To Seth on his Eighteenth Birthday

When I was eighteen years old, I wrote my first song: a “gift” for a friend who was graduating from high school. The chorus of the song was: “Good-bye graduate / It’s the start of the end.” At the time, I thought this was very funny. It had other gems like: “You’ll get a job and work for Dodge / Then you’ll lie to your children.” I no longer think the song is funny (well, maybe a little); now I think it is a good sober warning. So, on this, your eighteenth birthday, let me put it plainly: the fun is over.

Yes, it is true: you will go on to do many things that you now think of as fun and which would be fun if you were to have done them before midnight tonight. But these “fun” things are in fact psychological crutches that allow you to continue to exist. The future is bleaker than you can now imagine, but do not worry, it will come into focus very quickly.

Up to this point the world has been nothing but possibilities; you could walk through any door you wanted to an exciting future. This is true, if by “exciting future” you mean a future in which you struggle your whole life to get by and not despair so much that you finally just give up either via long drop and sudden stop or just by refusing to get out of bed. But the moment you walk through that door, you will hear all those other doors slam shut. And you will be looking at… It’s kind of like Let’s Make a Deal except there are more doors and a llama is behind every one of them.

Still, there is a lot of room behind that door you chose, and the llama may be sweet and housebroken. But you won’t be able to see what good is in your life, so you will decide (probably unconsciously, like you live the rest of your life) that you’ve totally fucked up your life. And so you will have (another subconscious) idea designed to make yourself feel better. You will create a mini-you and put all of your failed hopes and dreams into it. The problem is that this mini-you is just like you. I don’t want to spoil the whole trip for you; just leave it at this: you sell the llama to buy Pampers; the llama buys its freedom, and settles down with a much better job, house, wife, and kids than you.

If you are like most people, you will not notice until you are very old that you are merely perpetuating an existence that makes you and everyone else miserable. At that point, you will be too weak to do anything about it. And anyway, on Sundays the old-folks home serves chicken and you kind of look forward to that. Plus, there is that one sexy nurse—and you like looking at her even though you couldn’t do anything even if she didn’t consider you a pathetic old man and even if you weren’t a pathetic old man. So you keep on keeping on, or more correctly, you limp on limping on (in more ways than one). Until you gladly die—though you may not notice this joy because it is so unfamiliar to you.

Or I could be wrong. Actually, other than the fact that I can’t get a hot girlfriend and even if I did she would talk too much, I’m pretty happy with my life. The thing about all those doors that slammed shut: the locks can be picked or you can just take a sledgehammer to them. The truth is the doors slamming? The kids destroying you? The displeasure at what the world has and does offer? It’s all you. And that sucks, because there is no one else to blame. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[9:56 pm, 12 January 2010]

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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