When The Atlantic suggested I write an overly long rambling and egotistical whine about my experience of life, I was momentarily worried that maybe I didn’t really have a story to tell, that other voices were more important and had more to offer. But then I remembered that I hung around with the right circle of people and had written a few vague articles online about this and that – besides, maybe I do have something to say that hadn’t been said thousands of times in puff pieces in newspapers and magazines stretching back through decades, centuries even. I could get over my false hesitation and try out some spurious humility. Grow myself in public.
I bet you don’t know what it’s like to be a middle aged white male with a well paying academic job that’s pretty much based around your hobbies and interests. If you do then surely I can come up with some petty reason for being a unique snowflake. I might even discover some vague and mysterious spectrum disorder that no one has heard of before, but think they might have it too, so they project their self pity onto me. Scientists have been working on this for some time, but so far the news has been scanty and disappointing seeing as I haven’t asked anyone about it.
My childhood looked normal from the outside. If you had been me at the time you would have seen it for what it really was – completely normal. I had a pet turtle die once. I found it belly up behind the heater in the dining room. That was a trauma that put me in a very dark place until I got another turtle. It died too but by that time I had discovered than I was a teen and it was time to really be a teen, in each and every way actualising this part of my life to the point of using italics.
Later I would look back and think, ‘Oh My God!’ about some of the teen things I did! But that’s nothing compared to my experience as a young adult. Sometimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs I would wonder about the universe, how it related to us poor ants crawling across the surface of the blue sphere we call home. Did it feel sorry for us? I had trouble with the alcohol and drugs, sometimes they seemed too good, too easy and I was troubled to think I might end up an addict but I didn’t.
The words are beginning to flow easier now I’ve revealed something about myself – I’ve been typing for at least ten minutes without pause, letting it all out and sharing my true inner feelings with you, the people that read The Atlantic. I’m older now, and a lot wiser. I see things more clearly. I’ve almost become the character that Morgan Freeman plays in films. Whereas one time in my life it was all win and push, push and win, these days I have a nuanced view of life, giving and sharing. Oh good that’s 500 words so I can wrap up soon.
This is the bit where I give you some of that wisdom I’ve been banking throughout my extraordinary life. One day you will die and before that time you really must do all the things that you said you would do. Be nice to people because they will like you and maybe you too can get to share your ideas on TED or some listicle. Live outside the usual but not so far that you actually have to risk things. Don’t waddle when you could run. Eat your greens, be green, but not in business because there are wolves who eat greens too!
Atlantic Guest Writer #8190