The restaurant table’s littered with the debris of someone else’s meal: a knife, a fork, some crumbs, a pint glass. I’ve arrived late. I’ve kept him waiting. The Cubs are on the television. It’s the last day of Gen Con 2013, the second-to-last day of a month of travel and appearances for me and my insides have gone slack and pooled heavy in my extremities.
We talk about designated hitters, though I don’t know anything about that stuff. We talk about games and play and how great a GM this friend of ours is. We talk about being recognized by strangers, because I got recognized by a stranger at the convention, though I don’t know anything about that stuff. We talk about my favorite lyric from a song by The Long Winters: If I kiss you now, like sun streaming through a tavern’s door / would you wonder what I was kissing you for?
“You come up in conversation a lot here,” he says to me. He looks at the Cubs game, then at his beer. “People talk about how you should like you as much as we like you.”
I make a face that says I’m listening, that I’m thinking about what I’m hearing, that I don’t have anything to say.
He goes on. He says things that echo another friend of mine, the night before, about the person I could be, about how great it is — for me, I guess — to be that person, when I am that person. He uses the word admire. Then he says this thing that slips right between the plates and pierces the mail, finding the gap in my guard.
He says, ”The thing is, all these people who like you, we’re not idiots.”
Maybe it’s because I’m so tired, too tired to defend. Maybe it’s because he’s struck me with a well-designed ludic and dramatic quandary — a great choice. What do I feel more: the way I feel about myself or the way I feel about my friends?
I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t know what I did say to that. Vertigo.
I turned 35 today. My beard’s going gray and my triglycerides are too high. I’ve got a list of things I want to write, want to build, want to publish, want to share and that list is getting longer, not shorter. I have a list of people I owe and that list is getting longer, not shorter. I have lists in my head of places I want to go, of people I want to repay, of works to make, and I need time.
So we’re getting gym memberships, over here, and I’m committing to some changes in the way I work, who I work for, and when and why and how. Truth is, I want to be better than I’ve been. And while I’m not sure I want to be the guy that some want me to be, I think I’m ready to take up the challenge of being a different me.
This doesn’t mean abandoning my humility. I need that to stay kind. This means new priorities. This means advocating for my own wellbeing, physically, professionally, emotionally. This means protecting myself and my career against certain perils, including those I create myself.
Though I don’t know anything about that stuff.
Music: CHVRCHES, “Zvvl”