(Full disclosure: I began writing this while at my mother’s home in suburban New Jersey but got distracted and before I knew it I was in New York City dashing around the city trying to see as many people as possible in the two and a half days around New Year’s I spent there. I have no decided to finish it as if it isn’t already 2010.)
Damn, yo! The most formative decade of my life yet is about to end. The “Aughts” encompassed my late adolescence and the first half of my twenties, so it was probably my “cool decade”, whereas this upcoming decade will just include the decline of my coolness until I’m on the verge of turning 35 in 2020. Hopefully I won’t hate my life and rue the day I decided I didn’t have the chops for med school. That said, I feel like I need to document my feelings about the past decade in some easily constructed way that won’t take too long but will still serve as a sort of blast through the past/walk down memory lane/man, I’m gonna miss those good years/people/places, etc. type of deal. I mean, I began the decade in the basement of my girlfriend’s house watching MTV’s New Year’s Eve Event, which was hosted by Carson Daly and featured Limp Bizkit performing. “Lol Wut” is right.
This year, I’ll be ringing in the New Year with some homies in New York City, sucking down Jack and Cokes and doing shots of tequila while pretending I’m not kind of sad to be turning 25, getting old, being post-college and about 30 pounds heavier than I was at the beginning of the decade. But, I live in Chicago, have a Masters Degree (w00t), and live a pseudo bohemian lifestyle where I get paid to read books, “produce” knowledge, better myself, all without selling out to the man or slaving away for 12 hours at a coffee shop to support an “artistic” lifestyle. I’ll take solace in my cool jeans, sweet vans, expensive sweater, button up Ben Sherman shirt and the fact that I’m so much more “experienced” and mature than I was this time last decade, when I was drinking Dr. Pepper and eating pizza in a dingy basement. I recently found my old cd case around my mom’s new house and started flipping through it to see what kind of trash I was listening to between the years of 1998-2004 (the period when I actually purchased CDs). Of course, I came across NIN, Rage, DMB, Saves the Day, Midtown (that guy from Cobra Starship’s first band), Bob Marley, Metallica, Jimmy Eat World, 311, Incubus, etc. It was like I was walking back through the stages of my personality’s slow, onerous development, a process that was expedited dramatically upon my arrival at Macalester College, when “lyfe” really got going.
Anyway, all of sudden shit was happening like all the damn time around me and I was sorrounded by roughly 1.5k kids (minus those who were “studying” abroad) from across the world who had done/experienced all kinds of different shit growing up (live in Japan, work on “the rez”, get home schooled, grow up in “the city”, smoked meth, have two moms as parents (dads are overrated), be Jewish, have a “gay” experience or actually be gay). All this stuff blew my damn mind and if I wasn’t so good the basic currency of college, .i.e. knowing how to party, I man have been run over due to the relative drabness of my suburban childhood experience, when we rode bikes, played basketball, played N64 all night, did Little League, watched wrestling, played travel soccer, went to high school keggers, smoked weed in parks, went to Friday night football games, and went to prom hoping to “do stuff” afterwards. All in all, I got to college and wondered what the hell I had done besides test well, write a compelling college essay and get decent grades, which in comparison to almost everyone else felt like a truly uninteresting and uninspired autobiography.
Heading to Minnesota for college seems like the first major step I took towards “getting out” and leaving “suburban hell” behind. I started reading things like Harper’s magazine, developed a personal political belief system, became friends with people who were genuinely different, acted in real plays, took Econ and Art during the same semester, smoked cigarettes, was exposed to cool music, and fell in love for the first time. All of these things were just part of the radical changes that began to occur in my life as I discovered a whole new person inside of me that I had never known or glimpsed before. So, without rehashing the evolution of Will through college in its lengthy, moderately interesting entirety, I just want to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.
Life gradually moves through stages of possibility and it seems to me that as one continuously makes choices regarding one’s life some possibilities are foreclosed even as others open up. For instance, attending Macalester College rather than another school meant that I would probably not end up becoming an architect or an engineer, on account of what type of academic programs Macalester offered. However, other possibilities opened up, many that even now I probably haven’t recognized. I probably wouldn’t have decided to enter a doctoral program in English literature had I not attended Macalester. Anyway, the point of this armchair philosophy is to merely contrast my worldview of 1999 with my worldview of 2009. Whereas most of the formative choices of my life remained to be made in 1999, several of the most obvious ones have now been made at this point, yet I think it is important not to feel that one has somehow lost the ability to do certain things or make certain choices.
I find myself reborn in a sense, freed of the constraints of graduate school and with a palette of possibility revealed before me. I could aim to renew the creative energies that were so prominent in my childhood, when I painted, drew, and wrote constantly. I could dive into a classroom and try to affect positive change in one young mind at a time or something else not yet conceived. It seems that, despite ten years having passed, my life is hardly any more definite than it was back when I was a 14 year old, but that is okay, I think. I like my chances.