26 September 2009

Reality Bites?

Listening to: Eric Hutchinson, "Back to Where I Was" and "All Over Now." Some people say he's the new Mraz. I wouldn't go that far but I'm digging his stuff. Of course I'm a few years behind in discovering him so he's probably only new to me.

I watched Slacker the other night, the film that put Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise/Sunset, Waking Life) on the map. Slacker follows the semi-intersecting lives of a large handful of Austonians as they go about their daily lives. The film is dialogue heavy, plotless, and changes its focus to different characters every few minutes. It's probably not everyone's cup of tea but it's pretty genius -- and made for under $23,000. The characters in the film are mostly eccentric twentysomethings wandering from place to place, with either no purpose or often, seemingly crazy purposes.

"Slacker" the word is commonly used as a pejorative but Linklater had wanted the term to have positive connotations. He wanted to depict people who were living outside the mainstream ideals of white picket fence, stable careers, and general conformity. He succeeded within the scope of his vision for the film but "slacker" still mainly brings to mind "a person characterized by apathy, aimlessness, and a lack of ambition."

Hey, you can't fight them all right? Especially not from the couch. Morning people get to wield the term, not the ones who wake up at noon. Or four.

In related things, I read an article from a forty-two year old, unmarried, cartoonist that introduces his idea of "The Referendum." What is that exactly? I'll let him explain.

"The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers' differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. "
-Tim Kreider, The Referendum-
It's basically about looking around and seeing how you measure up to the people around you -- and wondering about your life choices. For most of your life, you've probably evolved in lockstep with your peers. Childhood, elementary and high school, maybe college, and then pushed rudely out into the real world. Until the age of twenty five or so, you're likely not much different than the people you've grown up around. Sure some people found their calling early, some people got rich, some people got married young, but for the most part those people are outliers. The quarter life crisis isn't epidemic for no reason. So up until your mid-twenties you've pretty much been within hailing distance of everyone else in your generation, even if it can only be measured in hopes and dreams. The achievement gap, as it were, hasn't happened yet.

But something changes as you circle your thirties (aside from not celebrating birthdays with as much verve): You compare yourself to others constantly, which is nothing particularly new, but you do it with, how do I say, more feeling. It's more serious. There's an encroaching sense that options and doors are closing. The horizon isn't quite as limitless as before. And if you don't agree with that statement, then I salute you. Live strong.

People like to say that age ain't nothing but a number but Aaliyah released that album when she was fifteen, and I think she meant, "I may be young but I'm old enough." Age IS an important number and it gains ever increasing pressure as you get older. Especially if you're keeping up with the Joneses. Since I've last been a productive member of society, I've gone to ten weddings, had many friends get pregnant (some twice), and celebrated a whole lot of law, business, and medical school graduations.

That's not to suggest that I've been doing nothing all this time. For example, just this week I've started and finished the first season of 10 Things I Hate About You, blitzed through three Netflix movies, and revised and written a few thousand words on my draft that's due next week. Plus I've experienced my longest winning streak in Warcraft ever. Beat that. Productivity is in the eye of the beholder.

However, I'm very aware of the fact that real life has definitely been on pause for awhile. And that may have to change soon. Or rather, it should change soon. It's nice that late bloomers exist but who wants to be one when other options are still available? Luckily, my disposition doesn't dwell on all this stuff very often, instead it more readily focuses on what I should be late night DVRing right now, Little Women or Single White Female? The answer is clearly: both.
"Yes: the Referendum gets unattractively self-righteous and judgmental. Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others' as selfish or pathological or wrong. So it’s easy to overlook that hidden beneath all this smug certainty is a poignant insecurity, and the naked 3 A.M. terror of regret. The problem is, we only get one chance at this, with no do-overs. Life is, in effect, a non-repeatable experiment with no control."