Right, well, I hope none of you think I meant to take that article as gospel truth. I think we all know that most non-fiction writers (like those authors) have one of three agendas: to sell a book, to further their political ideology, or to bask in reflected glory. Many of the statements in that piece seem somewhat excruciating (especially the Muslim one) but… #7 hit a chord in me, which is why I did this:
I can only speak for myself, but I had to make a huge psychological break between the person I was before I began my family, and the person I am now. I’m pretty good at assuming the same attitude I had in 1997 (or 1987, for that matter) and thus I don’t have the wide-eyed creepy evangelism of the utterly converted, but I really couldn’t stand the way I behaved before the millennium.
As such, I had to change into someone who didn’t think he was going to live forever, didn’t want to have sex with everyone on the planet, and didn’t sink into a spiral of paralyzing depression during daylight hours. However, there was one thing from those years that remains invaluable: a burning, raging desire to create things that make an impression on people. I would call it “my art,” but that phrase makes me want to throw up on my laptop.
As hard as you try to fight it, there is something about getting married and having a child that necessarily changes you, unless you’re a runaway narcissist or an emotionally-shut-down wreck. This change is obvious to peers who don’t have kids, or younger friends who aren’t in that stage yet – to them, you go to BabyLand™ and cease being remotely interesting. I felt the same way when I was 25 and saw people have kids. I couldn’t fathom it.
While you can never quite resurrect the same symphony of ecstatic happenstance you experienced with your twentysomething friends, you can control one thing: how quickly you plan on aging emotionally. Our grandparents became 60 the moment they turned 30 – check out the beehive hairdos and horn-rimmed glasses – but we’ve got more tools at our disposal.
Whether you’re an “artist” or not, you can choose a way of living that nourishes itself on vitality rather than the easy sway of predictable manhood. You could, if you wanted to, gain another twenty pounds, get really addicted to primetime television, stop returning phone calls from old friends, stop playing sports, and start referring to yourself as “old”. Or you could do it differently.
I don’t pretend to speak for anybody, and god knows I’m no paragon of eternally-vibrant pixie chutzpah. I, too, feel the inexorable pull of “not giving a shit”, which is something I SWORE I’D NEVER DO. I had to give up all of my low-level addictions, whether through hangover or heartburn, and sometimes I can’t BELIEVE what my Saturday nights have turned into.
I can’t say “the birth of my first child” had everything to do with this relaxing of rage (in fact, our first real artistic success together happened only after Lucy was born) but I know this: if I ever allowed myself to settle into artistic or career complacency, I would be completely useless. I would have to start sniffing superglue to sedate my misery.
So I’m trying to do it differently. Lucy is a constant source of energy, not a depletion of it. The Jartacular in May is a pain in the ass to organize, but it is absolutely essential. We have our own Occam’s Razor: all things being equal, choose the most adventuresome option. And when I feel my thoughts slack into a double chin, I slap myself and get back to the inkwell glowing with lava.