(Thought Catalog is going to publish an e-book of my various articles. What follows is a prologue for the e-book)
At a wedding reception a few weeks ago, I decided to approach the DJ.
“Do you take requests?” I asked.
“Of course,” he responded.
“That’s wonderful” I said. “Could you turn it down a bit?”
And all of the sudden, there it was- as plain as the prunes on my plate. Old man disease.
I’m trying my best to stem the tide of old manhood but it’s a pretty formidable sonofabitch. I’m not doing one arm pushups in front of a mirror at 24 Hour Fitness or driving a corvette or wearing skinny jeans. I don’t even have a 30 year old girl friend.
But I am doing something just as cringe-worthy. Giving advice. Lots of it.
This would be fine except for one small problem.
I really don’t know shit. And the older I get, the less I know. It gets worse every day. It seems I now only add to my list the things about which I know nothing.
I’m not sure why I have a compulsion to dispense advice. My Dad wasn’t, by any means, a man who ever donated his two cents on issues writ large.
He was pretty good at truncating one of my whiny jags with his “no-excuses” ideology.
When we lost the city football championship to St. Charles in eighth grade, I cried because our star player was out with an injury.
“If Ronnie Hughes played we would have won” I whimpered.
“If your aunt had balls she’d be your uncle” said my Dad channeling Yoda. This was his version of “Do or do not. There is no try.”
But when pressed with a difficult question about life or religion, he’d just give a shrug of his shoulders. It drove me crazy.
I thought this was supposed to get easier. Someone has the answer key to life, don’t they? The one that grades your paper, tells the unassailable truth, explains it all in black and white.
Because for me a constant grey keeps creeping in, pushing away the clear lines. And it’s harder to see where one color ends and another begins.
Is life just random, disordered chaos or a perfectly harmonious universe where everything happens as it was preordained? What about destiny? And war? And truth? And suffering? And the popularity of kale? I’m only certain that I don’t know.
Neither do you. You think you do but you confuse belief with fact, opinion with certitude.
You’ve found clarity in religion or math or the stars or booze but in the candid corners of your mind, the shadows of your thought, lurks doubt. If so, then congratulations because you are at least asking questions.
I don’t feel as though I’ve earned a single bit of respect, a modicum of a free pass just because I’ve reached a certain age. If I appear to address you from a lectern, rest assured it’s a wobbly pedestal.
The only thing I can offer is my own perspective, shaped by time and my unique experience. And a friendly reminder of the absurdity of life and it’s randomness and that it’s an incredibly short trip. The larger answers, such as they may be, are for you to figure out on your own.
My advice isn’t perfect. It’s not for everyone. It’s not one size fits all. It won’t chart your destiny. It won’t bend God’s will in your favor.
It is primarily designed to encourage you to get out of your own way, explore alternate views, embrace others. If any of it deters you from finding your own answers or asking your own questions, kindly disregard.
Because the shrugs from my Dad? Turns out he was right all along.