Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mortal thoughts

This past 6 months marked two significant milestones in my life: I turned 50, and my daughter turned 18. Even typing these sentences now results in a certain cognitive dissonance, or, to speak more plainly--a quiet little freakout.

I've mentioned this before, but I always remember reading an interview with Bruce Willis, as he became an "aging" action star, and he made a comment something along the lines of "In our minds, no matter how old we get, we always think of ourselves as 27." It's such a great quote. If you're younger than that, you can't possibly understand now. But when you get to be a half-century like me, you will. Though our bodies and metabolisms change - inevitably and unfortunately for the worse - our minds really never do. I'm just the same Jeff Green I was when I was in my 20s, in my own head. I still love music, games, books, movies with an insatiable passion. I'm still easily distracted, absent-minded, and lazy. I still love dogs more than people. I still love pizza and Snicker bars and nacho cheese Doritos. I still distrust all authority, and bristle with a natural instinct to rebel whenever it rears its head.

So this is how I feel, inside myself. I feel like that same guy. (Not emotionally, though--thank god. But that is a post for another day.) The problem is that on the outside, to other people, I'm a 50-year-old man. I don't mean this is a problem for all those other people, because, um, yeah, that's what I am. They are right. I am a 50-year-old man. The problem is that my own perception of what a 50-year-old man is supposed to be does not jibe with my own self-image. Call it reality distortion. Call it self-delusion. Call it - as many people have said of me - a refusal to grow up. Not gonna deny it. Because I honestly don't even know what that means. If there was supposed to be a switch that flipped, in which I suddenly feel like attending cocktail parties, discussing my stocks, listening to adult contemporary radio, and harrumphing about how much better things were when I was a boy, well, then I short-circuited somehow. All that stuff feels like it's still 30 years away for me. At least.

I'm giving superficial examples, I know. And in terms of basic responsibility of adulthood, I do like to think of myself as at least somewhat of a grownup. I've held a full-time job steadily, and with increasing responsibility, ever since graduating college. I'm a husband and father. I try to do my best at all three of those things every day. The mistakes and failure on all those fronts are constant, as they are with anyone who isn't kidding themselves, but I do like to think of myself as hanging in there and trying and learning, as best as I can.

What I really mean, I guess, is the weird dissonance I feel when I sense the way people - especially people I'm just meeting, strangers, random encounters - are looking at me or treating me. When, for instance, did I become "sir?" When did I become "the old man of gaming?" When - and boy, this is a tough one - did I switch from being someone that at least the occasional woman - if they were desperate and perhaps a bit nearsighted - might have found somewhat marginally appealing to, instead, someone who reminds them of their father? I know I look like a middle-aged man. I know I am a middle-aged man. I just don't feel like a middle-aged man. And I guess part of me doesn't want to be one, wants to rewind the clock, wants to have a second-chance to do it all over again, but better and smarter and more successfully. I'm simply unable to parse or accept that so much time has slipped away, that over half my life is over, and that what I am in now is an undeniable, unpreventable period of decline. (And, boy, that sure makes me unique, huh!)

Of course, one doesn't simply give up. One doesn't just say "it's over" and go sit on the rocking chair until death. I have so much I want to do and accomplish and see and experience that I'd need multiple lifetimes to get through it all. (At the very least, I really need to catch up on Dr. Who.) And I think that's the hardest part of all of this, the crux of the matter of these milestones in my life. For the first time, I've been seriously confronted, in a real and palpable way, with my own mortality, with the harsh reality that I am just not going to get to it all, and that if I really want to actually reach some of these goals, well, I better hurry the hell up.

So I'm going to get right to it. Right after this nap.


Unknown said...

I'm about to turn 29 and about to have a baby in 3 months. In some ways, I've for that magic switch that will make me a grown up. Can't find it. I'll just have to continue being a fun loving, game playing college professor for the time being. I think my daughter will like me more that way.

Neil said...

I will be 37 in a few months, happily married and have a 5 and 1 year old. As far as I can tell there is no switch, just gradual increasing responsibility as time goes on. I can also tell you I've been able to maintain my love of games, movies, and tv ( reading has been relegated to when I am traveling). I'm not sure what I expected life to be like at my age, but it's pretty different from what my parents seemed like.

Grapentine said...

Turning 28 in March.

It's funny to think that somebody out there back in the 1800's, the 1300's or even 900AD probably had the same thoughts about their own mortality at some point in their lives. Most of us look back upon the history of human beings over the past 20 century's as if it were almost a work of fiction, like a fairy tale or a series of Disney films. But those times just like today were very real. They came and went, just like the 60's 70's 80's and 90's have come and gone. Someday in the future, (if we make it that far) our ancestors will be looking back from the year 2399, a time that to them will seem impossibly far in the past, much like 1685 seems to us.
2012, the time of Jeff Green and the Cudgel of Xanthor will be as far in the past to the people in 2399 as Galileo is to us today.

Isaac said...

Great post!

Pierce Hacquard said...

Skip Dr. Who. A lot of artists, composers, writers came up with their best work after their 50s and beyond. Far from over, I expect life feels better as you grow older.

And don't worry, plenty of chicks have that "older man" sexual inclination. Might not be the attention you want, but that appeal is still there.

M. Harville said...

I'm turning 38 in August and have my first child on the way a month after. I'm about to get married...again. I have a seemingly neverending stack of games and books I suspect I'll never finish, but that's a good thing, I guess. I play guitar, want to form another band, and have yet to pick up my trumpet and re-learn it.

Don't skip Dr. Who, though. When I look back over the last twenty years, I can't think of much I'd change. I'd definitely play as many games as before. I think we're not truly "old" until we give up on having fun.

Ally said...

As with most of these comments I shall begin by stating my age. I'm 22. I've been a fan of yours since your days at 1up and you seem to epitomise what I hope to happen to me in the years to come. You have grown up to have many responsibilities such as a wife, a child and from what I see a successful career but you haven't "matured". You maintain a silly sense of humour and enjoy the things that some more serious people deem past your age. Which is wonderful thing.

Keep up the good work.

Rob Clark said...

Hey, I remember reading your back page articles in an actual paper copy of Computer Gaming World. They were quite funny. I also remember when you took over as editor in chief (from Johnny Wilson?). I'm not nearly as old as you (I'm 42) and women still do look at me longingly (except when I have too much Cheetos dust at the corner of my mouth). In any case, you article struck a chord with me. Unfortunately at 42 I still don't know what the heck I want to do (after being a software developer). I hope in 8 years I can figure it out.

M. Harville said...

Yeah, those columns you did for CGW were freaking hilarious. Please don't stop writing.

Damian Iordanov said...

Wow Jeff. That was one of the most moving articles that I've possibly ever read. I turn 21 this year and I remember back when I was reading your articles in CGW. I have every single issue of GFW. Those magazines and your writing got me through some times and I'd just like to thank you because if it weren't for you my writing would undoubtedly be way less humorous and different. I definitely get feelings of feeling older as you look back on your life too and I'm only 21! I guess great minds think alike. As I grew older I started to wander away from the Gaming media (and even gaming itself) for better pursuits such as women etc. Your name came to my mind randomly as I was watching a clip of X-play and I thought I'd see if you were keeping up the good work! 100/100 Thanks... Damian

blinky said...

Hi Jeff, only have a short comment to say that I just stumbled upon your blog years after last listening to the GFW Radio podcasts and I am very glad to see that you haven't disappeared. Thank you for all the fun and insight- I'll be following your blog from now on.

Anonymous said...

I am not on twitter, and you are not on facebook, so this is my only means of communicating with you.

Today I got the Comedy Button podcast, which is the Brodeo reunited. And I didn't believe it at first, until I pressed play.

It's true.

You've renewed my faith in the world, sir. Which had been dashed earlier this week when I completed Mass Effect 3.

But all is right, now.

And I am delighted you all decided to do it this way, instead of a reunion panel at some show. This is more intimate, and more the way it used to be.

ATF487 said...

Jeff, I am a child by comparison (22) but I've always hoped that when I turned 50, it'd be like this:

Anonymous said...

I feel somewhat the same, but my only motivation is to not do anything. Also if you've spent any amount of time in the hospital then your mortality will bitch slap you.

Loved you on GB's podcast btw. G'damn hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever owned "The Lost World" by A. Conan Doyle? I got a book signed "Jeff Green" last month and I think it might have been yours some time ago.

Nalu Rash said...

Hey Jeff,

Are you doing any more podcasts? I've been listening to rerun's of GFW radio from 2007. You probably get this question a ton, so I understand if you don't bother to answer. But I'm from Hawaii, and that's gotta count for something.