Sometimes it is all ahead of you

Cameron from Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons poses this (I paraphrase from his last post):
I'm thinking about the quote: 'You have your whole life ahead of you,' and the manner in which it is generally offered as advice.

Generally, a person is at a crossroads...there is one option that represents an opportunity which provides some level of security, such as a steady job. Accordingly, there is a second (or third, fourth, etc...) option which represents some level of risk or unsteadiness, such as traveling or pursuing an art of some kind without realistic expectations of lengthy sustainability.

1. At what age, or at what percent of one's life, is one's whole life no longer ahead of one?

2. Indeed, what would a life look like if one were to operate with this concept in mind at all times?

3. What would a life look like if one acted as if one's entire life was perpetually ahead of them?

4. Would they always choose with their heart, ignoring external influences and pressures?

5. Eventually, would the initial secure option (which was, at the time, ignored) arise as one that now speaks to the heart as the better option?

          For those who have not read Cameron, a bit of back-story will help understand where he is coming from.  Cameron obtained his teacher's certificate a short while ago and has recently moved to Ecuador—from Texas—to teach.

I will 'give a go' at answering his questions:

     1. There is a measurable amount of sneer in the tone of this question.  Of course, even a man sitting on death row with a red circle on this month's calendar, "has his whole life ahead of him."  But, the best answer to this question presupposes the person being asked is aware of the actuarial percentages and how those percentages relate to relative life expectancy.  In my case—about 2/3 of my life is gone and 1/3 of my life is ahead of me...unless I die on-or-about 21 Dec 2012 (then, 8/9 of my life is gone and 1/9 of my life is ahead of me).

     2. Someone who would be happy and upbeat about today, excited about tomorrow, and not too concerned about yesterday (no matter how bad it may have been).  I suspect their 'todays' would be filled with taking chances and risks because there are an unknown amount—or maybe even an infinite number—of 'tomorrows' ahead of them.

     3. Saying someone: "acts as if they perpetually have their whole life ahead of them," is describing reckless behavior (e.g. buying on credit with no regard to the ability to pay the bills).

     4. I think the phrase: 'living like your entire life is ahead of you' is a synecdoche (thank you Mr. Kaufman) because it is both a label placed on the actions of young adults who do not have any familial or socioeconomic responsibilities, and, an actuarial fact that 20-somethings have only lived a small percentage of their years.  But to answer the question—no; familial and socioeconomic responsibilities are rarely avoidable for us humans.  Only meth addicts 'always ignore external influences'... oh, and 14-year-olds.

     As a tangental note—and I'm not implying anything about Cameron—I have a few gay acquaintances who seem to live a relatively "untethered" lifestyle.  Their constant ability and desire to pick-up-and-move seem less about 'relationship/job anchors' and more about possibilities, opportunities, and the desire for new experiences in new places.

     5. Ah, regrets . . . if you choose to live life to it's fullest, full-speed-ahead and-damn-the-torpedoes, will—someday—you look back and murmur: hey self, what the fuck were you thinking when you joined the circus, got your entire body tattooed and gave every dollar you earned to an alligator wrangler in Pensacola?  Of course you will.   That's the lovely part about the human condition: our ability to second-guess ourselves makes us sane.  Or, when we fail at it, it makes us dead in Alaska.  One or the other.

     Post Script: hey Cameron, I thought I was "taking a chance" by pulling stakes and moving from Arizona to Portland on not much more than a whim.   Texas to Salinas de Guaranda?  I am in awe of you, and my admiration of your 'living life like it's all ahead of you' is vast.

It is the epitome of life. The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity. — Mark Twain (in a letter to Edward Dimmit, July, 19, 1901)


conscientizacao said...

Veach, thanks for the post.

Sometimes it's nice for musings to be answered in such an orderly manner...I tend to dwell in the realm of the question, and allow that to take hold. From time to time, there are simple ways to answer complicated questions, even if they might not totally put to rest the wonder in me.

And speaking of untethered, I've met some of the most liberated (from family, occupation, permanent dwelling, geographic place, etc...) people in my weeks here. I met an awesome young lady from South Carolina who's been down in South America for over 4 years now. In those four years, she's been selling artesania and playing music on buses to get by. She's been deported multiple times from multiple countries (a few times from Brazil). She speaks with family via email once every couple months. Anyway, you get the point.

It's interesting to meet people who's lives are thusly free. In a way, it's a romantic thing that I appreciate on paper, so to speak. At the same time, I find that, for me, I would miss a sense of purpose. In addition, I enjoy the idea of having a geographic identity.

Anyway, thanks for the support in my decision to head down here. From time to time, that hits the spot.

I'll steer clear of Alaska, by the way. Thanks for the advice.

Finally, have you employed the use of a Mark Twain quote volume, or are you just that big of a fan?

veach st. glines said...

I derived some of my monthly-rotating quotes from tomes I own or borrow (from tomes I own or borrow...what a wonderfully rolling rumble of words) but in the case of Mr Clemens, I have resorted to the electronic font of all to cherry-pick from the web.