Drunken lamentations of a 34 year old failure.
April 13, 2010. 3:37 am. I’ve been drinking. Fair warning.
Today is my birthday. I’m 34 years old. It’s hard for me to even say that. I wanted to be 12 forever. I have hated my birthday for years, because with each one that passes I have fewer and fewer excuses for myself, for who I am, how I think and feel, and where I am in life, without drawing the inevitable conclusion written in bold in this piece’s title. Every year I try to make some excuse as to how that particular year really isn’t THAT old, that I still have time left, things could still happen in my life. But this year, I can’t pull off even that small glimmer of hope.
When I was younger (not yesterday younger, like childhood-younger), I was often told that I had this immense potential, that I could have whatever I wanted if I would only apply myself. These conclusions were drawn from standardized testing, IQ tests, counseling sessions, all from adults that knew better than me. Knew that I had some sort of crazy hidden powers that would propel me to some level of success that they themselves had not the tools to achieve.
My poor mother believed it. She bankrupted herself to put me through one of the best private schools in the Philadelphia area, though I helped by earning an academic scholarship from the entrance exam. “If you do well at the Prep,” she’d say, “you can write your own ticket. Go anywhere, do anything.”
I had no interest in school. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the art class, but I skated through on a “C” average, every year my scholarship was in jeopardy. I’d make a push for the first semester to get them off my back, then skate for the rest of the year until I inevitably hit summer school for french, math, science or latin.
One teacher’s words still resonate with me, and it wasn’t something he told me. In a parent-teacher conference, he said to my mother, “I’ve know a lot of [Incapable Wrecked-Um]s in my time, and eventually, they all grow up.” Mr. Jerry Taylor said that. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was my history or goverment teacher, I don’t remember which. He had this quiet, comfortable demeanor. He was supportive but not overbearing, and rarely yelled at his class. He was one of the few, maybe the only teacher, that I hoped to one day look back upon and say that I proved him right.
But, as of today, I don’t think I can do so without snickering, or blubbering out a moist, snot-filled sob. My college hopes were dashed in a long story around a Philly area art school I had hoped to go to, but circumstances arose that prevented that. Yeah, all that acedemic potential and Jesuit teaching and I wanted to be an artist. My mother and sister had found careers in law, so my mother’s attitude about a future in art wasn’t congratulatory. Don’t get me wrong, she supported my talents wherever they manifested, but of the particular school I hoped to attend, she would say, “We have two people at the firm who went to [insert big ass Philly art school’s name here], one is a receptionist that schedules conference rooms, the other is a janitor.” But, when the time came to fight, she was on my side, calling lawyers and yelling at admissions personnel. In the end, the school offered a solution that was so complex and convoluted, I just gave up. It was the first of many times that i just felt beaten, and didn’t have the energy to move forward. It isn’t a personality trait I enjoy, but I have yet to be able to surpass it. I’ve lost opportunities, relationships, jobs, all because I was more willing to just say “Fuck it.” and watch cartoons instead. I cling to my pre-teenage past like a drowning victim to a deflated life preserver. My hobbies surround me with artifacts and memories of my childhood. No matter how I wish that things had gone differently, that I had made some change in myself that would allow me to move forward, beyond the rut I have been digging for the past 16 years, I can’t muster the energy even now, I can’t let go of the things that I love, that link me to that better time when responsibilities were less important than ingenuities, when pretending I was some fucking super heroic soldier saving the day from an alien murdering innocents mattered more than getting the fucking mortgage paid. To again invoke Mr. Taylor, I haven’t grown up, and I don’t think I can.
So, I face the man I am, and count my blessings. I’m a 34 year old, high school educated, bald overweight male, with shitty credit, who owes more money to his friends and family than he will ever be able to pay back. I’m the son of two alcoholics and, more than likely, have my own drinking problem that I have only been able to stave off with a bizarre combination of denial and self-awareness. I have a wonderful wife that loves me for the failure that I am, and is bearing out first child within the next 2 months. A child that I will shower with love and devotion, but little else. I cannot even provide her as much as I had growing up, because while my mother worked, fought, and sacrificed for her children, I feel like my own fight has left me. My Irish heart has lost it’s fire. I pray for the days that I can sit back and just watch things go my own way, a dream by all definitions. I don’t want to be a millionaire, I don’t want an “easy” life, I just don’t want to struggle. By all accounts, that is asking too much. I want the bills paid, my wife happy, my child provided for, and I want these things to come without the level of stress that leaves me reaching for a bottle of vodka to numb it all up so I can deal and move in some semblance of “forward”. I’m beyond hoping for success to come crashing upon my ordinary head, and how can I expect such a thing anyway when I’m unwilling to work for it? So, perhaps not success, not even forward, maybe just “even”. Let the bullshit come and go, so long as I can watch cartoons and be a non-grown up, paying the bills without resorting to sucking cock for nickels on the corner, making my wife happy and raising a child that I can only hope has a little more drive and determination than I can find. And reaching for the bottle when it is wanted, not needed.
One PepsiMax and 3 oz. of Smirnoff 100 proof down…..Many more to go.