Today is my birthday.
And it’s hard to say if it’s the normal ennui of getting older or that last night gave us one of the most boring Super Bowls in recent history or that one of the greatest actors of our lifetimes passed away due to an apparent drug overdose yesterday, but I have to be honest: I’m not feeling very festive.
I keep thinking back to the birthdays of my childhood. My grandmother would take me out to lunch, then let me go pick a Nintendo game from Toys R Us. My parents would organize these parties with all of my friends where we’d eat pizza and have tournaments in Tecmo Bowl or Blades of Steel. I’d eat Carvel ice cream cake. They were good times.
But then I start thinking about how that’s really part of the problem with my generation – our obsession with the past. We are overly nostalgic and it keeps us in this permanent state of arrested development. That’s why we keep getting new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Transformers movies. It’s why most romantic comedy feature a lost, unambitious male lead who is just waiting for a responsible, quirky female to come along and force him to grow up.
Looking at the past is still easier than looking at the present. These days, birthdays are more of a reminder of where I’m not than where I am. I thought by now I’d be a well-respected writer with a beloved novel or two under my belt. I figured I’d be married. Maybe even have a few kids. I’d live in a nice house with quirky neighbors. I’d sneak out to the garage to practice the guitar. From time to time, I’d have to hit the road for a few months on publicity tours.
Obviously, none of that happened. I’m single, broke and I never learned how to play the guitar. I haven’t even finished a novel, let alone published one. And no one is asking me to go out on HoboTrashcan publicity tours.
Sure, I’ve had some amazing experiences. Maybe more than others. I’ve had a few Almost Famous-esque experiences, meeting/interviewing Alison Brie and Matt Smith and Karen Gillan at live events. I’ve gotten to travel around the country covering the Redskins. I’ve interviewed countless celebrities on the phone, including my idols like Malcolm McDowell, Mick Foley and Kevin Conroy. It’s been a great ride.
Still, I find myself thinking more and more about Tyler Durden’s epic speech from Fight Club:
Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
So what is a man to do with all of this angst and untapped potential? I can’t help but think of another, more famous quote, this one from the poet Dylan Thomas:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So I’m putting the world on notice – 33 is going to be my best year ever. I’m making the world my bitch. I’m finally going to start chasing my dreams and being the person I’ve always believed I would turn into.
But first, I’m going to have some Carvel ice cream cake.
[Next week I promise to get back to bitching about Jesse Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor or morons freaking out over a multicultural Cocoa-Cola commercial, but I just had to get this out of my system. I’m fine. I promise.]
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.