NPF: 31

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 30th, 2009 by Ed

I am now 31 years old. Feast on my Livejournal-style musings.

Thirty-one years is a long time; I am no longer a young person by any stretch of the imagination. Birthdays prompt an annual life review, and the results are not pretty. It is shocking how little I've accomplished with 31 years (namely nothing). And I think the key to maintaining sanity into adulthood is being able to understand and accept that your life is not what you hoped it would be when you were younger.

In the meaningless standardized test sense of intelligence I suppose I am not dumb, and possibly even a little bright. Add to that the fact that I tend to be a hard worker and I always expected that I might accomplish something. That brainpower and determination equal success (and the former, frankly, is optional) is deeply ingrained in American culture. Alas, there is more to it than that. It also takes talent, and having talent is like having a right arm. Either you have it or you don't. There's not really a gray area. Try as we might – and I spend a lot of mental energy on it these days – there's no way to circumvent that requirement.

The reason I'm a 31 year old academic temp is not that I'm dumb or lazy. It is because the job listings don't say "We want someone smart" or "We're looking for a hard worker." They want someone who is good at political science. That I am not. I can work harder and get better, but there is a fundamental limit to what I can accomplish. Loving and working hard at being an academic won't make me a good one any more than loving and working hard at basketball would make me an NBA player.

I think this blog is essentially the same story. I've been plugging away at this thing for six years. Six years! A thousand words per night, five nights per week, for six years. But aside from attracting some wonderful readers who I deeply appreciate, it hasn't really amounted to anything. Nobody higher up the food chain the world of political blogging knows this thing exists. The offers to take my non-talents to a more prominent forum have not exactly overwhelmed me. Yet such a thing happening was not beyond the realm of possibility, given the evidence from a natural experiment.

Some of you may recall that this used to be a two-man blog. The other guy (You remember, right? I don't think he wants his name appearing in such low-brow discourse anymore) decided to branch out. His blog basically did squat for a couple years because he wasn't taking it seriously. When he decided to put some effort into it and post regularly, six months later he's rubbing shoulders with people in the White House and writing for the Atlantic, not to mention getting exposed all over the interwebs. Why? It certainly isn't luck. And it is not necessarily that he is more diligent or intelligent, although it may very well be the case that he is both of those things. No, the difference is that he has real talent. He's good at this.

Why I have devoted the last six years of my life to two things for which I have no aptitude – academia and political commentary – is not entirely clear through the sharp lens of hindsight. "Do what you love" is common enough and valid enough advice, but I guess I have hit the point in my life at which that isn't enough. It would be nice to actually accomplish something rather than waking up every morning and doing these things solely for my own edification. Maybe in five or ten years I will evolve into a new life stage in which doing things for our own happiness is enough. Fingers crossed.

Until then, there is little else to do except keep plugging away in an effort to reach the goals I chose without considering the poor odds that I could attain them. Thanks for reading. I mean that in both the macro sense – i.e., thanks for reading all along – and in the micro sense of having been patient enough to slog through a Dear Diary post. Back to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday. Why? Because if doing what I enjoy and putting my best effort into it is the most I can accomplish in this world, that's what I'm going to do. Even if the bar is a low one I suppose there is something to be said for clearing it rather than walking away.

I don't think I like birthdays anymore.

Regards,
31 year-old Ed