Youth is Wasted on the Young

I’m almost 38 which is almost 40. The thought bothers me a lot more than I thought it would. I wasn’t bothered by 30. I’ve never wanted to repeat my teen years. I don’t tend to be nostalgic or even particularly sentimental. I don’t fear death. Either we go on after death or we don’t, and there’s no fear for me in the thought of simply disappearing from existence. (The idea of eternity? That used to scare me. Probably in part due to the song Amazing Grace, because spending ten thousand years singing praise to God sounded unendurably boring.)

It’s life that scares me. It’s knowing that I have spent such a large chunk of my life – the time when I would have had the most energy and health – pursuing a life I hated because I believed that was the life God wanted me to have. It’s wondering if I’ll ever have the chance to realize any of the dreams I set aside because I thought they were selfish and would get in the way of doing what God wanted me to do.

With my brain in the shape it is now, I wonder if I’ll even be able to draw pleasure from the fulfillment of desires and ambition. I used to crave travel and new places so much that staying in one place for too long made my soul hurt. Now I wonder if I traveled if I’d spend the whole time being an anxious, depressed wreck. I hope not.

When I read about successful authors that I love I’m wildly jealous. I want to be the one finishing my book in an old, cold house in Iceland. I want to be the one hearing from people that my work has been personally meaningful to them. I want to be holding a hardcover in my hand that has my name – or some version thereof – on the front. When I see the success of authors that are less interesting and less talented than I am* I feel resentful of the circumstances that helped them reach success.

Successful authors hold dreams in their hands that look very much like my dreams, and my dreams were ground into the dust of a life chosen because of religious indoctrination. I’m grateful to have finally shed the religious indoctrination but the time lost will always be lost. The impact of my choices remains. I’m tired. When I spend too much time thinking about it I devolve into angry mental flailing.

I still write, though. Writing is a compulsion. Success is the dream.

*I know it sounds egotistical to point out that published authors are less interesting and less talented than I am. E.L. James is a terrible writer. 19 year old Christopher Paolini was a terrible writer (I haven’t read any of his recent works so maybe he’s improved with practice.) I can see the talent in my own efforts, much as I could see the talent I had for art. I know I’m no Tolkien, Beagle, Le Guin or McKinley. I’m good enough, though, and I’ll get better.

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