A Part of the Equation

Lately, I’ve been questioning what’s expected of me at thirty-eight. What’s the norm for someone at my age? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I know what it’s like to be me, but is it because of my age or who I am?

As a kid, I recall attending my twenty-eight-year-old uncle getting married. It made an impression on me because there was an argument instigated by religion also, I remember thinking to myself, that must be the standard age for marriage. I had over a decade to go and it seemed so far away.

Twenty years later, I’m just a man sitting in a cafe, typing away, posting an entry on his sad little blog.

I believe our lives are all merely consequences of successful childbirth, with no inherent goals or objectives. If you want your life to have meaning, then you need to give it meaning. Life is your journey from the cradle to the grave.

You didn’t choose why, how, where, and when you were born, so no point fretting about that. You can’t choose your exit conditions either (to a certain extent, I’m aware of suicide but even those attempts can fail). Everything else in between is fair game. 

How you live it, and what you do during your time on this earth is up to you. Do you want to find the cure for cancer? Make that your goal. Do you want to tuck in your collared polos, wear socks with sandals, and strap a fanny pack across your chest? You can also make that your goal.

Every time I stop to think about how far I’ve come in life, I feel like I haven’t changed much. In my mind, I don’t feel too different from George a decade ago. It’s probably more obvious to the people around me.

My goals (or lack thereof) in life haven’t changed. Simply knowing that I don’t have to think about whether there’s food on the table or that I have a place to come home to is good enough. I don’t need much else in my life but ‘much’ is relative. Through the homeless’ eyes, I’m living the dream.

I’m not saying that the benchmark for living a good life is outdoing the homeless, but there’s nothing else I feel the need to accomplish. There are many things that I would like or want to have, but I can live without them.

The expectation for individuals to meet societal milestones based on age is arbitrary and often unrealistic. These pressures only serve to breed unhappiness. There’s no inherent obligation for anyone to adhere to these standards.

The only time I have to live up to or exceed expectations is at work. Because I’m contractually bound and a steady paycheck allows me to continue living happily.

Maybe because I am privileged enough, I can say these kinds of things. I was born and raised to thrive in an environment hospitable to the kind of person I am. But I’m doing what anybody in my situation would be doing – embracing it.

You know those uncles you see walking around malls with white-framed spectacles, funky haircuts, and loud clothing? The first thing that usually comes to mind is, why is that old person trying to be trendy? As someone who’s at that age, I’ve come to understand why. 

They don’t care about what other people think and I’ve started to relate. As long as my nipples aren’t showing and I’m comfortable, I’m good to go. We old folks are just wearing what we feel like wearing.

Also, what are thirty-eight-year-olds supposed to wear? Is there a handbook out there that I’m missing? Is someone going to tell me how to dress my age? Will I wake up one day with the desire to follow the universal uncle dress code? I think the uncle dress code is to not give a shit.

I still enjoy the same types of cartoons, games, movies, music, shows, books, comics, humor – that I started consuming over a decade ago and I don’t see that changing. What are old people supposed to like? News on TV, oldies, and all that shit we called boring when we were kids?

Am I suddenly supposed to like old people things? What are old people things? I’m old and I like pan mee and coffee. Does that make them old people food? Like some alternate-universe Midas, does everything I touch become old people things?

It dawned on me as I wrote this blog post that there’s no guidebook for being thirty-eight. I am who I am not solely because of my age but in spite of it. And as adults, some of us are in the same boat, figuring things out as we go.

Goals and dreams give life purpose, but they should be self-assigned. Do we need to aim for the stars? Perhaps sometimes, having our feet firmly on the ground is enough.

Less Calls, Replacements

How many times can I write about having terrible memory? I can’t remember and I’m not bothered to check. Is old age a valid excuse for not being as sharp as I once was? Maybe. Or have I been filling my head with important information that pushed out all my trivial thoughts? Unlikely.

I can still recite most of the lyrics to Stan or The Way I Am even though I haven’t purposely listened to the songs in ages. Those words remain etched in my brain. Why is it harder to remember the lyrics to songs I listen to now? Probably because I put in much less effort.

There are only so many things I want to spend brain power on these days and memorizing lyrics is not one of them. Also, it’s not a very useful skill – unless you perform covers for a living. The only time I find it useful these days is when I’m driving. I get to keep my eyes on the road.

I think memorizing lyrics was a product of the time – back then we didn’t have powerful computers in our pockets. We had to rely on magazine cutouts, album booklets, or transcribing songs on our own. Before I had a CD player or access to MP3s, I would patiently wait for a song to come on the radio so I could record it on a blank cassette.

Then I would play, rewind, and repeat the recording to my heart’s content. It allowed me to listen to songs until I could write down all the words. I have no idea when lyric websites started popping up, but that’s what I did back then. Shit was wild.

These days we just pull up Musixmatch/Genius on our phones. Are we too reliant on technology? Or just making the most of what’s available? I mean, what’s the point of people spending their lives researching and advancing technology if nobody fully utilizes it?

Imagine you work your whole life on something important and life-changing, but people decide not to use it because it makes them ‘lazy’. What would life be like without remote controls or escalators? Maybe we’d be really jacked as a society. Who am I kidding, we’d still find ways to be lazy.

Like the other day, before I left home, I put my wallet in another pocket of my pants instead of its usual spot. As I was walking out of my condominium, I felt different. I put my hand in my usual wallet pocket and noticed the wallet wasn’t there – it was sitting safely in my other pocket.

I was convinced that my wallet wasn’t with me. So I turned around, retraced my steps, went home, and searched for my wallet in my room. It wasn’t there. I started to panic. I looked in my bag, it wasn’t there. Maybe it was in my car, I thought. So I went back down to the car park.

Checked my car, and nope, it wasn’t there. Where could it be? I thought to myself. So I started patting my other pockets. Lo and behold, the wallet was sitting right where I had placed it earlier.

If I had examined all my pockets in the first place, I could have avoided the whole incident. There was no need to retrace my steps, search my room, and make myself panic. Was I so lazy that I couldn’t frisk my own pants before doing all those things? Also, why couldn’t I just recall where I had put the wallet? It was barely 10 minutes ago!

How many times can I write about having terrible memory? There’s a good reason calendar and reminder apps exist.

These Old Eyes

The other day I learned how much my eyes deteriorated again. I had taken off my blinkers for funsies and realized the words on my laptop display were a mess. It was a strange feeling.

For the past decade, I have never had any issues using a laptop without glasses. Sure, the text would be slightly blurry but I could still get things done. This time it was different.

I couldn’t decipher the text in front of me, which meant I couldn’t work. My laptop was at the usual distance away from me, approximately fifty centimeters. Regular brightness, standard resolution, etcetera. The only variable was my lack of spectacles.

Here’s an approximation of what I saw:

One hundred percent true

I promptly put my vision apparatus back onto my nose and there they remained until the end of the day. Of course, I removed them in the shower. I, too, worry about rust.

The incident opened my eyes to how damaged they were. It made me think about how I take my eyesight for granted. My silly brown irises.

I used to tell myself I didn’t need my optical equipment to survive. I had no issues driving without them, provided I didn’t need to follow signboards. I could read books, use the computer and go about my daily life with naked corneas.

What caused this disaster? Was it age? Bad habits? All those years of swimming without goggles? Who knows. Probably a combination of everything, like everything else in life. What I do know is that it’s an affliction I’ll have to spend the rest of my existence with.

I used to tell people, and I still do, that I wear goggles because they give my appearance character. And I look weird without them. That hasn’t changed, but I have one more reason to add to the list: I enjoy people mistaking me for a famous activist I can’t see well enough.