As I get older I notice that I already start to feel older than I really am. I often think about how “I’m 30” even though that statement won’t be true for over another two months. This feeling probably has less to do with how my body feels and more to do with my perception of life accomplishment (or lack of it). There are many things that I thought I would be or have done by the time March 2011 rolled around. Very few of them I’ve been able to cross off the list. Honestly, one of the reasons I went back to school was perhaps so I COULD take “get a graduate degree before I’m 30” off that list.
Now that I’ve long since passed the escape velocity of graduate school I can finally comment on it. In short, it really feels like it never happened. I’d say that “the money is gone,” but that isn’t entirely accurate either, as I have yet to get the first bill (there is a six month window between graduation and the beginning of repayment). The only thing that has changed is that I have a few new friends and associates (and a girlfriend) that I didn’t know in 2008. If I made more money last year it was from new freelance clients, not because of my education. I have gained new insight into realms I hadn’t delved into previously. I know more about economics, finance and so on. Some of that will have an impact on my future, as I’ve done things like reallocate my retirement funds, but largely it has no effect on my life in the present.
I don’t “feel smarter.” In fact I feel dumber only because I have noticed that my formerly agile brain is beginning to slowly atrophy. A memory that used to impress everyone at the office with the ability to remember every conversation and the dates things happened has disappeared from my skill-set. The ability to always pluck the right words and drop them into a conversation has disappeared as well. I find myself at least a few times every week not being able to remember the particular “big word” I’m intending to use in a verbal pronouncement.
After years of staring at a glowing box for 15+ hours a day I’m noticing my eyes can’t see as far as they used to. Of course, this is nothing to fret about as I was (and still am) one of the few that do not need glasses. It does take some getting used to knowing that your body is now starting to decay and it will only get worse as time marches on.
Time, something that I was supposed to discover so much more of now that I’m out of classes, has also started slipping away faster than normal. When one has to complete a paper or presentation or study for a test every week, time seems compressed. It goes by quickly, but satisfyingly as many things are accomplished. Now when I turn around and see the whole month of January behind me and only a little 11×14 painting to show for it I feel lazy. This new sense of time also forces me to deal with the demons I used to escape from in financial equations and SWOT analysis. Now I know I spend all day not doing what I would like. Lately I’ve made a point to turn off the world between 8pm and 10pm on weeknights. This is my time to do what I want (art). It claws at my heart when I think of how small a stretch of time I get to devote to what I actually enjoy and how the rest of the time (on weekdays) seems to sputter off into nothing. Oh, sure, I’m making sure that some older men keep receiving large checks, but the work I’m doing seemingly has no positive effect on my own well being (financial or mental). And that’s not the fault of those men I pledged my service to, they’re doing what they intended to do, I merely inserted myself into a machine in 2005 without considering the ultimate consequences first. Now, six years on, I’m deep inside and wouldn’t survive long without being implanted into another machine of similar (albeit I hope much larger and better designed) workings.
Similarly, in 2007, I inserted myself into a home loan minutes before the housing bubble burst. This conflagration of a few bad decisions now has me locked in a sort of “free prison.” Oh sure, I’m allowed to wander at night and pretend I’m free – but I belong to someone else from 7am to 5pm. Every week I go through an amazing transformation. I wake up on Saturday morning with a sense of purpose. I have plans, and most often they involve things I like doing. I often am able to completely forget that the warden has only let me out for a short period. On Sunday it dawns on me that I must make my way back to the gates and prepare to start hammering out license plates the morning following. This process, which occurs with certainty every Sunday, is a bit like the dramatic emotional drain that can be visually seen in the face of a child when told (with proof) of the nonexistence of Santa Claus for the first time. No Virginia, there isn’t a Santa Claus, and you’ll never feel quite the same about the good nature of existence again; you’re ruined.
It occurred to me a few days ago that I’ve now spent almost ten years of my life with most of my days dedicated to looking at things that don’t exist. I wonder what George Berkeley would think of me. I live largely in an imaginary world assembled in my head of data that is only represented to my eyes, but doesn’t even exist in the “real” world. Then, when I’m done with that horror (“talking” to people who I can’t see or hear doesn’t sound like a very human interaction, does it?), I retire to my estate only to retract completely into imagination with the only connection to the real world being the tip of my pencil or brush. This should not be a surprising viewpoint, as my friends know I’m a futurist and do not enjoy the trappings of the primitive stage in human evolution we happen to share at the moment. I do all I can (sans psychotropic cop-outs) to escape the real world. This does, of course, at first glance sound like something a madman would say. Recognize though, dear reader, that madmen do not know that they have escaped the clutches of the foul mundane “real.” That is the difference between insanity and creativity. Creativity is the ability to leave this world knowingly and voluntarily and return likewise with proof.
My ability to escape momentarily from this world is really the only proof that it exists at all.
Also – I need a haircut, now that they know what causes baldness (scalp stem cell problems, google it) maybe they can tweak me so I don’t look like a shaggy dog two weeks after a cut.