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Aging and Anonymity

“When I won three in one year, I thought, like a lot of other people, that I could keep doing that,” Wilander said. “But things happen. It was hard to keep that level up and then I hurt my knee. He’s way, way farther away than close to reaching Sampras. Guys don’t win majors in their 30s. You run out of desire. You slow down a step.”

~ Mats Wilander* on Roger Federer

Empathetically understood, for I could not easily deceive myself into believing that I’m as energetic as I ever was…as I ever was, as I ever was, as I ever was.

For having fallen into the latter half of my thirties three months ago, I well know that my edge is a bit blunted now, that I no longer press on recklessly, and that my charter does not charge full steam ahead.

Instead, I'm apt to ponder my fate much more than actually act upon it these days.

While waiting on line at PA and feeling sorry for the fellas that usher the buses in and out of their designated cubby holes several times a day and who are thus subject to a slow death by carbon monoxide poisoning, it occurred to me that I once had a similar job way back when.

It had been a little over a year since I had graduated college and I was desperate for a job. Surprisingly, being a cashier in the underground parking garage of the only ritzy hotel in town paid pretty well.

Alas, the working conditions were deplorable, especially for the car runners that were exposed to car fumes everyday that painted the ceilings black. Many of them were middle-aged Ethiopians and Eritreans with advanced degrees in engineering, math and such who had become resigned to this so-called better life as an immigrant in America. Compared to their former lives, which were subject to the horror and ravages of famine and civil war, it is not difficult to see why.

Nonetheless, the conditions spurred me to accept the voluntary position as the union rep, and thus I was immediately singled out by the company as an insurgent to watch out for.

Fortunately for Ampco, there was a better job waiting for me at the writing workshop up the street. After standing in a grey polyester suit for three months behind a cash register taking money from snooty clientele, I was certain this hell would not be the woeful fate of a young artist and his useless liberal arts degree. So, convinced there was more in store for me, I did what any self-respecting chump would do - I went back to school.

Matriculating full-time in the masters program in political science at the university near by, I worked the night shift 40 hours a week and carried twenty credits for the first two semesters. With assiduous application I was granted two academic awards and earned a spot as a part-time tutor in the writing lab for undergrads. This allowed me to quit the demeaning cashier job, pursue my masters full time, buy my first Mac, as well as write my first book late at night alone in the lab.

Reflecting upon this by-gone era, I realized that I truly had much more determination and stamina back then.

Today, lamentably, I am slowly (very slowly) becoming complacent with my corporate cushioning. I work for a small team in a large fortune 100 company, and although there is very little vertical mobility in the foreseeable future, the plush position of my status quo is not at all that uncomfortable. Besides, my boss’s job is essentially the next step up, but I’m fairly certain he’s clinging to his rung for a while.

Alas, unless I am in denial, this stasis does not bother me as much as it once might have motivated me to move on and out and upward.

And I attribute this subtlety troubling complacency not only to a fair amount of satisfaction with my work and the generous compensation, but also to the curse and downhill course that comes with the rolling accumulation of obligation as one ages in suburbia.


Thus, I thank the gods who have obstructed my success as a writer.

Because it seems not only is my load lighter, but the vim that is still left in me is mainly due to the insanity fueling the delusions that spur me to chase the elusive literary dream.

So, I guess the good news is that I can still walk about these grimy city streets giddily conversing with the gritty strangers I meet, without any concern whatsoever that someone will suddenly recognize me for the lost man that I really am.

I suppose that’s why I love Anonymity, absconding the duties that fame and fortune would otherwise bring, avoiding the irking provocation toward lesser things that steal ones’ life away, and enslave one to an ever-on ego that is forever conscious of what others think of them.

*Sweden’s Mats Wilander was the last man to win three majors in the same year, 1988. He commented on Roger Federer’s recent phenomenal performance as he watched from his home in Hailey, Idaho. Tennis Greats Awed by Federer's Gifts, Commentary by Steve Wilstein, AP, September 13, 2004

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