Establish purpose, self-absorption, messiness
Nearing graduation, I found myself fixated on the metaphors we use to try to explain it: “The End of Your College Career and the Start of Everything Else.” Wise men often evoke changing seasons, shifting gears, and the starting of a new chapter.
But as a bookworm who owns a car and has experienced winter, spring, summer, and fall, I respond, “What the hell are you all talking about.”
“Today is the first day of your life,” they say. “It’s all so bittersweet.”
“Today is Friday, and I taste nothing.”
Aside aside, I earnestly wonder how all graduates, from high school valedictorians to doctoral candidates, can use the same tired clichés to come to terms with wildly different experiences. These vague refrains feel like the only way we can talk about our college careers and graduation in general. Don’t get me wrong—cliches are nice crutches, solid small-talk satisfiers. I’ve been leaning heavily on them lately. I’m a month removed from commencement, and my loquacious self is still largely at a loss. This gnaws at me. I am a college graduate, goddamnit.
The least I should be is lost.
It might be wishful thinking, but I want to somehow, someway return to these millions of moments I’ve made, make sense of them in my head, and do them justice on the page, sans cliche. I’m trying to bring nebulous memories and radiant reflection together here, a home where, like a giddy nine-year-old with his shiny report card, I can show you what happened to me these last four-and-a-half years. Because a lot has happened and I want to tell you all about it. I want to tell me about it, too.
A few disclaimers before we dive further into this hodgepodge: I am the Conductor of the Hot Mess Express; therefore, I cannot and will not create a tidy five-paragraph essay or a snappy, sexy social media post to tell you about my time at North Dakota State. I suppose I could try to, and while it’d get more likes, I’d like it less.
So we’re keeping it real, regardless of how it’s received. I’m looking at me, as authentically as I can.
Spoiler: I’m an authentic mess of a man. This poor blog post is going to get messier, and you will find it incoherent, long-winded, and wildly egotistical. Side effects may include groaning at my cheeky diction (“aside aside”), closing this webpage early (if not already), and defining narcissism (and applying it to this project). Skim, skip, and/or engross yourself in some and/or all of this; I’m telling myself that I don’t care how or if you consume it.
As a people-pleaser who does care, though, this all freaks me the fuck out. I write—hell, live—to please, and, as I’ve confirmed in college, I’m good at it. I could fill books with the amount I’ve written for friends, professors, and newspaper readers.
I haven’t filled a personal journal in years. This blog won’t fill that void, but it’ll try to make amends. Making imperfect amends is better than having a gaping hole stare at you.
Lastly, I want you to know that I am happily and willingly sacrificing some of this project’s authenticity (that is, writing solely for myself) to pimp this blog out for you to read. After working on this for a month, I feel like I need to share my introspective chronicle.
Because while millions and billions have graduated, I still feel like I have something to contribute here, to someone, somewhere.
And perhaps something I’ll write for myself will strike a nerve with you. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll even hit a soul or two.
Best of luck to you and me both.
Maybe start with an open letter to yourself
Dear Ben From Now,
What the fuck has objectively happened.
You go over the river, through the woods, and you’ve morphed into a liberal kinda-Catholic who runs and listens to Bob Dylan while being a sustaining member of Minnesota Public Radio. Public radio, Ben? Public radio. The majority of Millennials don’t listen to the radio, and even fewer know that the dial goes lower than 93.7 FM. Aux cords don’t require monthly dues, dude.
Can you imagine how flabbergasted Ben From High School would be to see you now? Now there was a kid with clear eyes who knew how to run the show. He kept it simple, stupid. Alas, college gave you the Cataracts of Relativism, which have since grayed every truth you held dear. How can you sleep, when you lay down each night, knowing that you know less than the day before?
“College will disorient a kid. The only truths I think to hold true anymore are my name, major, year in school, and hometown. My name is Benjamin James Norman; I’m majoring in English education; and I’m a senior from Barnesville, Minnesota. I was named after a tall basketball player (townsfolk called him “Big” Ben Amundson), my great-grandfather (Thora called him “James”), and a clan of Vikings who reshaped the English language forever.
Actually, my great-great grandfather apparently adopted the last name Norman from some Yankee. My drunken Ancestory.com searches have found our Scandinavian surname of yesteryears to be Midbrød (Norwegian translation: middle of the loaf of bread).
I am a goddamned lie.”
— excerpt from “My Others’ Keeper,” an essay
You know you could’ve saved yourself a lot of inner anguish had you not stopped journaling, the one way to take the day’s insanity and, if not make sense of it, at least record it. Remember how, for over a decade, you meticulously filled pocketbooks with observations? Systematically rating a day on a 1-10 scale, marking down how many miles you biked, and tallying how many Oreos you had eaten?
Those records, usually dripping in guilt, kept you in check and provided semi-unbiased content. (A diary, it was not; your brittle box of masculinity underscored everything you reported.) This post would write itself if you were to simply consolidate 1,000-plus days’ worth of summaries into this.
But you got lazy, at least with self-reflection and self-care. Freshman year, curled in your bed in Reed 210, you put the pen down. You chose to experience, not think; feel, not write. As you began to become the narrator of your life story, you decided to stop playing Disinterested Author, instead taking up the role of Interesting, Unscripted, and Volatile Tragic Hero.
As tragic heroes do, you got swept up with now and all it entails: debt, stress, and existential strife. If you aren’t in pain, you’re not pushing hard enough. And while I’m glad you got out of college relatively unscathed—just thousands of dollars in the hole and more-tired looking—you know that you’re lucky the Glorious Struggle you helped foster didn’t kill you. There’s a fine line between being resilient and being destructively stubborn.
Romanticizing your life’s conflict is bullshit. Either it’s there, or it’s not. Piling on both actual and self-made struggle will not promise you a satisfying resolution. Creating obstacles just for the sake of overcoming them doesn’t prove self-worth. Speaking of worth, know that you are never unworthy enough to ask for help. I wish you would’ve learned how to ask sooner.
But you know, for all the blurry gray you’ve let into your life, it’s probably for the better. For with that gray came change, and, if our personal savior Smashmouth has taught us anything, we could all use a little change.
Alas, change is a tricky bitch: By definition, it’s literally a variable, a shift to otherness. But beyond the dictionary, it’s a constant, maybe one of the only constants we’ve got, whether you recognize it or not.
Scientists call our universe’s collective dive into chaos “entropy,” or at least that’s what I think it’s called. (We both know how spectacularly you failed the AP Chemistry test in 11th grade.) And while it’s tricky to precisely pinpoint and explain life’s chaos and how much you’ve changed, maybe that’s a fact that we’ll just have to accept and keep accepting.
Wouldn’t they be more alarmed if I stayed the same these last four years? College opened a door that, for better or worse, isn’t closing anytime soon. That student debt keeps accumulating and should account for something more than a license to teach children about the world in which we live and ending sentences in prepositional phrases.
I may seem different, but try to see where I’m coming from.
Journalism 101: That Was A Lot Of Gray Text
Better Throw In A Listicle With Pictures
Below are my top ten experiences that made college college. This list isn’t comprehensive, and I wouldn’t put too much stock into how I ranked them. These are snapshots, not sagas. When my biographers inevitably return to this document, though, hopefully they’ll use these kernels to flesh out thick annotated chapters.
10. Road trips to Iowa, Madison, Clemson, Phoenix, Medora, Brookings, etc.
I’m a journeyman who thinks a lot more about the trip than the destination. I’m perplexed by the concept of willingly strapping yourself into an automobile with friends and sitting with them as the world zooms by, 72 miles every hour. Each trip brings with it the unadulterated joys of freedom and the buzz of knowing your co-pilot a little bit better at 2 a.m. just northwest of Nowhere, Nebraska (population: there isn’t a gas station here, either). And where else will your old iPod playlist shuffle to “One and Only,” and all four friends will go word-for-word with Adele? That’s my jam.
9. Bison Guiding
I sometimes wonder how many thousands of dollars in tuition I’ve secured for NDSU during my time walking backward as a campus tour guide. Let’s be honest: My persuasive appeal, not the university itself, is the main reason why high schoolers do or do not come to Fargo. I’ve got charm, and boy do I use it when talking about the dead cow buried near Albrecht and Centennial. When my ego tallies this total to upward of hundreds of thousands—an impressive feat for a farm boy who never went on a campus tour himself—I think about some of the ill-timed jokes I would crack (see: Minard Hall collapse), the tours I would lead astray (see: the basement maze of Sudro), and all of the dead cow talk (“I see dead
people cows,” I said once to a family of four).
I hope I broke even.
8. Center for Writers
“Welcome to the Center! Have you been here before? Great, a first-timer! What are we working on today? A rhetorical analysis, that’s new. When’s it due? Today in two hours! Well, what should we spend our precious 30 minutes on discussing today; may I suggest delving into what your English 120 professor is probably looking for in this essay, like answering the prompt and you showing a basic understanding of composition? Nope, you want me to fix your grammar! Yes, commas are the most important facet of rhetorical analyses. What’s that? You’re here just for extra credit and not to, you know, become a better writer? At least you’re being obtusely honest! Let me just sneak some more coffee quick, stab my eyes with this dull #2, and promise you that, as a miracle worker, every paper I’ve ever worked with gets an A.”
I joke. I love the Center. Mary Pull, patron saint of English education majors, is my on-campus mom. The Center gave me a quiet home to drink Folgers, chat with my classmates, and practice patience with clients.
7. KNDS 96.3 FM
This segment of programming is brought to you by KNDS, the student-run station that sucked me into the weird world of radio. When I applied to be a DJ for KNDS as a freshman, I wrote on my application that my favorite musicians were George Strait and Coldplay, two artists who I’d now say are the antithesis of what KNDS is. Before they discarded me, however, they saw that I liked jazz, unironically. Jazz Juice with Benny b. found a home on the radio waves most Tuesday nights and once one Sunday, at like 3 a.m. That night, my friends and I pretended to do a phone-a-thon, lying to the six listeners who were tuned in that Carson Wentz was in-studio. You won’t hear that kind of programming anywhere else on commercial radio (because it’s probably slanderous).
KNDS is an underappreciated gem. It’s a station without a home on campus, an ugly and telling truth about how NDSU has treated this Tier-I organization. It’s a shame, for KNDS provides a home for a ragtag group of eclectics and their collective coolness, and it deserves much more support than it garners now. I am a better person because of KNDS, and NDSU is a better university with its station.
“Oh, you’re in college. Are you going into medicine?” they’d ask.
“I’m going to be a teacher,” I’d reply to a few seconds of silence.
“What the hell are you doing here,” they’d whisper, showing me that I was at a nursing home.
“I’m not sure yet.”
If I had a Depends for every time this exchange occurred at work, I would have a copious amount of adult continence products in my closet. I was an anomaly. Unlike three-quarters of the certified nursing assistant workforce, I had college credit to my name, and unlike the other quarter, I wasn’t using that credit to become a nurse or doctor. Also, I was a white male. Not many of those drinking coffee from lipstick-stained coffee mugs in the workroom.
While I don’t think I can, with full satisfaction, answer why I exactly got into working as a CNA or personal care attendant, I do have some ideas. The pay isn’t bad; the work is hard yet rewarding, and you get interactions like this:
“I sagely asked, ‘What’s the secret to not dying?’
Hattie, [a centenarian], laughed, ‘Well, I’m a tough cookie.’
I can attest to this: Once, I found her full of feces (it’s omnipresent) and blood in her bathroom. She hadn’t pulled her pants down far enough before the diarrhea unleashed, and, amid the chaos, her nose decided to start gushing.
She was out playing bingo less than an hour later.”
— excerpt from “Nine Nuggets from a Nursing Home,” a column
I aspire to be like my elderly—today, tomorrow, and in 77 years. There are lifetimes of stories and wisdom to listen to and learn from.
And now, a quick word of thanks to our sponsors
Mom and Dad Inc.: Baby-makers, child-raisers, food-bakers. I can’t possibly repay you for all that you’ve given me (well, maybe college, in a decade or two), but I’ve hyperlinked this lanyard for you. Thank you for all the love and support and homemade bread.
Miller Lite: A fine pilsner beer that just screams mediocrity; I’m fine with mediocrity.
Norman Bros.: That is, my big little brothers, for being two Pole poles who know how to make me laugh and scream in frustration. I’ve missed you guys while in college. I haven’t missed losing my sweatshirts and bedroom.
Bean Bros.: That is, my current roommates, for being two other little brothers. Thank you for being my best friends and allowing me one chess victory every other month.
Folgers: Hopefully scientists will eventually agree that drinking hundreds of gallons of this black tar is healthy for you.
Line of Gods, LLC: Four to five of the wildest saxophones to have ever marched down Albrecht. You tainted my saxophone with Busch Lite and Swisher Sweets, and for that I can never forgive or forget you.
5. My actual classes
While at NDSU, I attended classes and earned 162 credits, 42 more than the university minimum. I got around, taking a saxophone quartet credit, a meteorology course that 11-year-old Ben loved, and a 400/600 brain-melting seminar on indigenous peoples and their print culture between 1776 and 1861. I had professors who changed my life, and I had doctors who tried to ruin it. And, best of all, I met my cohort, the English eds.
I love reflecting on how our relationships grew—from strangers in the classroom to the first posts on our Facebook page to commencement, when, for one final time, you all helped tardy me: tie my tie, assemble my cap and tassel, and find my place in line. I learned a little from the books and a lot from student teaching, but I think I learned the most from you guys.
4. Jog Squad and Soggy Jogging
Of all the listed college experiences, this one’s the oddest. I ran three halfs (halves?) and a full marathon these last four springs, carving out a running identity that would bamboozle Ben From High School. Hell, Present Ben doesn’t believe this shit. I remember waking up from my post-marathon coma last spring and thinking it was all a fever dream. Then I stood up and nearly collapsed, legs throbbing. Self-amputation didn’t seem unreasonable.
I wrote about this damp evolution in my running running column, and I also created a Facebook group a few winters back called JOG SQUAD to try to sync up schedules with those who wanted to train with me for spring races. It started as a small, secret group and now it’s 188 of Fargo-Moorhead’s craziest motherfuckers. Not really, but we made a Spotify playlist (my brother changed its name) and I use it to listen to Hans Zimmer. God and knees willing, I’ll hear him and “Time” again next spring after finishing my second full.
3. Gold Star Marching Band
Five, six, seven, eight, and halt, panting, smelling of stale sweat, ears humming. Standing at attention, waiting. The lights go, and the crowd of 18,000 swells. I turn my head-bucket so it stays facing forward, but I crane my eyes to the side to watch the video screen flash 60 seconds of a robot bison traversing through small North Dakota towns before football players are live-birthed from the helmet.
The breeze they made as they ran behind us felt good and cool.
Marching band was the most absurd activity of my life. On a grand scale, the idea of 200 people with an array of instruments roll-stepping around a football field to make shapes with each other while tooting sounds during the game’s intermission is subjectively performance art and is objectively ridiculous. And then you actually meet the people who do this, the college students who collectively devote thousands upon thousands of hours to put on a show.
These people, I am pleased to report, are fucking nuts, and I love them all the more for it.
“Here’s a toast to this blissful existence, whether it makes sense or not.”
— excerpt from “Don’t Worry about Dreamy Denial,” a column
I think what drew me back to band for four years was this stupid, irrational fun. I firmly believe the world could use some more of this deliriousness. I’m not saying you need to experience band camp, perform the alto sax part two part of “Holiday” like it’s the last song you’ll ever play, or ride in a bus for hundreds of hours to Frisco, Terra Haute, Iowa City, or Anoka. Civilization as we know it would cease if we all devoted our lives to such a dysfunctional endeavor.
I’m just saying we shouldn’t undervalue ridiculous fun and its enjoyment, in moderation.
2. The Spectrum
“I walked into The Spectrum office as a freshman with no background in publications, save the semester of redundant pre-COMM classes I was completing for my then-major of journalism. My first story was on the first-ever Panera Bread to call North Dakota home. I interviewed Panera bigwigs, bagel-wielding competitors and carb-craving students for a story that took days to assemble. I misquoted my first interviewee and earned $10. I was hooked.”
I didn’t get unhooked for another eight semesters. The student-run newspaper became my college journal. Instead of Oreos, though, I wrote about budgets and took out Oxford commas and tried to design pages with Adobe products that I had no business dabbling with. I started on the bottom and ended up with my first and last personal office, a cinnamon-scented space where, on more than one occasion, I’d end up catnapping or falling into a coma.
As editor-in-chief, my staff and I rocked the boat. We took a stand, a couple of times. We advocated for ourselves and against futility, fighting for funding and respect. This put us in the spotlight (see: story) and crosshairs (see: comments of said story).
And good God, did we have fun. I still struggle to believe that we got the student body president to rip off his shirt, lather up in coconut oil, and pose for the hottest front page we’ve ever published. (It will be no coincidence when female enrollment spikes these next few years; that Rectum cover was on stands during the Discover NDSU campus tours, and I know that I wasn’t the only Bison Guide to point out our juicy leader.)
While I put in my time, I still feel like I owe The Spectrum so much. It helped me hone my writing, leadership, and people skills. It distorted my perceptions of sanity, for our publication’s collective dysfunctionality made some wild shit seem pretty calm. And above all, The Spectrum gave me and my thoughts an outlet. My brain needs draining periodically, and I thank the newspaper, its staff, and its readers for obliging me for four years.
1. Blue Key
You probably don’t know what Blue Key Honor Society is. Honestly, after five semesters, I really don’t either.
Like most things, it’s a lot of things. You’ll hear people call it a cult, an honor society with a drinking problem, and, my personal favorite, those fuckers with the Spam. I call it a cult, a service chapter that knows how to cut loose, and supporters of Minnesota “meat” processing plants. These descriptions aren’t wrong, but they’re nowhere near right. This 91-year-old service organization has left me mystified—mystified and grateful to have been found by NDSU’s tribe of doers.
This tribe is a gift and privilege that I didn’t deserve and that I’ll cherish forever. The numbers don’t compute: of the nearly 15,000 students on campus, only 35 can constitutionally be in Blue Key at a time. That I was one of those 35 was, is, baffling and weighs heavily on my conscience.
So I tried to give as much of myself back to it while I could. It was exhausting, but what a gift—to be exhausted while doing good work. Pulling all-nighters at the library to keep it open is a disgustingly beautiful act of service. Writing homecoming shows that amused and offended the student body is a religious experience. Cleaning highway ditches and then celebrating by going to the cabin to slide down soapy plastic tarps into the lake is just clean, green apple-smelling fun.
Volunteering with your friends—at dusty Bonanzaville, chilly Hornbachers while bell ringing, and beautiful Dorothy Day Food Pantry—consumed me with a contentedness that proved elusive in college.
I invested not in an honor society but in its people. I love Blue Key because I love those in Blue Key.
Together with 30-some somebodies from across campus, we made a difference—not because we are The Chosen Ones, but because we are people who can. This distinction, that we do because we can, not because we should, is intangible and intrinsic and separates this organization from any other I’ve been involved with.
I remember my freshman year becoming so disenchanted with how sterilized service and philanthropy had become in college. Volunteering was done to fulfill hours for your org and to put it on your resume—don’t forget to snap a pic for Insta.
In Blue Key, instead of volunteering for your personal gains, you served others, for others. We served because, while we are busy, impoverished college kids, we have hands and the capacity to help. That mindset is enough to change the world, or, at the very least, help your neighbor to have a better day.
It took me Blue Key to figure this out. Hopefully you can find this, too, with or without a cult’s help.
Here’s to you, Fargo
Fargo! My fair city—where the grass is dead and the weather is shitty! I raise my mugs of hot coffee and cold beer to thee and offer this toast:
Here’s to you, Wallman Wellness Center running track, for spinning me ’round and around for years and years. May the pasty basketballers below forever miss easy layups.
Here’s to you, Babbling Brooks, for the natural serenity and WiFi hotspot. May more students light candles and chant oaths before holding hands and crossing the bridge over drained waters.
Here’s to you, library table in the basement next to the math emporium, for being the blandest space at NDSU. May other distracted scholars stumble upon your plainness and finally finish that essay.
And here’s to you, robot bells ringing hourly on campus, for marking how much time I’d spent in The Spectrum‘s office. May your “On Bison” death march always drag 70 beats slower than it’s actually performed.
Here’s to you, trees that go from green to yellow in the fall, for helping Homecoming look like a natural affair. May more students learn the words to “The Yellow and the Green” (at least the not-racist parts).
Here’s to you, first fat flakes of winter, for the seasonal reminder that we live in a snow globe. May you stay unique as we completely devour you and your originality on outstretched tongues.
Here’s to you, first warm breeze of spring, for not trying to kill us like the winter winds before you. May it be more like melty, muddy May, every day.
And here’s to you, campfire- and barbecue-smoked summer nights, for making our clothes smell much more interesting than we actually are. May the mosquitoes stay at bay or, at the very least, be Ebola-free.
Here’s to you, King House, for feeding famished saxophones greasy goodness before playoff Gamedays. May your right door stay out of service.
Here’s to you, Fryn’ Pan, for the homework coffee at 11 p.m. Tuesdays and hangover coffee at 2:30 a.m. Saturdays. May Norma get better tips than she does now.
Here’s to you, Rogue Dairy Queen in East Fargo, for the calories and the setting of a kinda-first date. May the ice cream lovers consensually fall for each other.
And, of course, here’s to you, Subway, for the sustained subsistence. May $5-footlongs return in all their glory someday soon with Jesus Christ and The Second Coming.
Here’s to you, Pickled Parrot, for helping dance off tomorrow’s hangovers. May EDM Thursdays be better known, and may Scotty never, ever know.
Here’s to you, Chub’s Pub, for the pounds of free popcorn eaten. May the Junky XL remix of Hans Zimmer’s “Inception” play so loudly and proudly over TouchTunes that the urban cowboys are left shaking in their snakeskin boots.
Here’s to you, Old Broadway, for piss beer that costs pennies on good Fridays. May we never forget our humble beginnings, even if we break into the upper-middle class someday.
And here’s to you, Bison Turf, for first showing me what love, and later loss, is. May you reopen before my liver fails elsewhere, and may we, together, put Herd & Horns out of business for forever.
Here’s to you, Island Park, for the sun, sports, and shade. May we never be too old to play outside with our friends.
Here’s to you, train tracks next to Dakota Drive, for the hourly reminders of how important rail is to our industrious nation. May you shake awake and bellow cacophony to us, your unworthiest tenants.
Here’s to you, farmers’ fields outside of town, for letting us park cars in your approaches as we looked for shooting stars and northern lights. May you always stay dark and trespass-able.
And perhaps most importantly, here’s to you, Biolife, for the bologna money. May students always be able to pimp out their arm juice for $20 and still call it “donating.”
Jesus, here are some more sponsors who got me here
Dr(t)eam Studios, in partnership with Sandy’s Donuts: The best English eds that Disney didn’t want to buy. You guys are almost as good as Shrek 2, and that’s the best compliment you’ll probably ever get. Definitely better than Dead Poet’s Society.
Hoagie Hut: Like Subway, but with more sadness and hummus.
Old Roommates Collective: I need to let the other ten of you know that I would, on occasion, steal your body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. And tooth paste. Only would I accidentally use your toothbrush.
JOGHOGS (501 (c)(4)): A collection comprised of those in JOG SQUAD who’ve actually run with me. Every jaunt with a friend is joyous.
STC: Putting Spam cans atop gargoyles and dropping peeps onto cement for generations.
My Girlfriend, Feat. Four Lokos: Bringing the life of the party to weddings since ’17. I get this drunken, tingly sensation when I’m with the both of you, and I don’t think it’s all solely from the carcinogens.
And viewers like you. Thank you. Literally. All of you. Well, maybe not all of you. But probably most of you. I am the sum of those around me, and I’ve been surrounded by goodness. Thank you for making me great.
Closure Looks Lots Like a Callback: An Open Letter
Dear Ben From The Future,
What the fuck will objectively happen.
Can you tell me that? Just give me a sign that we’ll be fine. Or, at the very least, can you give me a goddamned answer to those who ask, “What’s next?” I’m tired of responding, “Well . . . tomorrow I’m going to Biolife,” before giving them a wink and a shimmy as I slide away, stage left. Contrary to popular belief, people actually get annoyed at question dodging and excessive shimmying.
Do we ever stop shimmying, Future Ben? Confounding expectations has long been the shtick, if you can recall. We like being different—you know, like writing nearly 6,000 words because cliches don’t cut it for you. Will whatever’s “next” hold true to this rogue identity you hold so dear?
Sure, I guess the end-goal is to eventually settle down, land The Job, find The One, have Nine Children, and Live Quietly Ever After, but right now—when people aren’t asking, “What’s Next”—it feels kind of good to be gray, nebulous, and shimmering in youth.
Because despite 2017 making me feel older than I’ve ever felt—which I suppose is to be expected as a super-senior—the youthfulness I feel like I have right now overwhelms me. I know I’ve been younger, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so mindful of this feeling.
I figure this feeling, a potential energy of sorts, is as immense as it’ll ever be, and I want to convert it to the most bombastic kinetic energy that I can, while I can. Jesus, I just signed up for another marathon—solely because I can. Christ, I’m might donate a fucking kidney—because, who knows, maybe I can do that, too.
This feeling is fleeting, isn’t it. That’s what those wise men tell me, at least. I’ve seen it, too, in my nursing home residents and grandparents, my parents and my friends, too. This existential (dare I say inevitable) fatigue frightens the hell out of me. Do you—we—come to terms with this? Or do we put up a fight and rage against the dying of the light?
I guess I’m just wondering if I’ll wake up one day and turn it all down a notch or two. Will that okay, or will it feel like I betrayed myself, ourselves, and everyone else? Is it natural if I do and denial if I don’t? Aren’t “natural” and “denial” just social constructs? (Yes, I’m still that guy who tries to drop social theory into unassuming conversation.)
Sorry for all the questions. I should just adopt determinism as my mantra; that’s what the lazy (that is, efficient) philosophers do. “Whatever shall be, will be,” or whatever. That’s nice. Let it be; free will just causes anxiety.
You know, I hope you know that I’ll forgive you if you let us slow down a little bit someday, allowing us to be content with reliving the glory days in our head and to our nursing home roommates.
It’s happening already, albeit with drinking pals instead of bingo buddies. We like to recollect and recount the days of yore a lot more often than I remember us doing so before. That’s fine, I guess.
We’ve had some great yesterdays.
I don’t like to admit it since it’s awfully trite to say that you miss your past, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. God, do I long for those carefree days when seemingly everyone couldn’t wish up a worry if they tried. Today, while I’m still game, say, for a game of football in the park, others aren’t always as keen anymore.
I get it. I’m tired, too. But I’m also afraid of dying sooner than I think I will, and that I might not expend all that potential energy perched in my soul. The last thing I want to be is wasteful. I know that probably sounds hyperbolic, Future Ben, but life is literally the most dramatic and morbid thing I can fathom. I hope you don’t forget this.
I hope a lot of things for you. And while I’m sure you’d appreciate the sentiment, as a newly self-avowed determinist, these wishes are a waste of precious energy. Let me get these last few out of my system and let you get on with your day.
I hope you haven’t peaked; I hope we never peak. I hope every day is better than your last, so much so that when you look back at this project in 30 years you can take pity on your poor self. (Note to future-self: Pity me all you want; I’m having a relatively amazing time right now.)
I hope you stay true to you, whomever that might be decades or minutes from now.
I hope you keep preaching acceptance and find exceptionalities in everyone, and, in turn, I hope you find acceptance wherever you go and are exceptional in whatever you do. Teaching, parenting, writing, jogging, and so on. I hope your loved ones love it, whatever it may be, and you do as well.
And most of all, I hope that we only grow up, never old.