I had a birthday recently and it sucked terribly. It wasn’t the standard festivities that surrounded it because they were, well… festive. But it hit me that at 29, there’s no way I can manipulate the numbers that would allow me to pass myself off as being in my mid 20’s and, worse yet, in a year I will categorically no longer be a “20 something”. If that sounded like the most trivial, pathetic thing you’ve ever heard then you’re right, because it is. I assure you that I cringed as I wrote it. However it isn’t quite as superficial as it may initially come across. Hear me out…..
I’ve realized that my birthday anxieties aren’t at all fueled by getting older but rather by the realization of becoming increasingly estranged and farther removed from who I was when I was younger. The world used to seem so much bigger, an endless empty canvas waiting to be brought to life with all the abandon and defiance of a Jackson Pollock painting. Yet the sedated and calculated 29 year old I seem to have slowly morphed into feels little connection with the 19 year old who feared nothing but boredom and even less connection with the 9 year old who was convinced he’d one day be an astronaut…or the guy who drives the fire trucks.
I can, however, relate unfortunately well to Wallace Shawn – supporting actor and screen writer of Louis Malle’s stimulating 1981 film My Dinner with Andre, who reflects in the film’s opening sequence:
“I’ve lived in this city all my life. I grew up on the Upper East Side. And when I was ten years old, I was rich, I was an aristocrat. Riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now, I’m 36, and all I think about is money.”
Later on in the film, Shawn’s dinner companion, Andre Gregory, while explaining why he left New York and his prestigious position as a theatre director, referred to what he called “the dangerous tranquility of comfort” and how it can subtly lure us away from dreams that always require risk and liberation. Picasso once said
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
And so I find myself at 29, tranquil and comfortable but blind to beauty and with a dulled sense of wonder. I’ve become the suburbanite cliché’ I always promised myself I never would.
Art, whether as a participant or patron, has been the only constant in my life. It has helped guide me through my attempts to understand God and love and fear and sadness and forgiveness and hope and disappointment and freedom and myself. Yet somewhere along the line I stopped engaging art as I once did and being vulnerable to its comfort. Reality’s vocabulary, I’ve found, is too inadequate and colorless to tell the stories of human experience- my human experiences. Is it any surprise that I’m uninspired? All that to say, my hope for this blog is that through looking closer and deeper into the products of creative expression I can rediscover as an adult the sense of beauty and possibility that once sustained me like oxygen as a nine year old astronaut…
And maybe even inspire the same in any who may stumble across it.