shock-value thing wasn't just an adolescent phase for me.

But perhaps I'm more one of those dreaded responsible grownup types? I am both working and in school full time. I'm pursuing an honest-to-gosh career. I've given up most of my free time to do so. I carry all sorts of responsibilities. I kinda keen on having responsibilities. I'm just like that. I've given up my music mostly, the SCA mostly, all sorts of other random spontaneous fun mostly. My life is lived, to a remarkable degree, on a schedule.

So I don't know. To what extent is this about flexibility and changeability to you, and to what extent is this about not just conforming? To what extent is this about responsibility, and to what extent is it about vitality?

One of the paradigms which informs my adulthood is this, though I do not agree with all of it:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Nothing there about not adventuring, or about settling down to a nice little ball-and-chain of consumer-homeowner debt, or one's duty to propagate the species, or conforming for conforming's sake, or about assuming responsibilities for respectibility's sake. It's an older idea of maturity, which says it's more a matter of how you conduct your self, than how you conduct your life.
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From:jrising
Date:May 19th, 2007 06:39 am (UTC)
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First, I love your icon, that poem, and your last line.

I have no aversion to responsibility, and I strongly believe that there's no conflict between play and responsibility, between maturity and flexibility, between experience and learning. I'd want to approach adulthood the way you described... and I think I almost do.

To answer your questions, this isn't motivated by a fear of conforming, because there's very little chance that will happen. It isn't adulthood I'm concerned about-- I'm sure I'd dislike "conventional" adulthood, but I've never worried that I would become that. What concerns me is the persistence of aspects of a childhood psyche weighing down and watering down my appreciation of adulthood. The advantage of conventional adulthood is that it's well-defined: there's a point at which the child self can be definitively repressed and the adult self created out of totally disconnected terms. I am at no such liberty. On one level, I'm living that life of childlike freedom and adultlike experience... and yet I worry that pieces of my self-conception allow for only a shadow of what I'd like to be.
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From:honeyartichoke
Date:May 15th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I still find it surprising when people refer to me as an authority in something. Not in the sense that I don't have knowledge and experience to be that, but rather, I'm not used to being perceived as an authority. For example - i was surprised by my own reaction when someone referred to me as sempai in my japanese study group (and I am, but it shocked me, as i'm not used to people viewing me that way).

I think our society conditions us to think a mature person, or adult, is supposed to be firm decisive and certain of everything. Which does not leave much room for learning and adapting; leaders are not supposed to change their mind, cause that seems weak and that sort of sentiment.

For instance at work, it may be a soft-spoken manner, or my young looks, that get me treated less seriously than I think i deserve - so I have to make a conscious effort to "act the part" of the expert - meaning the manner and delivery. Naturally i would rather guide than lead - make suggestions than tell people what to do, quietly take on responsibility, but more often than not, it's too easy for someone with more "leader like" manner to hijack the whole thing.

So when you talk about leading as boy among boys - it feels like it's no less a good way to lead. it gets one less recognition though. maybe it also depends on what you mean when you say "more" in that context. an authoritarian leader can get more accomplished, as we all know from world history.

i had some trouble with this post, writing down my thoughts in some sort of coherent logical form... (i sorta give up here) and it didn't even go on about continuing to grow, rather than rigidifying - and feeling that it's okay as an adult; and that one does not have to conform to all those things to be adult. I think it's more about - over time one's capacity to do, support, and deal with things increases - and that to me is the development as an adult. And it's funny to think of child/adult states as 0/1 - i feel it's more of a continuum - I'm not so drastically one person at 21 and another at 25, etc - though, 10 years later there are things i would have done differently - having changed over time.

i'll stop my ramblings here.
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