All This and More After 24

Last week in my restorative yoga class, the instructor started with her usual “thought of the night” spiel. She said that every day use two salutations multiple times: “Hello,” and “How are you?”

But how often do we greet ourselves with that?

So here I am, in this post, actually sitting down and saying “Hello. How are you?” to myself as The Doors’ song “Hello, I Love You” starts playing in my head.

The answer? A little anxious. A little disappointed. A little excited.

Or as everyone's favorite Mad Men skeezebag would say...
Or as everyone’s favorite sympathetic sleazebag on Mad Men would say…

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to forget that Monday is my birthday. I actually succeeded once or twice, resulting in the “greatest cancellation text ever” when I had to ask a friend to reschedule our weekend plans because I forgot I was suppose to celebrate over the weekend with family.

This reluctance isn’t because I’m getting old, but because I had so much I wanted to accomplish before July 27, 2015. And I blame off-Broadway for the whole thing.

There’s a song called “Moving Too Fast” from The Last Five Years, a Chicago-born musical that documents the romantic and marital relationship between two people. Jaime, a writer, has his book previewed in The Atlantic, moves in with his dream girl and is the subject of a publishing bidding war — in the song, he sums it up as “all this and more before 24.”

I first heard the soundtrack from The Last Five Years in high school, and “Moving Too Fast” almost immediately became my anthem. At 16 it’s a lot easier to imagine meeting Jaime’s writing success when there’s still eight years to go. Now I’ve got less than 48 hours until the “all this and more before 24” line becomes “maybe all this, probably more, at or after 24.”

Between age 16 and these last few hours of age 23, the “all this” has constituted having published a book, possibly previewed by The Atlantic (if they even do that anymore) and definitely available in bookstores other than Amazon’s self-publishing warehouse. The “and more?” Not sure. A relationship, maybe? A screenplay in the works? A ca’ in Italy?

I get that this all sounds whiny, impractical, and the very definition of “pipe dream.” But I said hello to myself. I asked how I was doing. Here’s how I’m doing. You’re just witnesses to the neurotic response.

Yoga last week wasn’t the first time I had this realization that 24 was coming up fast. Last month I brought all of these thoughts with me to a whiskey-infused therapy session with a friend. He reminded me of all the people who didn’t get success until they were well into their 40s or 50s. Because he’s a med-student-to-be, most of his examples were scientists. But our shared favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., didn’t publish his debut, Player Piano, until he was 30 and had a family. The first Harry Potter came out the June before J.K. Rowling turned 32. Toni Morrison was 39 when her first book, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970.

So I guess I have six years before I write another post like this?

There’s another admission in “Moving Too Fast” that comes pretty quickly after the “all this and more” line. Until now, I’ve intriguingly chosen to turn a deaf ear to it all these years: “I’m feeling panicked, and rushed, and hurried; I’m feeling out-maneuvered and out-classed.” Sure enough, Jaime’s marriage ends in divorce.

Meanwhile, I’ve made myself feel panicked, and rushed, and hurried, just by ignoring that part and focusing on the six words that come before it. In the middle of berating myself for missing out on the “all this,” I neglected to realize that maybe the “all this” goal has changed. Maybe “all this” for right now is the career that’s continued to burgeon in the last year. Like anything, though, attaining something only clears the way to the next desire.

And that next desire for me is control, clarity and conviction.

Another friend who’s equally skilled at listening to me during our sip-and-psychoanalyze nights said I needed a “Summer of Kate” to reassess where I am and what I want. I’m extending that to an “Age of Kate.”

Hopefully it won't end like the infamous
Hopefully it won’t end like the infamous “Summer of George.”

For the next year, I’m recommitting to myself to figure out what another year will do to my definition of “all this and more.” At Christmas, I’m going to Dublin and London for the first time. I’ve already planned a return to my creative writing by not just waiting for inspiration to strike but also forcing myself to slow down and take an afternoon train ride just to contemplate on story ideas. Twenty-four is going to be my age of evaluating goals, working toward them and perhaps even accomplishing them.

And finally, 24 is going to be the year I find more times to ask “Hello. How are you?” — and sing “Hello. I Love You” — to myself. Blog readers, you’ve been warned.

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One Comment

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  1. All I can say is that you seem to be “right on time” in living your life. I also feel compelled to warn you that these periods of birthday-related angst return time and again. Altho it is a very old book by your standards you might dig out a copy of Passages by Gail Sheehy (?). Speaking as the Ancient One of the family, I am facing 74 in February and am having similar angst-y feelings of still not being finished when the Finish Line is getting closer and closer. One of the psychological hurdles related to being my age is called Generativity…when one can be satisfied with ones contributions to the world, the family, the self. I guess the key is that when you have accomplished that phase you can turn up your toes and move out to make room for the next soul. I am not there yet…..by a long shot.
    Having said all that as I observe your progress from afar, I believe you are quite a superstar and perhaps you need a new anthem.

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