You guys wouldn't have liked me very much when I was younger. Really, I was a whole different person. Long ago and far away, when I was, oh, about twenty-six, I had some very definitive ideas about the world. I had opinions, and by God, you had better listen to them because they were right. If you had different opinions, that was fine. You were entitled to them, just so long as you understood that they were completely wrong.
Time changes everything. These days, I don’t even know if I have opinions, much less if they’re right or not. I was in the Company Lunchroom a couple of weeks ago listening to a group of people shoot the breeze about Some Topic of Supreme Importance (I think it involved a heavy metal band) and someone asked me, “You’re pretty quiet. What do you think?” I said, “I don’t know. I guess I’d rather hear what other people think.”
Well, smack me upside the head. Are we sure that was me talking?
I realized not too long ago that I don’t yell at other drivers anymore. I stopped doing it at some point. You gotta understand here, I’ve been yelling at other drivers since I started driving a car. Usually it was not-terribly-polite commentary on their style of driving, their parentage, what they might and might not have lodged up their rectums and certain acts of intercourse they might wish to perform in the future. Then one day I stopped. Just stopped, and now I don’t do it anymore. I dunno if it’s the Buddhism or the Twelve Steps or what, but somehow some maturity has crept into my system. Only took forty-two years.
One of the things that annoyed me the most about a certain person that annoyed me at work was that she reminded me too much of myself. She was just like me when I was twenty-six, and I couldn’t talk to her or give her any advice because I remembered being twenty-six and how I would take no advice from anybody. So I didn’t even try, which was frustrating beyond all reason because I used to love giving advice as much as I used to love telling people what their opinions should be. But somehow I’ve stopped doing that, too. Giving advice, I mean. Well, I still do it once in a while. But not nearly as often as I used to when I was twenty-six.
Time changes everything.
Back about 2001, the Twin Towers were still standing and my mother-in-law was still alive and I went to see Warren Zevon on the opening date of a new tour in downtown San Diego. He had a new band and you could tell they were still working out the kinks with each other but sooner or later they were going to be great. It was just a question of when. I remembered happily noting that the band was going to be back in San Diego again on the second leg of the tour, and I put the date down in my date book (this was before BlackBerries) because I really wanted to see them again when they'd pulled it all together. I thought they would be fantastic. Then Warren got diagnosed with a rare, particularly lethal lung cancer, the tour was canceled, and I never saw the band again. And of course 9/11 happened and my mother-in-law died and Stuart killed himself and with all that going on who knows if I'd have ever gotten back there, but I like to think I would have. Because it would have been fantastic. Rest in peace, Warren.
When I was twenty-six I had written some pretty good stuff and I actually (gasp!) had an agent and I was just moments from literary glory and bestsellerdom, so there was no real reason to worry about my career (though I went to paralegal school, anyway, just in case) and I drank heavily and freebased chocolate. Then I got really sick and my agent dumped me to run for Congress (he lost) and I never did find another one (or at least I haven't yet). It's now 2011 and I'm sober and (mostly) abstinent and I've written some more cool stuff but it has yet to attract any official attention. I work for a law firm. I'm a paralegal and I'm pretty darn good at my job, thank you. I hang around with a Buddhist street gang and I'm married (15 years and going strong!) and if you'd asked me where I thought I'd be when I was forty-two, when I was twenty-six, I'd have told you something else. I don' t know what, but something else. That was before time changed everything.
Even me. No, especially me.