Sunday, November 28, 2010

wear sunscreen

recently, I was talking to a young person, a newbie college-student, and, for whatever condescending/parodic-paternal reasons, I had two pieces of hard-earned 24 year-old wisdom I wanted to impart:

-be an interesting person
-don't live for anyone else

"be an interesting person" is actually a piece of advice that came to mind years ago when I imagined what advice I'd give college students decades hence when I was a lauded veteran writer (of course, I didn't, and still don't, want to write anything -- just the perks please).

this first piece of advice I do try to live by, devoting significant efforts in reading, travel, and conversation (though never enough efforts as my psychic taskmaster would like). when my brother hectors me about squandering my energies and youth at TWTSNBN (theworksplacethatshallnotbenamed) or on quixotic fantasies of globe-spanning volunteer work, I remind him that I'm a smart person who has no intention of wasting my life, quite the opposite -- my aim is to get the most out of it.

but, on this journeying toward the contented, accomplished life, I have to know what my lodestars are and what I'm packing. and this is where the thoughts of others come into play, helping me choose the values to live by and the virtues to pursue and developing the faculties of sense, intellect, and emotion that ensure both that my particular journey is the right one and that I'll be best poised for the vagaries and vicissitudes of life that await me.

be interesting, for yourself first and then for others.

"don't live for anyone else" is something that came to mind the summer after my freshman year of college. it wasn't until my 19th year that I became interested in myself, my personality, in a critical/analytical way. it was a revelation, a summer of a-has and eurekas, where for the first time in my life I started to acknowledge and examine the unconscious and subconscious impulses and motivations of my psyche. it was liberating, a reclamation of some agency from the invisible hand of the past. I realized that I was living a life for others: for a father I was determined to be the opposite of, for a mother who wanted a wealthy son to take care of her, for jerks from high school (a successful/affluent life the consummation of my desires for vindictive triumph). unfortunately, I replaced my childhood others with new ones (better ones, no doubt) but there is more work that I need to do. it is a lifelong pursuit, anyway (there will always be others). as a New Yorker cartoon mused, "you're born, you deconstruct your childhood, and then you die."

find yourself and live for him. oh, and god.

oh, one more piece of advice: wear sunscreen