At the ripe age of 34, I feel like I have enough life experience to have something worth looking back on. Certainly, I’m not writing memoirs or imparting life lessons to the youth yet, but I’m over the humps of the reckless abandon of childhood, the blind optimism of my teenage years, and the confusion and doubt of my 20s. You may have experienced these phases in a different order, or different feelings altogether, but I wouldn’t say my experience was out of the ordinary. I’ve now settled, perhaps too comfortably, into the pragmatism of my 30s, and while it hasn’t provided all of the answers I desire out of life, it has at least calmed me to be able to take a more objective look at my life.
My life has been defined by the middle to upper-middle class upbringing I experienced in my childhood, and the lasting effects of this unworried lifestyle. My parents (and please understand that I have no ill feelings towards them regarding this) prized opportunity and happiness over discipline and work ethic in my childhood. As such, I was allowed to lead an extremely enjoyable childhood and early adulthood, understood later in life largely to sacrifices from my parents. For reasons I haven’t desired to define, I grew up smart, decently good looking, and very personable. This enabled me to succeed without trying at the basics of childhood: I excelled in school, I was reasonably in shape and did well enough in sports, and I was never short on friends and a social life. Every kid’s dream upbringing, right?
Unfortunately, these childhood gifts saw their antonyms in my early adulthood. We all get older, beauty fades, our bodies take on fat (especially when we sit in comfortable chairs all day), and our intellectual gifts are eventually overtaken by those who tried harder and cared more. While all of these effects are somewhat preventable or at least postponable, they all will happen if we don’t actively try to retard them. My 20s were marked by me not putting the effort to prevent or postpone any of these effects. Why? A little disease I’ve come to call Not Me-ism.
Not Me-ism is when you, for whatever reason, think the rules of life don’t apply to you. Not Me-ism is when you think that gifts given to you by birth or upbringing will last forever and allow you to coast through all of life as you did the first 5, 10, 15, or 20 years (or more). Not Me-ism is when you think that you don’t need to exercise to stay in shape, or budget to keep your money on track, or cultivate friendships that benefit you, or reduce your drug and alcohol intake, or put in an 8 hour workday, or love someone. Not Me-ism is the disease of childhood comfort, and I had it bad. I started noticing it many years ago, I really recognized it about 18-24 months ago, and I’ve only recently started to actual combat it. Like any deep-seated disease, it has infected my mind, body, and soul, and it is going to take extensive discipline and work to get healthy again.
What are my symptoms of Not Me-ism? I have a beer belly that doesn’t need to be there. I have a bank account that is in worse shape than my beer belly. I have a propensity to blow off hours of every day with worthless mind-wandering, days of every week with soul-crushing boredom, and weeks of every year with under utilization of the gifts given to me. I have a dysfunctional relationship with relationships. I probably have high blood pressure due to a shit diet and lack of exercise, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t have health insurance so I don’t see a doctor until necessary. I have the attention span of a cat on meth, and the discipline of a child in a candy store.
Thankfully, I’m still at least a personable dude, and people like to hang out with me, so I haven’t become a shut-in hermit. Certainly, my life isn’t all bad – I still enjoy a number of things in my life, and I’m not on suicide watch or anything of the sort. This isn’t just a “woe is me” type of pity post. But the things that are bad won’t fix themselves. And worse, the exact things I need to do to fix them will require the hard work and discipline that I failed to learn in my childhood. I believe that an old dog can learn new tricks, so I think that I can make the necessary changes in my life to overcome this disease. The road is long, and the victories in the beginning will seem small and trite, and spaced uncomfortably far apart. But the alternative can be seen, and it isn’t pretty – continued failing health, bankruptcy, isolation, unhappiness – seriously, fuck that shit.
I’ll save the whats and hows on this for a later post. If you’ve suffered from, or are currently suffering from Not Me-ism, know that it is reversible. With hard work and discipline, I hope to catch it’s opposite disease: Give a Shit-ism.