The fact is that most of us are wandering around, scared shitless, wondering what the fuck’s going to happen next. That’s as true when you’re 11 as it is when you’re in your 40s. It’s one reason that people feel very discouraged or disinclined to try new things—they feel like it’s not for them.
I understand that you’re asking me this because you’re trying to get the narrative, but my narrative is that I’ve never known what’s coming next—I still don’t. I fell down the right set of stairs and have been surrounded by people who have picked me up and said, “Let’s try this again.” It’s been one anxious block of uncertainty after another.
I hope that I have a few more years left before I come to die, but I have gotten incalculable pleasure from not owning a cellphone, even if I never did make it, as Thoreau did, to the woods. But in a few weeks, I will buy a phone. I am scared. I am afraid of losing a small part of my identity, goodbye to No-Phone Gary, cousin to Dial-Up Dave, wherever you are. I’m afraid of becoming rude, of placing my phone faceup on a restaurant table, or playing "Words with Friends" at a funeral because the deceased did, after all, like words and have friends.What I’m most afraid of, though, is becoming a tool of my tool, of having one less weapon in the never-ending battle to protect—to paraphrase Saul Bellow, another hero—the territory of my consciousness. I have intentions to be a different kind of smartphone user. I’ll use it only when I travel. At home, I’ll stow it far away from me, in a terrarium, with a snake. I’ll never text.
Experiences can have a much bigger impact on people’s happiness than things, and a big part of that happiness lies in looking forward to the experience that you are going to have.
Many people look forward to an empty nest—when the kids finally move out—so they can get back to all the fun things they used to do together as a couple before diapers and car pools and homework took over their lives.
Couples eagerly awaiting this day might be in for a surprise. In the sudden quiet may come the discovery that years on a treadmill—raising children, building careers—have left them very different people than they were in the their 20s or 30s. In short: They’ve woken up with a stranger.
We found the solution for technology overload. We turned it off. Who knew that a balanced life was just a click away?
I’m thirty today. It was bound to happen, though for some reason I didn’t expect it so soon. For most of my twenties I knew I’d be twentysomething forever. Then, about two years ago, I saw thirty in the distance — but the procession there was stately, adagio, hardly something to look forward to but a perfectly natural state of affairs. And then the dread set in, and things started accelerating. Months seemed compressed into days. My whole life began to hurtle at the cold brick wall of June 12; judgments, fears, recapitulations forced their way into my mind and my notebook; every moment and every fraction of a moment had to be adjudged worthy or unworthy, valued or wasted, because soon my youth would be over.