Freeing Myself from My Twenties

I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves

Herman Hesse

It’s no coincidence Hesse wrote this north of thirty: no twenty-two-year-old could write this. Realizations of this depth remain beyond reach until you’ve lived long enough to make a mess of your dreams. Only adults, those over thirty, know what it is to see a dream in decay and no longer want to lie to themselves about it.

For maturity arises not from years but from the myriad of inescapable truths about oneself and the world, which can either be accepted, thus furthering your maturity – or denied, thus retarding it. However at a certain point, you may find that, like me, you’ve passed through some invisible threshold, after which it is simply no longer possible to continue averting your eyes from the most base and inglorious truths. Truths which are, in fact, the bane of your existence for their weight binds like chains, locking you in a personal prison from which your only chance of freedom is to be had in confessing and confronting the truths you’ve buried. So it is: man is his own jailer.

Most people don’t knowingly engage in self-deception but all unknowingly do. This cunning defense mechanism is usually employed to cover up something we feel unable to admit or accept; so, instead, we live in denial. This amounts to treason; although, no traitor sees himself as such. Treason is always justified as better, or at least easier, than allegiance to the alternative, which we almost always undeservedly betray. In the case of denial, it is the self, the soul, whom we play Judas to.

Betraying ones soul is always a toxic and destructive thing. Eventually the body demands palliatives to bury the pain and cognitive dissonance created by the lie you have chosen to live. People then turn to vice: sex, pills, booze, food, and any other anodyne which masks the pain of their secret betrayal. However if you are lucky, the masks simply stop working on some fateful day and the blissless ignorance you suffered so greatly to maintain all at once loses it’s function.

Actor Bradley Cooper, at age twenty-nine, had this to say on his own coming to truth with himself:

“I realized I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually gonna ruin my life; I’m really gonna ruin it.'”

Note: Bradley cooper subsequently got sober and went on to become one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

It’s not easy to admit you’re going to ruin your life or that you’re not being true to your soul; however, shedding denial is about ushering in the unsexy feelings you need in order to make a beautiful life. It’s about being honest with yourself rather than being enslaved to the illusions of your ego, which cares naught for the truths of the soul.

Once the long buried truths of the soul come to the light of day, they are forever exiled from the darkness. Addressing them, fixing them, repairing them then becomes your personal crusade; the goal to become happy and whole as never before. With the possibility in sight the prospect takes possession of you, using you as a means to an end. The end: a more peaceful heart than you have known in all your years.

At thirty I have such a deepened sense of myself, of my place in time – headed all the way to the end. At thirty you come to realize you are amidst your destiny and this shitshow is, indeed, your life. It’s all at once a comfort and a horror. A comfort to know you survived your twenties and a horror to know your current life is the result. While every twenty year old thinks the coming decade the best, every thirty year old knows better.

In my twenties I made mistakes equal in magnitude to victories. However, the only real mistake is not learning from your missteps. Continuing to live the same destructive actions of your past reveals the deficiency of your character, whereas taking ownership of your life and learning from the past repairs it. Remember that whatever you may view as a mistake ceases to be one the moment you learn something from it.

I intend my thirties to be a time of leveraging my mistakes, of reaping the fruits of my life experience.

I could not look out before me with the ambition and optimism I do had I not lived the past decade of my life exactly as it was: flaws, heartache, angst and all. Frankly, I’m thrilled my twenties are over. My twenties were a decade of thinking I knew more than I did and operating from that supreme, arrogant ignorance.

It’s nearly impossible for a modern man to go though his twenties and not be, for a time, an asshole; however, by thirty a man usually finds calm resignation toward the world’s capacity for coldness, rather than meeting it with his own. He realizes fate is indifferent to his dreams and if they [his dreams] are to be, it is up solely to him. He learns you cannot compartmentalize life; that success in one facet of life, e.g., health, spirituality, is intertwined with every other facet. This holistic approach to life is the only logical response to having settled on so many parts of life at times in our twenties in order to succeed in others – only to later realize that to settle is to suffer.

At thirty a man either wants it all, or nothing at all; thirty can be the beginning of a man’s life or the end of it. The difference is in whether he leaves his dreams buried in his twenties or whether he resurrects them with a definiteness of purpose unlike he has before shown.

Of course this is all based on my mindset at thirty, bolstered by my beliefs, among them the notions: good men get better with age, and a man’s thirties are his time for making hay.

While I made hay for a time in my twenties I was too full of excuses to yet attain everlasting success. These excuses ranged from “I’m heartbroken”, to “I’m a writer”, to “This is just a phase”, but they all served a singular function: to justify me not giving my all or not trying at all. Every excuse was nothing but a way of deluding myself into believing that either the wrong thing or the easy thing was the right thing. As is said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same.

Now that I can see the errors of my ways in the excuses lies I told myself, I can’t help but think, what the hell was I thinking?

Because the truth is, most people don’t know why they do the things they do – they only think they do based on what they’ve told themselves. And so it is, your twenties are a time of rationalizing your existence, whereas your thirties are a time of living from your innermost truths. However to make that shift, you have to become completely honest with yourself. You have to burn all the masks and shed all the excuses.

I have held onto the past for a long time. I’ve for a long time carried torches of my past loves into the night. Tonight I’m casting those torches into the sea where they belong. I’m grateful for my past but it’s nothing compared to where I am going.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny,” so it is, I intend my thirties to be a decade of great character and great destiny.

I never want to lie to myself again; not about my happiness, not about my past, not about my future, not about my present. I never want to see the world through the eyes of my past again. I never want to betray my own soul again. I never want to feel the need to wear a mask again. Never again will I trust someone more than I trust the voice of my soul and the teachings of my blood.

Note: I wrote this over the course of three or four days during which I had the flu. Stylistically, I’m not in love with it, and it feels even perhaps a bit pedantic, but sometimes you just have to declare something.

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