And other answers to unsolicited questions.
“As a I kid I made these big plans for everything I wanted to accomplish by age 30. And I only have 6 months left and tons of things to go! What should I do?” — Steve Almost-Thirty
As a kid I wanted to change my name to “Matthias.” Kids have terrible ideas. They have no idea that life is essentially cruel and meaningless. It’s not their fault! We basically spend their first 12 years teaching them to be nice to other people and share things and then it’s like “Just kidding, welcome to High School.” After that it’s people acting like packs of wolves until you’re in your 70s. Why don’t we warn kids that the world is kind of awful and you should be on your toes? Then we wouldn’t have any independent movies about sweet, beautiful kids who never grow up.
The Olympics really makes this kid-dream-problem even worse. You see all these kids who have been pole-vaulting since they were 4 years old with little letters to themselves about winning gold medals. And you think, that kid is awesome! They always knew what they wanted to do! And they did it! But if you asked them now they would probably give their gold medal back to like go to their prom instead of having to practice every day of their damned life.
Don’t listen to your kid self. You’re probably doing fine. First off, you are already technically 30. You were definitely alive in your mother’s womb! I don’t know why we start counting when we’re born. It’s not like we appeared magically from a puff of smoke! Those months count! So you’re already 30 and you’ve totally failed at everything.
Secondly, time is an illusion. I mean, are you really going to let a calendar decide when you will do things by? What is the difference between being 29 and 31? Just that you’ve gone through this whole dramatic turning 30 thing. 31-year-olds are fun, they basically can stop worrying about not being in their 20s anymore. I spent my 20s drunk, my 30s sober and my 40s so far mostly napping. Do I worry about not having my life together or not having accomplished anything of note? I do not worry about that. I am very worried about my Fantasy Baseball team. And I also worry that my beard is growing in kind of crooked. Those are my two big worries.
What could you possibly want to accomplish by the time you’re 30? Most people’s lives peak too early, in kindergarten or high school. Space out your achievements. We’ll all be living longer soon, thanks to lasers and DNA and other things I don’t understand. You’re gonna want to have big scores later on in life, too, like that Jack Lemmon character in Glengarry Glen Ross. He was psyched! For a while! You’re gonna want to feel like YOU STILL GOT IT. That is an awesome feeling that no 30-year-old outside of maybe professional tennis or the sex industry knows the feeling of.
So don’t worry about living your life all at once. Or that you haven’t done enough. You’re probably doing fine. Or you’d be doing even better if you stopped giving a shit. That is really the best advice this grown-up loser has. Relax. We’re all screwed and we’ll all be dead a long time. Barely anyone will remember us and the decisions we make will have like zero impact on the world. We are basically marionettes dropped through a black hole into an endless abyss. Try to enjoy it.
“Strangers are always asking me for directions and it drives me nuts. How can I get them to stop asking?” — Lost Lucy
You can’t do anything about it. You just have soft eyes. Something about you just screams out to tourists, “I will help you.” That’s not a bad thing, but it can be a heavy responsibility. I don’t know why tourists wait on the subway platform for a door to open so they can put their fate into the hands of strangers. “Does this train go to Prince Street?” some doe-eyed blue-haired rube asked me yesterday. Eventually all trains go to Prince Street, lady. I mean, it might go through Queens and then turn around and go to Prince Street eventually.
But I can’t help but help people. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But it is also impossibly annoying. And I do have a few ideas about how to avoid the responsibility of having to help people. You’d think that by looking tough you could avoid eye contact with strangers. But people just love bad people. There is something so dangerous about taking street directions from an obviously dangerous person. They probably know all kinds of dangerous short-cuts. “Sure, just hop over the barbed wire, run through a minefield past the Starbucks over there.”
I have taken to wrapping my head with an ace bandage. With little spots of salsa. I ride the subway and sing “The Only Living Boy in New York” to myself. When people ask me if I know if the subway is going to Prince Street I look at them balefully. “I don’t remember. I just don’t remember.” There’s a tearful twinkle in my eye. As I search the car “in an air of lost connections.”
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.