by Shelt Garner
There is a memorable Amy Schumer skit about a group of women having dinner on their “last fuckable evening.” I find myself pondering this as I approach my 50th birthday with little — if anything — to show for it. Now and again, I stop myself and ponder how the fuck I got myself into this situation and what I’m going to do about it.
The crux of the matter is I kind of blew out an psychological knee because of what happened with ROKon Magazine in Seoul. So, I spent a lot — A LOT — of time grieving over that particular clusterfuck because it was very clear that everything that went wrong in that particular situation was a reflection of my personality.
So, in a sense, it’s failure was my failure.
Now, of course, I’m zooming towards being 50 and for no other reason than to simply justify air being in my lungs, I find myself struggling to figure out how I might live up to whatever remaining potential I may have.
The biggest obstacle is, of course, my age and lack of any particular career. So, there comes a point — right about now — when it is exceedingly difficult to imagine a situation where I will ever find any traditional success at all. Even if I do something that would otherwise merit it.
Now, I’ve spend the last few years making myself feel better by remembering that Stieg Larsson was 50 when he sold three novels. (He promptly died of a heart attack, but still.) But I have to admit to myself that there were some factors that helped him be a success in that situation that I very much don’t have.
He had a successful career as a journalist in the comparatively small nation of Sweden. So, it wasn’t like he was me, being a complete loser nobody in the middle of nowhere in a nation of 335 million souls. Also, there was probably an element of nationalism in why he got his first — and last — three novels published. The publisher probably saw what he wrote as a way to further Swedish culture.
Now, after adjusting to a severe learning curve, my both my writing and my storytelling has gotten significantly better. And, as such, I’m within shouting distance of not only not embarrassing myself with this first novel, but actually getting it published in a traditional manner.
But, still, even if I get this novel published and even if it’s a significant success, I’m not going to get what I want. It’s not like I can ever be young in New York City, no matter how successful I become. And, what’s worse, any success I have at this point given the context of what is going on will be couched in the context of my age and otherwise what a big loser I have been for much of my life.
It’s all very disheartening. The idea of there being an old age Even Horizon is not something that is clear until it’s too late. It’s not like I could start a career in any traditional field.
I’ve given all of this some thought and there are three ways that I might, despite my age, find a modicum of some “success” despite inherent ageism and the fact that I’ve been a big old loser for way, way too long.
- The Novel I’m Working On Becomes A Hit
This is the one I’m hoping for a the moment. But, of course, even if I stick the landing, we’re probably talking me actually seeing “success” at some point in 2024, given the needs of post-production. I will be 51 and not only will my age be anything anyone wants to talk about, but the United States will be in the middle of the 2024 POTUS campaign silly season. And, as I keep saying, I have real concern that the United States in late 2024, early 2025 is going to either have a civil war or turn into an autocracy. That puts a real damper on my hopes for how long I might be able to enjoy the fruits of my success.
- Become a Successful Fashion Photographer
This is one, while possible, is not very probable. Even though I have the innate talent, there are a lot of basic obstacles to this one, over and above my age. I can’t afford the equipment I feel I need to properly do the job. And I live in the middle of nowhere. For me to be able to pursue this career, I would need funds that I just, at the moment, don’t have. Obviously, something might change and I might get those funds suddenly and unexpectedly. For instance, if I sold my first novel and it was a huge success, then that would help me with my dream of being a fashion photographer. But there would remain the issue of my age. The idea that I’ve just waited too long and now things that I should have been able to do — like be a successful fashion photographer — I can’t do for the basic reason of my age is very troubling.
- Second American Civil War
This is, in its own way, the darkest and least likely of these possibilities. I’m just working with what I know about myself and extrapolating what I might be able to do. I’m a good enough writer and public speaker that if we have a civil war, I might — like U.S. Grant — find some success after having been a drunk loser for a long time. This is a really bonkers idea, but, if nothing else, it gives me a little bit of hope that I might be able to unexpectedly find the success I feel I deserve.
Anyway, if nothing else, I need to take more seriously the implications of my age. I’m not getting any younger and I really, really need to come to grips with the hold hard reality of what that means.