Next year I will be turning 35. It is a substantial age that I always pictured as not necessarily old, but definitely “adult”. I see many people my age comment on the internet that they’re “not good at adulting” or “being an adult is so hard”, and it is one of those revelations that the myriad of smokescreens that my parents and their contemporaries put up when I was a kid is fading away. All those times my dad was brave, I realize he was just as scared as I was. All those times my mom told me to “go look it up” as a response to my off the wall question, I realize that it was because she didn’t know the answer. The learned behaviors, both good and bad, of the adults around me, have taken root in my own behavior.
From the time I was 17, I began to accumulate debt. It was in the form of credit cards, then an incredibly irresponsible car loan, paying off tickets from driving like a reckless kid, racking up subsequent high car insurance costs, a refinanced car loan, a refinanced car loan, a refinanced car loan, another credit card, student loans, and then taxes.
The reason why I mention this financial stuff is that it has been an ongoing theme of my adult life. I’ve held off on taking any large risks because for a while I (felt I) was beholden to it. For the amount of money that I was paying each month, I could have had a much fancier car, or a much nicer apartment, had I not made reckless mistakes. For years, I felt like I couldn’t leave the job I was at. Working to get extra certifications was fruitless since the job market was terrible where I lived. I couldn’t go to school full time because I still had the debt to pay off and I didn’t want to accumulate any more. I couldn’t move to another city because I was stuck to my job and I had no money to save up. I couldn’t save up any money because whatever small amount I could get, I would either blow it on a party or whittle it down with restaurants. When I moved to Boston, I was paid incredibly low for the work I was providing. I re-ran the numbers after I left my first job up here and found that I was actually earning -$70 a month, for a year. This financial burden, to me, was a weight that could not be lifted. I couldn’t take any big risks because I didn’t want to make it worse.
I’ve always done creative things on the side, and fantasized a career in the arts (as evidenced by the writing being ingested, encoded, and stored by your brain right now). I had an interest in making music years ago, but “Florida is a cesspool for bands touring and for getting out of”. I had an interest in painting, but “couldn’t schmooze enough people in the art scene to make many friends”. I wanted to write, but “there was no literary scene to get into to get my name out”. I wanted to develop video games, but “couldn’t convince friends to help out”. I didn’t exercise because “I couldn’t afford a gym” and “only assholes go to the gym”.
All of these reasons were misguided excuses. They were symptoms of my risk aversion. All of them are still excuses that exist in small pockets. Over the years, I have (very slowly) worked to claw my way up the ladder towards more specialized technical skills, got a liberal arts degree after 14 years of off-and-on classes, and then made a couple work-related moves through great friendships to get a really great job; the one I have now. Then I worked to reduce my bills by selling my car and moving into a much cheaper apartment. I am at the point now where I can comfortably pay off my debts in a substantial manner while building good experience for a career. In the next year or so, I will be able to go back to school to get an advanced degree if I so choose.
These days, my debt is manageable. I live in an incredibly healthy city now and walk to work every day. The music, art, and video game development scene is healthy and vibrant here. The geographic location itself is wildly more advantageous than before.
For years, I’d been retracting into my excuses for inaction. I was resigned to my Sisyphean existence. Very few people around me were achieving remarkable success; most people were just coasting at their jobs or bounced around to all kinds of things, albeit doing well enough to have an established social scene. Even fewer people had actual careers. The excuses I gave myself and told others were easy to do and garnered sympathy. “Everything else” was to blame.
That time is essentially over, I realized recently. I have worked just hard enough to remove the “reasons” that I have hid behind for half of my life to describe my perceived “lack of success” and risk aversion. I’m at the age now where “I should know better”. My contemporaries are currently solidifying their life choices between careers, families, and poor choices like hard drugs and alcoholism.
While I definitely “know better”, there is a noticeable gap between knowledge and action. I have been in my “advantageous” situation for essentially 4 months now, and there is a creeping dread that has loomed in my soul during this time. It’s the culmination of realization. It’s the perceived adult that “has” to come out. The time is now to make heavy choices that will affect the next half of my life. The barriers have been lifted and, now, the only way I can fuck up is if I, Eram Socat, fuck up. No more environmental excuses. The blame can be squarely aimed without a shadow of a doubt. I will join my contemporaries in their steady paths, whichever direction they may go in. I’ve made some small inroads on video game development and even writing, but the yearning to retract into my shell is incredibly strong, even though a clear path to success is visible. The barriers are gone now. I’ve noticed this. I am aware of it. It is a distinct sapient feeling to know where the environment stops and I begin. I am discovering the true causes of my aversion.
It is terrifying.