06 Apr 2015

this is 39: the year you no longer give a fuck

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

My life, which exists mostly in the memories of the people I’ve known, is deteriorating at the rate of physiological decay. A color, a sensation, the way someone said a single world–soon it will all be gone. In a hundred and fifty years no one alive will ever have known me. –From Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Over dinner I remind my friend Liz that we’ve known one another for half our lives. We were young, wide-eyed, scrubbed clean. We once hatched plans to live in the city after college, and I saw those plans wither as she returned to Connecticut for law school and I made my way around Manhattan, alone, filling myself with drink and stories. But here we are, older, scrubbed honest–we are our most compassionate selves, and it feels like a privilege to carry the weight and potency of the years on our backs. It occurs to me that Liz knows me longer than anyone, save my father. We’ve grown into adults, apart and sometimes together, and it’s been awe-inspiring to watch our respective bloom.

Much of our conversation over the weekend centered around time–how we have so little of it, how it’s imperative that we don’t squander it, and the knowledge that all roads inevitably lead to zeo predicates how we live. We shape our lives around time because there was a moment when we felt infinite, and as the days pressed on the finite revealed itself in degrees. I like to think Liz understood the weight of her mortality when she had children (although I can’t be certain since I never asked but can only assume). While mortality is vivid, omnipresent because I fear the moment when I’ll lay dying.

This knowledge (or fear, as honesty will have it) makes life clear in the way it hadn’t previously. When you’re at the midpoint of your life you tend to focus on bringing presence and meaning to the hours. You don’t consider what you’ve lost, rather you focus on minimizing the bloodletting; you think about the joy, love and wisdom that’s left. You wonder how you can imbue your days with meaning. You care less about noise, the superfluous.

You start to give fewer fucks.

I suppose it’s fashionable to pen lists of things you’ve learned by a certain defined age (30 seems popular), however, I think learning is continuous–we’re always students, sometimes guides or teachers, but mostly we’re here to learn. For me, age is about letting some of the noise dissipate. Age is about shedding that which is unnecessary. For me, 39, right now, is about giving fewer fucks. For example:

You don’t like me; I don’t need my phone list to resemble The Yellow Pages: When I was in my 20s I wanted the whole of the world to like, no, love me. I vivisected conversations, scenarios, and encounters much like how a doctor would attend to life-saving cardiac surgery. When I was younger I believed in the power of quantity over quantity, and the more people who attended my parties, the more people who attended the readings I hosted, the more people I could program in my phone, the better. Never did I equate the fact that the amount of alcohol I consumed was in direct correlation to the amount of people who orbited my life. Never did I consider that being surrounded by people–making sure I always had a drinks plan, a movie plan, a book party plan, a stay-at-home-and-faux-relax-with-ten-friends plan–exhausted me.

I didn’t realize that I was an introvert until I was 37. I stopped caring what people thought about me around the same time. I have a specific sense of humor (dark, sarcastic, and biting at times) and management style (I’ve a low threshold for bullshit, entitlement, laziness, complacency and stupidity; I don’t do office/friend politicking, etc), and I know I’m not for everyone. I realize that some people might think me intense, others might consider me aloof. Do I care? Yes, to a certain extent–especially if I know I’m making a bad first impression on someone whom I care about. However, in the grand scheme of things I’m not changing the core of who I am, so if people can’t roll with my style I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I’m more interested in finding my tribe–people who challenge me–rather than surround myself with people who are intent on changing me. Big difference.

At the end of the day, my people love me–flaws and all. When you get older you winnow down the phone book to those who are necessary, those whom you need and love.

“Eventually I confess to a friend some details about my weeping—its intensity, its frequency. She says (kindly) that she thinks we sometimes weep in front of a mirror not to inflame self-pity, but because we want to feel witnessed in our despair. (Can a reflection be a witness? Can one pass oneself the sponge wet with vinegar from a reed?)” ― Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Want to know a secret? This is the moment when you break down the doors and all the mothballs flutter out. This is the time when you finally, finally, let the right ones in. All the way. This is the time when you no longer wince when someone draws you closer. You allow yourself to cry the tears you’ve been holding back–you are a river and you are fine. You lay your greatest hand on the table, your heart. You feel safe; you tell your friends this: you’re home to me.

Sometimes you stumble backward. Sometimes you revert to old habits. But this is life, and at 39 you acknowledge this too.

You’re, like, really important or something: Why is it that people think I care about how important they are? Do I care that you’ve made it on a list defined by accomplishments by a certain arbitrary age? Do I care that your book was published in 23 countries and an A-list actress X will play you in the film adaptation of your life? Do I care that you’re a blogger who gets paid six figures to sell pieces of yourself to the highest bidder? Consider me a headliner at The Fresh out of Fucks Tour 2015 because I don’t care about your verbal CV or all the finery you wear on your sleeve.

I care that you’re a person with integrity. You’re not some cretin who disposes of your friends when they no longer suit you. But mainly I care about the fact that I’m not occupying space with an asshole.

The people who inhabit my life are the kind of people I want to invite in my home and with whom I want to share a meal. They’re the kind of people who would lay down their heart for you. They’re the kind of people who will carry you through the dark instead of affixing bandaids over your mouth and skin. I’m impressed by the content and quality of your character, not the length of your CV.

I’m no longer a size 0: Being an integer was fun for a total of five minutes, and then I became that annoying girl in the dressing room who whined about the tragedy of clothing stories failing to stock sizes less than zero (these were the halcyon days before the 00). I was also a functioning alcoholic recovering from a cocaine addiction so I was clearly not living my best life although the media would have you believe I was based on my dress size.

After waging an outright war on my body for nearly two decades, I finally have become comfortable in my own skin. I no longer talk about “earning” the right to eat. I no longer fixate on working out as a means to eat, rather I focus on filling my body with good food so I can live, perform my best when I hit the gym.

I look at photographs of myself in my 20s and it takes everything in me not to cry. You should know that it takes a lot for me to waver, break, but I wish I could hurtle through time, sky and space, and hold my younger self close, bury my face in her hair and tell her that she is so fucking beautiful. You know that, right? You’re beautiful as you are, as the world meant for you to be. You know that beauty isn’t just about whittling down to a bone, right? You know it’s about how you write, love, and breathe.

Lately I care more about running up flights of stairs, breathless. I care about being strong. I care about nourishing my body with the good stuff and some of the not-so-good stuff because I have this one life and am I going to spend it grabbing at flesh and punishing it?

Where does a number get you? Does it inch you further along your journey to fine? Or is it really a shackle, a self-imposed prison where the wardens are endless rides on a spin bike and grating your teeth through green juices and undressed salads?

Stupid people, drama, stupid dramas: There was a time that I reveled in the telenovela–I lived for the drama, drinks thrown, and intrigue because it all made for a good story. However, I’m now at the point in my life where I’ve been through war and dressed the wounds; I’ve a great deal of stories, and now I care about living a good life.

“Before I took to the road, a friend tried to get me to go to a department store with him. He said it was to improve the place where I lived. He said,” I want to know you are reading beneath this lamp. ” This fellow was dying. He knew it and I did not. I think he was tucking me in. He was making sure all of his friends had the right lamps, the comfiest pillows, the softest sheets. He was tucking us all in for the night.” ― Amy Hempel, The Collected Stories

It occurs to me that the older I get the more I see people die. A good friend of mine, who was the first person to really be a friend through my alcoholism, died of cancer a few years ago. Two friends of mine died in their early 20s. An acquaintance I knew, a glinting literary light, committed suicide. Time takes it all, washes it away, and what you have left are the hours. So when you think about the fact that every day forward is a march closer to the grave, you start to think about the quality of your days and who occupies them.

I used to be friends with really shitty people. Catty women who clawed and conspired. People who were covered, head-to-toe, in issues. I used to love men who were incapable of loving me in the way I deserved. And while this is life and there are times when my dearest friends will experience periods of darkness and heartbreaks, I no longer have time or energy for people who are less than extraordinary. I no longer have patience for people who refuse to tend to their hearts like a well-desired harvest. What I don’t have time for? People who put themselves on the road to ruin and like it. People who act as if these are the last days of disco. People who connive and scheme.

I have a cat. I sometimes fall asleep at 9:30PM. I don’t have the time.

0 Comments

  1. Laurel wrote:

    It’s all about the tribe!

    Posted on 4.6.15 · Reply to comment
  2. You are brilliant!

    Posted on 4.6.15 · Reply to comment
  3. Wow! I hear ya & feel ya!

    Posted on 4.6.15 · Reply to comment
  4. Yes!!! Also best blog post title I’ve read all year.

    Posted on 4.6.15 · Reply to comment
  5. Laura Kate wrote:

    As I turn around to the home straight of 37 this month, I enjoyed every word. You’ve spoken for many of us with a story to tell and wisdom to appreciate the journey.
    I’m happy about this birthday. Im still going to get my roots done though before the birthday lands. #stillcareabit #birthdayhaircut

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  6. Sophie wrote:

    I feel like I can relate to a lot of things in this post! This in turn inspires me to hope that one day I won’t care about all the unneccessary stuff as much either.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  7. petra wrote:

    great post. and what I liked best was that you actually went a step back and said giving a fuck less often instead of no longer giving a fuck. the latter a tad too extreme for my taste. at any age. getting older is a lot about seeing shades of grey where previously we saw only black and white. unfortunately, a lot of people never get there and only turn bitter, still seeing the world in good, bad, fair and [most frequently] unfair.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  8. penepicure wrote:

    I subscribed to this blog a few months back and honestly I have never actually read one of the full posts that I’ve been alerted to (wishing I had) Except this one. This post gives feeling and thought to a 32 year old on a journey to be a better version of myself. With the kind of thought put across here I feel like I can skip a few years mentally in realising the important things and focusing on life as it should be, not as its supposed to be. Cheers girl, well put!

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  9. awax1217 wrote:

    Actually you start to see things in a different light. Maybe it is the cataracts. I am sixty nine, no pun intended. I look at my Grandchildren and see smiles and that is important. The television and movies lose out. Baseball is a flop. But smiles are a plus.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  10. I think life is this long process of developing true self worth and becoming the most yourself possible. P.S..Although..I’m not quite ready to stop grating my teeth through horrendous tasting green juices :)..Excellent post.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  11. Some days, it’s harder to not give a fuck than others. Yesterday was one, and I know there will be others. But on those days, I’m coming back to this post. Bravo – so on point. Your journey inspires me.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  12. Yes-so true! I love that it’s okay now to be an introvert and embrace it:)

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  13. glenda1203 wrote:

    Yes! To all of this!!! It comes with age and wisdom, although some never reach it “the not give a fuck” attitude. Life is short to sweat the bullshit! Great post all around!!!

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  14. ha! I must have matured early? I think I was about 36 when I stopped worrying about everyone’s opinion!

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  15. I am only 20, soon 21. Is it strange that I am here in this place with you [for the most part] already? My peers are not, and that feels lonely, but it is very wonderful to read your words and know that even if I feel lonely, I am not alone.
    “Consider me a headliner at The Fresh out of Fucks Tour 2015” — thank you for this, especially.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
    • I think that’s extraordinary, Kelsi. You’ll find your tribe. Don’t focus on the age, focus on the energy and the people who bring you up.

      Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  16. Tam317 wrote:

    Love the last line.

    And the fucks continue to not be given into your 40s…

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  17. Chili Jess wrote:

    People usually do not like to think that they’re introvert, so they push away their real self and get used and tired. Even if it took long, realizing and accepting that in you must have been a relief.
    “We have to dare to be ourselves however frightening and strange this self might be” – May Sarton
    I wish you many years left to no longer give a fuck.

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  18. Roxanne | The Lemon And Jar wrote:

    As someone who is currently in their 20s, you’ve inspired me!! It’s so true what you say. Life is too short to waste it.

    Preach it, sister.
    Thelemonandjar.com

    Posted on 4.7.15 · Reply to comment
  19. misenplacememoir wrote:

    And when you’re 54, 39 will seem oh, so poignant and giving a fuck won’t even be a thing any more… keep on the good road.

    Posted on 4.8.15 · Reply to comment
  20. egeedee wrote:

    You make me want to be 39! Even though I’m not there yet, I somehow feel like this is how I’ll be.

    Posted on 4.9.15 · Reply to comment
  21. Jen Angotti wrote:

    This is post resonates. It’s a struggle not to care what people think because women are taught to please and to be liked. When you don’t travel that road, you’re “intense” or “aloof” or a “bitch”. Those labels bore me and really, I just don’t give a fuck. Well said, as always.

    Posted on 4.9.15 · Reply to comment

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“If I had my way, I’d never leave my house. My home is small, and I know every inch of it. An 800-square foot box with two windows, walls, and a doorbell that plays instrumental Julio Iglesias. Half the rooms are cloaked in effulgent light and the other a cool charcoal black. I’ve become fluent at oscillating between the two. I don’t even love the space in which I live, but I’m hard-pressed to leave it.”
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Characters are delicious. When I was small, I didn’t have many friends, so I surrounded myself with books and my imagination. It’s a strange, magical thing to live your life inside your head, but this is what I did. Long, sultry summers formed a backdrop for one of the many worlds I’d created, complete with a cast of characters who felt so real you could touch them. This was more than inventing an imaginary friend or anthropomorphizing a stuffed bear; my characters were fully-formed people who had their own personalities, a particular way of talk, and facial features I’d cobbled together from television shows and magazines. They clasped pearls around their thin necks and wore sweaters and shoes made of silk and dyed blue. They were carriers of credit cards, plastic rectangular shapes I’d only seen on TV — a far cry from the crumpled bills and pennies we hoarded. My characters were breathing Frankensteins, only far less frightening. What made them real was they refused to follow a script — they rarely behaved the way I wanted them to.
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Denis Johnson once said that dialogue isn’t about what characters are saying, but what’s left unsaid. The leaner the dialogue, the bigger the bite. Darkness fell. The summer in 2005 was unseasonably chilly, and we wrapped ourselves in light jackets and thin cotton sweaters, watching the author of Jesus’ Sonchain-smoke and dole out advice with humor and humility. We were at a writer’s conference where we workshopped our stories during the day and mingled with boldfaced names in the evening. This would be the summer before I sold my first book and I was floored that my teacher at the time, Nick Flynn, found something honest and worthy in my essays that would become my memoir, The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here. Back then, I was painfully shy and prone to giving violently awkward first impressions, so instead of the cocktails and conversation, I chose to sit on the wet grass and listen to writers whom I admired. One evening, Denis Johnson gave a talk on dialogue.
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Dialogue is difficult. I often think of it as the power-lifter of novel writing because it has to operate successfully on several different levels. Not only does it have to move the story forward, convey information quickly, and grant narrative breathing space (because who wants to plow through pages without an exhale), but it also has to reveal core character truths. Dialogue delivers what narrative can’t — a voyeuristic, in-depth look into the minds of characters through what they say, and more importantly, what they chose not to disclose. Characters come to life when they speak. We visualize them as living, breathing people who have a particular way of talk, a specific view of the world and their place in it. While the author has dominion over the narrative, serving as your tour guide through the story, the dialogue serves as the wild card, the wrench that could usurp everything you’ve just read and what you’re about to read.
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These podcasts invite guests who look and sound just like them. They regurgitate the same bullshit business advice that Seth Godin wrote a decade ago, and pithy platitudes because it got that influencer turned entrepreneur rich on Instagram, and now she sells courses for $600 a pop when she’s never done the thing she teaches for anyone other than herself. These people are so obsessed with building their brand that they forgot to be human.
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