Turning 30 gave me a chance to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes: worrying. I had become a perfectly average writer, comfortably employed and occasionally published. This, of course, was a nightmare. In the soggy trenches of the creative life, comfort is the real enemy. Many of my literary heroes fought the battle of authorship tooth and nail, never complacent, trapped in their own heads, day in and day out. Other veterans of our craft chose to rot alongside the wounded and the deserters, living only for the moment in some blur of booze and passion. From down there, at least there’s always something to write about. Very few, I must note, found gratification in a cushy office chair from 9-5, Monday through Friday, using “the gift” to anonymously advance the interests of some monolithic institution.
In other words, I felt like I either had to refocus and start seriously writing for myself, or pick up a drug habit. So I got to work. That’s half the story.
The other half? Like many people, the thought of turning 30 didn’t sit very well with me. It seemed so… serious. The proceeding decade would almost surely be filled with large financial commitments, a career (whatever that really is), hallmarks of adulthood like marriage and parenting, and the beginning of a process of bodily decay that would only get worse as time crept forward. People like Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Sheen have gone to great lengths to prove this is not a hard and fast rule, but still… I’ve never heard anyone under 30 say “30 is the new 20.” When I started to feel this milestone get too close for comfort, 30 felt like the new 94.
So before you is the product of a man desperate to write with a problem on his hands. Many timeless works of literature have been forged under such conditions — this isn’t one of them. But still, I hope you like it.
30×30 is a set of instructions to my teenage self — a little book of hard-earned truths I wish I had read in high school instead of The Scarlet Letter (which is just a lousy book to make 16 year-olds read, if you ask me. Christ, of all the books in this world). Of course I never would have taken the time to read this when I was 16, as I knew everything then and was far too busy discovering the thrill of independence and the opposite sex. Nevertheless…
This is also an open letter to yours truly, right here and now. Every once in awhile it helps to chronicle highs and lows and take stock of ideas that have survived the test of time. I must admit that I take some amount of strange comfort in reaffirming my beliefs. Religious people do that every Sunday, right? Once every 30 years seems like it’ll do the trick for me.
All that being said, this whole “letter to myself” routine is about 40% bullshit, give or take. I really hope you read 30×30 too, and take something from it, or at least enjoy a moment or two along the way. Maybe some younger people out there will read this and dodge a landmine I’ve blown on their behalf. Maybe my peers will check it out to see if our opinions align. Maybe older folks will read it and chuckle over how little I actually know. Maybe no one will read it other than my mom. That’s ok, at least I tried. And speaking of my mother, I’d like to apologize to her and all other pious readers for my colorful language heretofore. It’s not your fault Mom. This is just how it comes out.
Another apology/disclaimer: I am by no means a “guru” of anything; not even of writing, which I’ve been tinkering with for much of the last 10 years. I am not rich, famous, well-traveled, wise beyond my years, married, a parent, exceptionally talented, or any other status that might traditionally deem me “one who is worthy of distributing advice.” (Though there are plenty of people who are many of those things and are overflowing with lousy advice.) I’m certainly not a shrink or life coach. I’m a good guy who has managed to do alright, that’s it.
At any rate, the only thing that really matters to me in the proceeding pages is that I keep it real, so to speak, and document a few truths I hold dearly. They’ve served me well, or I’ve learned them the hard way. If you have a problem with that, start reading at this chapter. Otherwise, click next, please enjoy, and thanks for reading.
Yours very sincerely,
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© 2012, Ian Mathias