Rohit's Realm

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October 03, 2010

Late Twenties Liminality

Late twenties. The term to me evokes an image of relative age without the gravitas that usually accompanies it. Far too old to go unchallenged for the general buffoonery that may have come to pass in years past (and in my case, certainly did—on a regular basis), one is simultaneously still too young to be taken seriously by anyone who matters.1 A kid to all the adults and an adult to all the kids, where does that leave those of us who find ourselves in this hapless state? In a wretched sort of liminality, I suppose, and more importantly, with a decision to make.

That decision is the choice between continuing the rough and tumble existence that no doubt composed one's earlier days; or shifting trajectories to a life that I as a wee young lad once described as one of mortgages, marriage, middle age, and mediocrity. Staying the course2 or settling down, in other words. For some, perhaps, that decision point comes earlier than one's late twenties, and for others, there is no decision to make; mortgages, marriage, middle age, and mediocrity are—and have always been—a foregone certainty.

But for me, and I suspect for many of my ilk, the choice did not present itself with any discernible salience until the late twenties. With college and career to concentrate on, the notion of settling down was simply out of the question. One step at a time, or so I have long told myself. That perception, however, has been revealing itself as unsound for some time now. It wasn't that I couldn't shift trajectories for fear of compromising some (no doubt misguided) idea of career over the past few years; it was simply that I didn't want to do so. And maybe I still don't. Despite the mediocrity, loneliness, and despair that inevitably accompanies my daily existence (and that of many others, I suspect), it can't be worse than the alternative, right? Social responsibility? Dependents? Stability? Ew!

None of that, however, is news. My status as society's least eligible bachelor has been reaffirmed so many times over on this forlorn site as to hardly merit mention. No, the real news is not that I am an incorrigible dysfunctional mess and don't mind being that way; it is the cracks in the façade of dysfunction that have been appearing in recent times. And there have been cracks.

The first came a year ago today, when I noted my impending return to the dark abyss of reality that law school had permitted me to escape for a few years, and discussed how I would look upon my time in Chicago years from now. Next came the realization of displacement some months later that has accompanied my self-imposed transience over the past decade. And finally, there was a lengthy dissertation on others around me getting serious with their lives—shifting trajectories, in other words—and my disapproval thereof.

While that's not quite a story of my proverbial marriage light3 illuminating, it is more progress (regress?) than one might ever have expected from me. (My birthday posts of years past don't exactly sound like those written by someone who has even considered the notion of settling down.)

So where does that leave me? Frankly, I don't know. For the first time in my life, I am starting to feel pulled from both sides instead of just one. Getting serious still sounds reprehensible in theory, but the steady stream of people getting engaged and married around me makes me think maybe it's not all so terrible. What's to hate about tax breaks and dual income, right? (A lot, actually.) And even though I value the freedom my degeneracy affords me today, the concomitant feelings of worthlessness have begun to take their toll. Realistically, how much more magic can I touch? And onward I go in the turbulent sea of indecision and liminality (and mediocrity, loneliness, and despair), I suppose.

It's not all doom and gloom, of course. Despite my reputation as an elderly curmudgeon, I'm not that old yet. I mean, I have not quite reached the point of sitting around on my porch in a rocking chair with a glass of bourbon in one hand and a shotgun in the other, yelling at children to keep off my lawn. But that's sort of my point—even if I wanted to be that guy (and I do, eventually), I couldn't! I don't have a porch, rocking chair, lawn, shotgun, or even children who are harassing me. Maybe I could get a glass of bourbon, but given the utter state of dereliction in which I currently find myself, even that is a stretch.

So maybe that's why I need to shift trajectories ultimately, then. How am I going to be a curmudgeon worth my salt some fifty years from now if I've never experienced the quiet desperation of domestic life? Something to think about, perhaps, as I embark upon a new phase in life and stride fearlessly onward into the liminality of my late twenties.

^ 1 Insofar as anyone matters at all in this cruel charade we sometimes call life—which, of course, is a debatable proposition at best.
^ 2 These colors don't run! Wait, what?
^ 3 This may be a new term on the Realm, though it has been one in my lexicon and one I have championed for some time now in real life. By it, I refer to the sudden and inexplicable urge people tend to get, usually around their late twenties or early thirties, to settle down—immediately. Indeed, the most (morbidly) fascinating thing about this phenomenon is the little time that elapses between one's marriage light illuminating and one turning into an utterly dull, insufferably lifeless slob. There is more to say on this subject, but I leave that for a separate entry.


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