NPF: 31

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

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70 Responses to “NPF: 31”

  1. Desargues Says:

    I can't provide any false comfort — that would be insulting. Well, then look at it this way — you just had an epiphany you could have had five years down the road, like me, for instance. At least you're half a decade ahead on the self-awareness curve. If not soon, then before too long you'll find that you can do something to make yourself happy (everyone's first obligation to themselves, I guess) and also benefit society somehow.

    Working for the White House is a big deal, but you seem a bit overly impressed by the writing for The Atlantic thing. I looked around at their blogs, and they kinda bored me. The unlikely combination of a peasant Mexican food and juniper liquor, though, has become my indispensable staple. Also: not ending up working for The A has a huge silver lining — you won't bump into McMegan in the hallway, on the way to the water-cooler. Having mocked her so savagely, that would be not a little awkward.

    We greatly admire your work ethic. If I had that kind of dedication, I'd achieve things.

  2. Desargues Says:

    Shit; I nearly forgot. Happy birthday! Also.

  3. slothrop Says:

    There's a pile of Atlantic six months deep here on the desk gathering dust and not a day goes by I don't look forward to checking ginandtacos, so… thankyou.

  4. Dominic Says:

    Hi Ed,
    I haven't been a reader of yours for very long, but in this short time I've become a big fan. I think your blog is great, and in fact, except for some state/local ones, it is the only political blog I can be bothered to read. You have a great combination of humor and insight here–I feel like many political blogs have just one or the other (or worse, poor attempts at just one or the other). That is why this is the only political blog I read. While I'm not familiar with your academic work, based solely on your blog, I'm puzzled at your claim of being untalented at political science: several times I've thought you really hit the nail on the head with some unexpected insight.

    I'm an academic-in-training myself. I am a 24-year-old grad student (not in Poli Sci but in English, focus on folklore and linguistics). What you say here about academia are the kind of concerns I think about a lot, though of course at an earlier stage–will I be able to make it through grad school, even? I sympathize, and I wish I could offer more than to say good luck.

    Thanks for doing what you enjoy. Your readers really appreciate it.

  5. beau Says:

    I was fairly confident this used to be a three-man blog, but anyway…

    I'm not sure talent has much to do with it. It's a strange brew you offer up here, equal parts serious commentary and scatalogical humour. 'The other guy' you refer to hardly ever mentions pant-shitting or uses the term 'retard' over at his blog.

    Sell out.

    And second Desargues' admiration – Although even if I did have your work ethic, I'm not at all sure I'd achieve anything.

  6. daphne Says:

    If you're saying your birthday is today, the date of your post, that is, October 30, you were born on my mother's birthday. Her, uh, 50-somethingth birthday.

    You're also turning the same age as my son – my younger of 2 children, my daughter being 33. Which means I'm old enough to have 2 children older than you, and tho I have my share of getting-older medical problems, I still feel, no, KNOW I'm relatively young. Relative to what? Well, you know.

    Speaking of relative, everything is, age especially. A matter of perspective. And if I've learned anything in my relative-to-your-life many years, it's that life is, in fact, very long if you're lucky, and that you have oodles of time to accomplish more than you already have.

  7. baldheadeddork Says:

    Ed, they let Megan Fucking McArdle write for the Atlantic…as their economics correspondent. A paying gig is a paying gig, but dude – your old collaborator has latched on to the political writing equivalent of a guitarist getting hired for a Rod Stewart-sings-Motown tour. Is he hoping that if he plays his cards right in a couple of years he can be one of the constantly-wrong gasbags-err, pundits appearing on the Diane Rehm Show?

    There's no way to write this without sounding patronizing, so here goes: Your age sucks because you can see some of your peers having what appears to be genuine success and (worse) seeing other people notice it. The cruelest cut is when you're thirty and trying to find your groove and you can see other people your age who are already there. It is very easy to conclude that it's because they're talented and you're not. For a lot of fields, it's also dead wrong.

    If you want to be a rock star and you're not there by 30, yeah, that's a sign that it's not going to happen. But there are reasons why most books worth a damn are written by people in their thirties and older. If you work at it hard it takes your twenties to learn how to write, and it takes your thirties to learn how to listen and see. I don't know about teaching political science, but it's the same in working politics. Consistently running a successful campaign or being a good, effective chief of staff isn't something that very many people can pull off when they're in their 20's because they don't understand the relationships and they can't see how that part of it works.

    Not to sound like your father, but you're entering the age where the people who are in the grown-up careers will begin to separate themselves. Most of the early phenoms will burn out and disappear, or never rise higher than they are now. The people who are going to bust out huge and have life-long success in their fields are in the same place you are right now. You've spent the last ten years learning your profession. With luck, you'll spend the next ten learning how to make it your own and you'll hit your 40's ready to do some real damage.

    You write a thousand words a day and you're not just throwing junk on a page. I think you are a good young writer but you haven't found your subject yet. If you've got the discipline to write that consistently and that solidly, you're going to be in a great place when you do find that subject that you're willing to spend a year writing and editing a thousand words a day. (And don't underestimate the importance of this blog. When you do want to find an agent and a publisher this is going to be a terrific resource to show you have the discipline to write productively every day.)

    Best of luck – but you don't need it.

    Dork

  8. way better Says:

    Holy crap, this blog right here is the only one I would keep if I had to ditch Google Reader. And I think I do. Family blogs? Meh. Work/industry news? Feh. The Atlantic/NewYorker/NYT assortment? Forget it.

    Everybody else wants to be so sober and not address the waves of stupidity crashing on our shores, but you go out and wade through the muck. And in such a funny way too! Please keep soldiering on, I for one, really appreciate it. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, Texas, and I'm like "Ed really knows these people."

    I think Gin and Tacos is a HUGE accomplishment. Happy Birthday to ya.

  9. doug Says:

    happy bday. man, you had me scared at the beginning of today's npf. whew.
    Looking forward to monday.
    BTW most (not all,but vast majority) of the professionals I am aware of that rise above others are self promoting to the extent to be sickening. Lots of talent out there.

  10. d Says:

    G&T is right between Huff and Krugman on my browser's link bar. Don't be so hard on yourself. More pant-shitting, please!

    P.S. Happy B-day

    – 29 year old reader

  11. Nate Says:

    Happy Birthday, Ed! Keep writing the blog, it's an extraordinarily interesting and fun read. :)

  12. dbsmall Says:

    We disagree on he nature of luck.

    And because I'm not as hard on myself as you are on yourself, I contend that I am an excellent judge of talent (or, at least, of that which educates and entertains me); you, sir, have it.

    Of course, you really are getting a bit old…perhaps you can find a trade.

  13. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    In the end, doing what you enjoy and doing it to the best of your ability is really all that matters and should be the beginning and the end of everyone's goal for themselves. If success comes from this, then all the better, but outward success is definitely not a mark of inward satisfaction and shouldn't be applied as a ruler for a complete life.

    You're an exceptional writer and have a serious knack for extracting and destroying the folly that makes up 90% of political discourse. You're selling your talent short. Happy birthday, Ed.

  14. AG Says:

    I just turned 29 a couple of days ago … and had some similar thoughts but as some of the comments by others have pointed out success is a relative term plus, I'd add, its definition is relative too! In any case, I thoroughly enjoy your posts at G&T, and share them all the time on Google Reader to a small group of my friends :) Keep writing away – Happy birthday, Ed!

  15. Ben Says:

    I've read your blog for the past year, and spent a pretty good length of time re-reading your old entries. You've got something really good here and its okay to shit on your own site every once in a while (remember – fertilizer helps stuff grow). It is good to critically review your life and accomplishments. Just remember to examine your success and failure with the same critical eye as you examine an average Fox News broadcast: You don't knowingly lie to people. You have a much more informed audience. You can critically disect the impact of your own work.

    It sounds like what you might need is a new poster. May I reccommend a kitten stuck on a branch with the words "Hang in there!"?

  16. JohnR Says:

    "It is shocking how little I’ve accomplished with 31 years (namely nothing)"

    Well, that's why some of us have kids. We trade sleep and money for a temporary feeling of accomplishment.. Also, you think it's tough now? Wait until you hit _fifty_-one, bucko! That extra 20 years of non-accomplishment makes all the difference. Of course once you stop caring, you're fine.
    Anyway, Happy Birthday! And fwiw, you're either the first or second read in my morning's dyspeptopia coffee-fest. That alone should put some pep in your step.

  17. Tosh Says:

    Happy birthday Ed.

    Shiyat, I'm retired from public ed. and spend an hour each morning with cappuccino and reading progressive blogs.
    Ed your #2 in my browser bookmarks bar which contains >70 links. Following Digby. You got there after one reading.
    Keep on man. This is your niche.

  18. Susurra Says:

    Ed,

    I've only been a fan for a few short months now, but I've already elevated your blog to my first must-read of the morning, and I do look forward to it everyday. Having obtained 0 success in my 40+ years (hey, even in anonimity I won't reveal REAL age) I can at this point say definitively that it is not defined by talent/ability – otherwise, explain Sarah Palin and George Bush.

    You, sir, have talent in droves. And you are right in at least one respect: life becomes something in which achieving personal happiness supercedes obaining notoriety. Really. And in that respect I wish you a very happy birthday, and best of luck.

  19. hillwomp Says:

    I just discovered this blog a couple of weeks ago and I think it's really cool. You are great at political blogging, and I'm sorry I didn't discover you years ago. If you were as good at selling it as you are at doing it you'd be making some fairly decent scratch.

  20. eetraveling Says:

    Jesus, man, get a hold of yourself! This is the first wrongheaded blog entry you've posted.

    First of all, I'm a part-time academic who recently got laid off of her full-time job, and I'm OMG 32. Should I give up all hope? Is my life over?? Dear god, no. Both of us are going to continue doing some great teaching, teaching that's much better than many of the the full-time academics who care much more about publishing than about educating provide. And yes, both of us will find our way into a secure job that offers the benefits (both satisfaction-wise and finance-wise) that we want.

    This isn't the 1950s, where you need a lifelong job with The Corporation starting at age 25 so you can have a corner office by 55. This job market is full of movement, and your co-blogger is a perfect example of how quickly fortunes can change, for better and for worse.

    Every adult I know thinks they're secretly a fraud, a mess, and that all the other grown-ups have their shit together. No one has their shit together. You're not supposed to have figured it all out by the time the calendar reaches some magic number. We're all still figuring it out, including some of the most successful people I know.

    Also, TALENT certainly isn't what's keeping you from publishing in the Atlantic. It's a SENSE of HUMOR. And a lovely streak of profanity that keeps your readers coming back. I don't read the Atlantic — I read your blog. Because it's better.

    It's also just different, with different goals and a different style. If you wanted to go mainstream, I'm sure you could change your voice to conform. It would be an understandable choice. Personally, I'm hoping you don't. The world has enough Atlantic writers. The world does NOT have enough snarky, invective-ridden, SMART, thoughtful, hilarious, high-quality reading.

    In short, you're awesome, your readers love and appreciate you, and please don't stop doing what you're doing. Except for the beating-yourself-up part. That part you can stop.

    PS — Happy birthday!
    PPS — Your last blog post ("Check.Mate.") made my day.

  21. Amy Says:

    This is one of my favorite blogs. PERIOD. The tone sounded like you were jumping ship, I for one hope that you never come to that. Happy Birthday – from and older & less accomplished.

    & for what it is worth, & share what you have to say all the freaking time. You know what I want to say – I just don't know how to say it.

  22. eetraveling Says:

    Oops — that sentence in the second paragraph was meant to end, "than about providing education."

  23. RayZ Says:

    G n' T 4 Life. Rock out.

  24. cschack Says:

    Happy birthday. I found this site about a year ago and have been reading every day since then, wishing I could write as well as you. For what it's worth: birthdays stop being fun after college. After that, it's more of a hassle. In my opinionation, that is.

  25. Susan of Texas Says:

    Everyone at The Atlantic was hired for a reason—they are elitist. They reflexively support what their bosses want to push. Coates is anti-affirmative action. McArdle, anti-feminist and anti-compassion. Sully–gay but racist. The others are no better, except Fallows. Being unable to get an Atlantic gig means that people read your work and know that you can't be manipulated, flattered and exploited.

    I'm old enough to know that telling the truth and making people laugh are rare and valuable skills. The world won't reward them but the world tends to reward greed and cruelty, so we'll have to be satisfied with being decent people instead.

    Happy Birthday.

  26. Desargues Says:

    Yeah, man, some of the readers here are spot on about something: if they started publishing you on mainstream outlets, you'd have to clean up your language and expunge the snark. And then I wouldn't care to read you any more. For 'serious' writing, I can always go elsewhere.

    (Really, can you imagine yourself writing a post for a 'serious' publication? Why don't you just try it as an experiment, and publish it here, on your blog. We'll let you know what it sounds like. You may be surprised by our reaction.)

    Lastly, don't despise the institution of tenure (once you get it, which is indubitable, I presume). It'll give you the security and time to engage in long-terms projects you hold dear but the higher-ups at The Atlantic may not give a shit about. There's a thing to be said for not having to meet a bi-weekly deadline with 800 words on 'hot' topics that boost site traffic rather than enlighten the reader. (Unless you're a columnist for the New York Times; they get away with all kids of junk. But that's welfare for pundits, not real publishing).

  27. Barbed Wire Says:

    My first thought on reading this was gimme a fuggin break…you sound like the guys in my firehouse – mere babies – most of whom have almost been alive as long as I’ve been on the department.

    Then you scared the hell out of me (also) – oh HELL, he’s fixing to retire the blog….

    Unlike waybetter, I’m still lost in the wilds of west TX (in case ya couldn’t tell) and glommed onto the site about a year ago solely because of the name; much to my dismay I discovered you were in Indiana at the time but I continue to give you the benefit of the doubt on whether you’ve met a real taco because you consistently drive the proverbial nail home. So thanks for all the great posts.

    As JohnR hinted at, just wait ‘til you’re 51 and having one of these moments. My only suggestion would be to work on getting two thousand words out before the arthritis starts…but hey, that’s selfishness speaking.
    Happy Birthday man!

  28. BK Says:

    Ed –

    I've been reading this site since I stumbled upon it while looking for a review of Hendricks Gin… needless to say, I've been back as often as I can and not just because your review of gins was spot on!

    I turned 32 this past spring. I've got a decent job, two kids, a great wife and a house in the 'burbs outside of Declinig Rust Belt Anytown, USA.

    Hardly a day goes by where I don't either tell myself or my kids to remember something that my dad (aged hippie) continues to tell me to this day – "Just be the best person you can be."

    The tough part about that is when you put yourself under your own microscope you tend to pick up on the things that no one else can see. The choice then becomes do you do something about the problems you see and fix them or do you sweep them under the rug.

    Clearly Ed, you're not a sweep them under the rug type guy.

    And that's why I go back and read your posts that I miss if I don't get to your site for a day or two. Keep up the good work, take comfort in knowing you have a niche and if you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and honestly say to yourself you've been the best you can be, then count it a good day!

  29. Michael Says:

    I turned 39 this week, so I know how you feel. What am I doing with my life. I mean, really, is this IT?

    But your blog is awesome and I don't know what I would do without it. I steal from you quite a bit when trying to debate with the right-wing mouthbreathers that surround me every day.

    Happy Birthday!

  30. Brandon Says:

    First off, happy birthday, Ed. Secondly, since finding your blog, I've read every word you've posted here. IMO, you and Greenwald are a couple of very insightful MFers and you both have the only "must read" blogs for me. The difference is, you're funny. And I mean "laugh out loud" funny. Making people laugh is a talent and not one to be scoffed at, especially in a world where so many of us are resigned to taking it in the shorts.

    As for not accomplishing anything, the vast majority of us don't accomplish a damned thing of any real value over the course of our lives, aside from passing on our genes so our kids can turn 31 and bemoan their own lack of accomplishment. If you can manage to feed and clothe yourself, do what you like doing and be happy with that.

  31. jmla Says:

    Buck up, mate. I've loved this site forever! Let's play that game where we read Kant and take a shot everytime he says "a priori"

  32. Andrew Says:

    Happy Birthday, Ed! I read your site every day. It's my favorite political blog ever, and I read Matt Yglesias, so the bar is set pretty high. Don't underestimate the power of humor, or your talent at it. Please keep writing!

  33. oldfatherwilliam Says:

    Brandon"s got it mostly right. Evolve, dude. Have children, experience pain not existential. It ain't personal attainment that's of value, it's attainment of personhood. Put that on yer morning mirror, live to be 70, then we can talk real stuff.

  34. Andrew Says:

    I too found this website years ago googling gin reviews. It's like I came for the free gin and tacos, but while I was eating, you started ranting at me. Over time, you started making more sense to me. Kind of like a cult leader. well done, sir.

    So quit being a bitch, get a handle of Sir Robert Burnett's, and play the game where you yell at your glass before you throw it at a wall. Heck, just grab a copy of 'critique of practical reason." It'll fix you right up!
    (ps. Happy Birthday anyways)

  35. MarilynJean Says:

    Totally echoing everyone's sentiments here, Ed. I seriously read your blog before I even check my work email. That's deep.

    Now I am thinking about Hendrick's Gin…thanks.

    But yes, I have been experiencing some of the same thoughts that you've just expressed. The comments on today's post have been insightful and uplifiting. Good, sage advice.

    I, too, thought you were retiring the blog. DON'T YOU EVER PULL THAT SHIT AGAIN, Ed, or for the love of all things holy, distilled and Mexican, I will find you and slap you. (I have sorority sisters in your neck of the woods, I'll have it done long distance, I swear.)

    Happy Birthday. Now go celebrate Halloween by dressing up as a Teabagger.

  36. Vinny Says:

    Happy Birthday Ed. I was getting a sinking feeling as I was reading that this was going to be it. I was much relieved by the end. GinandTacos is fantastic. Don't stop.

  37. Zamboni Sam Says:

    I discovered this blog about 5 months ago because I did a google search for "Ayn Rand Sucks."

    I've read it every day since – one of the first three I read every morning.

    The only thing I can tell you is to throw some Google ads along the side of this thing and make a little bit of scratch at it. Why the hell not? Treat yourself to the birthday present of monetization, Ed. You'd be surprised what motivation and sense of accomplishment you can get when your back account is a few hundred bucks bigger because of some things you wrote.

    And happy birthday.

    JTM

  38. grendelkhan Says:

    If you'll forgive my handwaving on the subject, I don't think we're built–mentally–to really live in a world of more than a few hundred people. Our sense of self-worth can't cope with the fact that, with this many other humans out there, it's very unlikely that any of us are going to be the very best at anything, and despite what narrative logic tells us, "very unlikely" means just that.

    So we take up other methods of extracting meaning and value from our time and labor, goals like leaving the place a little better–more entertained, funnier, kinder, more beautiful–than it would have been without us. It's an unimaginably large pool we're all swimming in, but if we all piss goodness into it, it'll slowly turn into a golden, happy tomorrow.

    I hope to continue reading you in the years to come.

  39. SeaTea Says:

    I feel a little sad reading this, but as someone who's 42 I realize that you'll grow out of it. I've been exactly where you're at with my musical career. I've spent 20 years of my life climbing to the middle. Sometimes it seems sucky to look up and see how much higher some other people are. However, it's just as valid to look down and see how many other poor schmucks are farther down the ladder than you are.

    You are a remarkably good writer who creates a highly interesting blog on a daily basis. You have devoted fans who follow you religiously. You regularly publish insights that astonish and humble me.

    Yesterday (I think) you wrote that people make fucktons of money telling people what they want to hear. That is VERY wise and very true. You are very smart and an excellent writer, so you could likely do that in some morally disingenuous way. The fact that you haven't speaks volumes about your ethics.

    Perhaps, however, there's a way to speak to those who think as we do and tell them the TRUTH and have that be what they want to hear? I'd pay for a full-length book version of the writing on this blog. It's smart, funny, bitchy, and full of (dare I say it), common sense. That's how I like my political commentary. Now that Franken's a senator, maybe there's room for another writer who is funny and still tells it like it is?

    Much admiration from a fellow dweller of the middle rungs of the ladder of creative success.

  40. Evan S. Says:

    I found G&T years ago while searching for a Sir Robert Burnett fan club. Seriously. I've read it every day since. I'll second what someone else wrote above: If I ever stop using Google Reader, G&T will be one of the few feeds I'd keep reading.

    Hit me up the next time you're in Philly (there's an APSA conference here in February…). I know at least a half dozen other "academics" in our age range that read G&T religiously who'd be more than happy to raise a tall glass of Sir Robert's finest in your honor.

  41. Desargues Says:

    Why, to judge from this post alone, it almost looks like the one sure way to boost your readership is to engage in navel-gazing and self-pity. Alright, you've had your feewings soothed; now go back to what you do best. Open that bottle of vitriol and throw it at somebody. Your audience is growing restless.

  42. Huh? Says:

    What would "accomplish" mean in the context of political science anyway? Writing articles that 100 people will read instead of 30? Writing a text book that collects dust on the shelf of some undergrad who read 10% of it? Our contribution to society comes through teaching, not research, and you're damn good at that. And that's why you'll get a tenure track job sometime soon, even if you don't have any talent for research (which I find hard to believe, but I'll take your word for it). And, you should feel proud of that, rather than pinning your self-worth on the approval of other world-fleeing, blowhard academics.

  43. jazzbumpa Says:

    Dear pant-shitting youngster -

    There are certain fields where the maximum combination of drive + talent = success. Pro Sports spring readily to mind. Success is easy to define there, too; You win or you don't. In most other areas, talent is overshadowed by unequal opportunities of all varieties, suck-up-ability, old boy/girl/whatever networks, family connections, lucky breaks, etc. and so forth.

    I haven't read here long enough to know who your erstwhile co-writer was. So, I'm not familiar with what he is doing now. Is it in any way a sell-out? Just wondering . . .

    What does success actually mean, anyway? Is it fame and fortune? Power? Professional prestige? The ability to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I did my best, and, on balance, it was pretty good?"

    You touch people's lives – and probably more of them, and in more ways than you know. Introspection and the desire to improve are good things. Self-deprecation, maybe not so much.

    I like what you do, and look forward to reading it each day.

    Plus, what Des said @1:44.

    Cheers!
    JzB the twice your age trombonist

  44. J. Dryden Says:

    When I saw this post last night, I thought to myself: "Oh man, he's gonna be buried under an avalanche tomorrow." And indeed you were. So, here's another snowball for the pile:

    Like you, I'm in academia. Like you, I'm painfully aware that I'm not cut out for it in many ways. And like you, I'm painfully aware at how little I've accomplished compares to how much I figured I would have accomplished when I was in my late teens. (Of course, people in their late teens–and early 20s–are fucking idiots compared to their older selves, so perhaps we shouldn't allow our present-day selves to be judged by those naive morons we used to be.)

    But like you, I teach. And teaching is miserable, thankless, unremunerative, and anonymous. And yet, there's something to be said for improving the world just that *least* little bit. One fragment of knowledge or self-awareness, imparted at an early age, can change a life. We're like those late medieval groundskeepers who planted yew trees in interesting patterns, knowing that they'd never live to see the results of their labors. Which sucked, especially since the guys who planted roses and vegetables got all the credit. But the roses and vegetables are dead now, and the yew trees are still going strong.

    You're not going to get the credit you deserve, either here on this blog–which clearly, is read by a ton of people–and people who can *spell* and use proper *grammar*, which tells you something about the caliber of the web community you've created!–or in your classes. But fuck the credit. The achievement is what matters, and sometimes, only the effort itself. The work *is* its own reward–for writers, artists, thinkers, it pretty much has to be. That, and the suck-up adulation of geeks like me.

    Thank you for hanging in there. And happy birthday.

  45. Jak Says:

    Yet another reason I love you. Well, not LOVE. But, you know: love.

    Anyway, you share a birthday with my dad. He's 70 today. So quit bitching about getting older and keep your fabulous blog posts coming. Well, not COMING. But, you know: coming.

  46. Jake Says:

    Oops. I mistyped my own name above. Chalk it up to the fact that I'm a whole decade older than you.

    Happy birthday, by the way!

  47. PeterA1 Says:

    Happy birthday, Ed. I have almost exactly three decades on you, so I have enough distance and disappointments to look upon your birthday remonstrance with equal parts empathy and amusement. You have accomplished nothing? Just look at the number of well-wishers and supporters who are here (so far), then reflect a little on the folly of your assessment. I got lucky a couple of years ago and followed a link to here from another blog and have been thankful ever since. You are doing a remarkably fine job here, so don't go all squishy and scare us all like that.
    I was a newly minted daily newspaper assignment editor when I turned 31, and a grizzled vet found out it was my birthday. He said, "You lucky devil." I leave you with that.

  48. Geoff Says:

    Not so old is you. Just a couple of years ago the head of the Young Republicans was 42.

    I to was scared you were going to give up the blog. Glad to read it's not imminent. I found it about 6 months ago and have read it every day since.

    Besides, didn't you say you have had a paper accepted in one of the best American poli. sci. reviews? Maybe you're not so bad at this at all, no?

  49. John Says:

    Happy Birthday! I am glad that I started reading your blog with the All Ugly Baseball team and not today. When you're looking at the Big 50 it's hard to feel much sympathy for someone turning 31! But I will forgive the FJM moment and figure you'll soon return to the style that makes your blog the one I most look forward to reading every day. Though I must admit, I always liked listening to Joe Morgan, so what do I know?

  50. Bob Ruhloff Says:

    Happy birthday, and many happy returns!!

    I found your blog about two weeks ago, check it whenever I check my bookmarks, and think you have some true talent. Besides, you have a functioning, high-sensitivity bull-shit detector, and that is very valuable.

  51. Ecks Says:

    a) what people, especially Dork, said above

    b) I too am an academic wannabe who's a year or two ahead of you, and have had many of the same thoughts. I've had older and wiser heads tell me that when you watch people's careers, work ethic actually tends to end up predicting success a whole lot more than mental firepower. Didn't encourage me, but take it for what it's worth.

  52. Circle Says:

    More Gin less Tacos for Ed

  53. beau Says:

    @jazzbumpa – I was just kidding about the unnamed other blogger selling out.

    ed – I should have said before that you were always more entertaining than either of your ex-colleagues, AND you are much funnier now than when I first stumbled across this thing (circa mustache diaries). That's gotta be worth something.

    And I too was afraid you were quitting for the first 2/3 of this post. Don't. Ever.

  54. j Says:

    Happy birthday, kid! I hope right now your sorrows are all drowned away!

    Two notes on why (and how) you should be happy with what you do: 1) People are happiest if they only live in the present, like Salo in The Sirens of Titan. Don't worry about the future or the past.

    2) As a corollary to #1, read up on how Flow is a goal in and of itself, and you will not need any reason to rationalize why you write and teach.

    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Csikszentmihaly

    By the way I very much enjoy this website. First check of the day.

  55. Prudence Says:

    Happy birthday, Ed. It's doubtful to be of help, but here's my two cents: I'm 35 and have probably had more than my share of "wait, what?" moments with regard to my professional advancement. In the beginning, I hopped on the rodent treadmill, made pots of cash and became astounding miserable in the process, so I hopped off and have been doing something I love for 10 years; and, despite the fact I am as poor as a church mouse who's just gotten a very large tax bill and whose wife has just legged it with all the cheese, I'm a happy camper. I'm also now in Cambodia, having gone overland from China thru Laos to get here, and heartily recommend a long trip to who-the-fuck-knows. You can do it on a few dollars a day and it frees the soul wonderfully. Just a thought.

    Lotsa love, P

  56. Prudence Says:

    PS– I patiently wait for the interminably sluggish internet to load your blog on every stop on my travels. Greater love hath no broke backpacker!

  57. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Thirty-one years is a long time; I am no longer a young person by any stretch of the imagination.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!! Oh, the folly of relative youth!!

    Wait'll you're fucking forty.

  58. waldo Says:

    Ha ha 30 and working on your mid-life crisis already. Happy birthday and many more so when you're sixty you can read this and laugh.

  59. Skepticat Says:

    Stretch your imagination, kid. I'm more than twice your age, and I know that birthdays are to be celebrated, if only in honor of the people who no longer get to have them.
    Also worthy of celebration is the fact that you're able to indulge yourself in this manner. Yes, keep plugging away. That's all any of us really can do.

  60. Chris Says:

    Happy Birthday Ed. I think my life really began at 30. It did not seem so at the time, but give it a few years and see what you think.

    The fact that you can do what you like _is_ success. There are a lot of people getting up at sunset, or before sunrise to go spend 12 hours doing stuff they hate, only to get up and do it again, and again, and again.

    Now, Happy Halloween!

  61. Peggy Says:

    Just in case I can reassure you where others have failed, I love this blog, frequently read it at 6 am when I get up to go teach, and have many times thought "I would use this with my AP class to teach [insert rhetorical device here], if it wasn't so hilariously offensive that the Jehovah's Witness kid would get me fired for it." Sigh.

    And anyway, they don't know anything about anything, so it probably wouldn't make sense to them. Sigh.

    But you beat out the shrill feminists AND the Project Rungay guys on my to-read list. Serious accomplishment, sir.

    I'm glad I set the bar real low by sending Liz her birthday card a month and a half late, so that hopefully you're ok with my late birthday wishes too (I wanted to read all of the comments before I commented, and they just kept getting longer… thus, 26 hours later, I finally respond).

    Don't quit. Your blog is still interesting every day! I've given up on so many others!

  62. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Says:

    Ed,

    This morning I came to work and confronted with the fact that somehow someone decided to let a nine twelve group show a movie here. I'm feeling really sick to my stomach because people actually showed up to watch it, and also b/c political groups aren't supposed to be able to meet here. Another day, another issue.
    Anyway, this brings me to:
    The world needs G&T. I need you to keep spewing out your horribly offensive sense, because there are a lot of crazy and insensible people, and right now they are gathering just down the hallway.

    Happy Birthday Ed. The older we get, the better we are…or something.

  63. judith weingarten Says:

    @ 31, from one so ancient it's almost impolite to mention it, Keep on blogging.

    As "Huh? Says" says, it can be richer than writing polysci papers for the select 30 readers (or, in my field of Aegean archaeology, restricted to the odd baker's dozen or so).

    So, I as "Who? Says" says, 'why can't we do both?

  64. Chris Says:

    A fellow Y318 student at IU introduced me to this blog a few years ago, and I have read it pretty much every day ever since. I thoroughly enjoy your humor, wit and observations, as do many others. I also think you are a damn good teacher. I don't know every criteria to being a good academic, but you have the teaching part down. Many others also loved your classes at IU. You've touched a lot of lives, which is truly exceptional.

    It seems like birthdays somehow turn into a yearly ritual where we point the microscope at ourselves and see how we measure up in life. I think the most important thing people need to realize and celebrate on their birthdays is that they are alive (which is what I try to do). Life is the most precious commodity. Life is fascinating, amazing, and it is truly amazing anybody is here. Ed, Happy 31 years of existance: Enjoy your life, be amazed, and sound your barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

  65. Myconfidentz Says:

    I will defer to Mr. Shatner, from "You'll Have Time":

    Live life
    Live life like you're gonna die
    Because you're gonna
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news
    But you're gonna die

    Maybe not today or even next year
    But before you know it you'll be saying
    Is this all there was?
    What was all the fuss?
    Why did I bother?

    Now, maybe you won't suffer, maybe it's quick
    But you'll have time to think
    Why did I waste it?
    Why didn't I taste it?
    You'll have time
    Because you're gonna die.

    Yes it's gonna happen because it's happened to a lot of people I know
    My mother, my father, my loves
    The president, the kings, and the pope
    They all had hope

    And they muttered just before they went
    "Maybe, I won't go…"
    Live life like you're gonna die
    Because you are

    Maybe you won't suffer maybe it's quick
    But you'll have time to think
    Why did I waste it?
    Why didn't I taste it?
    You'll have time
    'Cause you're gonna die

    I tell you who else left us
    Passed on, gone to heaven, no longer with us
    Johnny Cash, JFK, that guy in the Stones
    Lou Gehrig, Einstein, and…Joey Ramone
    Have I convinced you?
    Do you read my lips?
    This may come as news but it's time
    You're gonna die
    You're gonna die

    By the time you hear this I may well be dead
    And you my friend might be next
    'Cause we're all gonna die

    Yeah, oh maybe you won't suffer and maybe it's quick
    But you'll have time to think
    Why did I waste it?
    Why didn't I taste it?
    You'll have time
    You'll have time cause you're gonna die
    Yes, you're gonna die
    You're gonna die, I tell you
    You're gonna die
    You are gonna die

    'Cause maybe you won't suffer maybe it's quick
    But you have time to think
    Why did I waste it?
    Why didn't I taste it?
    You'll have time 'cause you're gonna die

    Live Life
    Life life like you're gonna die
    Because you're going to
    Oh yes
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news
    But you're gonna die

    Maybe not today or even next year
    But before you know it you'll be saying
    Is this all there was?
    What was all the fuss?
    Why did I bother?
    Why did I waste it?
    Why didn't I taste it?
    You'll have time, baby
    You'll have time
    'Cause you're gonna die
    You are gonna die
    Oh yeah

  66. Samantha B. Says:

    I've been reading since way back when you used to have maybe two comments per post, one of which often being mine. I think the comments section on this post speaks to your talent.

    Keep keepin' on, Ed.

  67. Giri Says:

    Goddamit, if I read nothing else in a week, I read your fucking blog. Do NOT stop, you're doing something nobody else does, honestly. You don't fit into the firedoglake-rudepundit continuum. Maybe that is why you haven't had that magic phone call yet.

  68. tony Says:

    Love the site , you are actually a genius, talent oozes out of your ears , etc.,. etc.,.

    And since 40 is the new 30 you are now …wait for it…
    21 again!

    Awwwwwright!

  69. David Says:

    Ed, I have no clue what you want to accomplish in academia. But I will say you are an awesome teacher.

    I had you for the American Presidency class a few years ago (Y318 I believe). You were damn good and one of the best profs I had at IU. Aside from being comical, you just taught the stuff in a way that made it stick and was easily accessible.

    I get the feeling you're more interested in research and stuff like that, but you really were one hell of a good teacher.

  70. Dave Says:

    Grad school's whole schtick is to make grad students feel like failed shams of people. I suspect all your psychic problems (and all mine) would be instantly cured if you told your advisor to go fuck him- or herself and got on your way.

    Keep writing! I love g&t.