Thirty days from now, I’ll be dead … by which I mean I will turn 44.
You can save all the “40 is the new 30” and “you’re still young in the grand scheme of things” happy-helpy bullshit because 44 is 44.
With my health, it’s probably closer to 64.
What I’m here to talk about today is goals unfulfilled—what to do about them, if anything, and what to do about my perception of them.
Growing up Lower Middle Trash, we didn’t have goals.
None of the kids in my family ever talked about what they were going to do when they grew up. My parents didn’t push us to excel in school. And no one left home to go to university.
True, two of my five brothers are currently enrolled in college, and I think my sister may have gotten a degree some years ago, but that didn’t happen until looong after they were adults and moved away from home.
I’m not blaming my parents for my lack of ability to plan long-term or medium-term or even decide of a morning just what the fuck we’ll have for supper that night.
Dinner conversations go thusly:
“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
“Whatever sounds good to you.”
“How about pizza?”
“OK. Then what do you want?”
“Anything is fine by me.”
“How about divorce? Does that sound good for dinner?”
“I hate you!”
“Not as much as I hate you!!!”
That’s the real Hunger Games—trying to figure out supper without one of you being arrested for domestic violence.
I think it was John Waters who said, once you turn 30, you have to stop blaming your mom and dad for all your problems.
It’s good advice.
Having left home when I was 19, I’ve now lived on my own for longer than I lived with them.
So, what have I accomplished?
I tried thinking of something productive—other than working my day job—I’ve done that amounts to anything.
No one is beloved and remembered for generations because they got up and did their job every day.
It’s like that line from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The daughter says the dad worked really hard, to which the grandpa replies, “So do washing machines.”
I cite that quote a lot but it’s worth remembering. Because working hard at something doesn’t necessarily mean it has value.
Forty-four years old.
Jesus Fucking Christ.
I should have a novel published by now. I should have published three novels by now.
Should have lost this extra 150 lbs and gotten a tan and learned Spanish and Russian like I wanted to.
I should have ridden a motorcycle from Michigan to Las Vegas and back when I turned 40, like me and a high school friend promised we would.
Should have talked to my kids more and kissed my wife more and told everyone I love them.
Should’ve gotten that Vincent Price tattoo and punched Jimmy Falon in the face and tried the Mentos & Coke experiment.
I should have been more conscientious about wiping my ass and keeping my hummocks of books and notepads and literary magazines stacked neatly in my corner of the bedroom.
I should have eaten more broccoli and less Taco Bell.
I should have called everybody on their birthdays and holidays and listened to them tell their awful stories about their terrible kids and spouses and jobs and pretended I gave a shit like you’re supposed to do.
But here I am, self-proclaimed editor of a little weekly newspaper, sitting on four unpublished novels and a mountain of shitty poetry I haven’t had the balls to send out to agents. OK, I recently queried a couple-three literary agencies but it’s been radio silence.
If someone ever wrote the story of my life, it would be entitled “Too Little, Too Late – The Ben Gohs Story.”
Of course, no one is ever going to write my life story because … who gives a shit?
And what’s the only thing worse than regret for all the things you haven’t done?
Feeling sorry for yourself about it.
I’d like to say I’m going to run out and do all the things that need doing; to have a “Yes Year” where I try all the things and don’t let the fear stop me and suddenly I’ll have all these epiphanies and life-altering experiences … but that just scares the shit out of me.
And, so, instead of swimming with the dolphins and jumping out of a plane and masturbating in the Himalayas with a monk who likes to watch fat middle-aged white guys abuse themselves at high altitude, I’m going to wrap myself in a fine polyester cocoon of worry, sadness, and shame.
Why polyester? Good question.
The one thing I will do in 2019 is to keep on writing.
I don’t have any self-aggrandizing explanation for why it makes me feel better. I just know that it’s one of the few things in my life that makes any sense. And, it’s one of the few things I can do by myself that doesn’t make me feel like a terrible human being.
Here’s to another 44 years of life on planet Earth!