The falling autumn leaves. The harsh numbing of winter. The spring awakening that accompanies an annual tradition of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in which you realize you can no longer ‘hang’ with the man you used to be as your joints begin to creak. Broken down, beaten, demoralized, you yearn for the younger self through whom you once thrived. A lust for life, a yearning for the unknown, a daily feeling of boldness, discovery, and zeal that once accompanied your youthful vivacious young 20s person has been replaced by the aggrieved disposition of old age and the inevitability of your rapid descent into despair.
In 10 days, I will turn 24 years old. Just typing that leaves me with the jaundiced feeling of disenchantment upon recognizing that I’m a mere shell of what my young self once was. Ghosts of the past, both literal and figurative, haunt my inner soul as I approach the crossroads of life–Two roads intersecting with one another. One is the path of whom I was, the other the steep descent into loneliness and petulant solitude that life has thrust upon me. Long gone is the manic propulsiveness of our adolescence, the vivacious euphoria that injected such dubious elation into my gilded youthfulness. In its place is a more fragile sprightliness that so ambivalently yet effectively reflects the emotional, physical, mental, and sexual states of a man who is neither as insouciant nor spirited as his younger self. As the exhilaration of boyhood moves out, the faded bitterness and disillusion of old age have moved in.
As I sit here reflecting on my own misgivings, I am reminded of the Elton John record ‘This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore’ from his 2001 album Songs from the West Coast. “I used to be the main express / All steam and whistles heading west / Picking up my pain from door to door / Riding on the storyline, furnace burning overtime / But this train don’t stop / This train don’t stop / This train don’t stop there anymore.” Mm. These words resonate deeply within the inner fibers of my bones.
You see, as I slowly stumble out of bed each morning, fumbling around for my glasses and wondering how my I seemingly aged one year in one night, I try hard to avoid the mirror, as there are many things it would reveal I wish not to see. Still, in those early morning moments when I do accidentally catch a glimpse, I fail to recognize the man who looks back at me. With all too much frequency, my own evocation fails me. All the things my younger self once took for granted now cause pain: The physical, a response to a body that is simply running out of gas, and the mental, a sullen cogitation on whom we once were.
Lest you not doubt, my soul can still feel unbridled love, though all too often it is consumed by unheralded ache. In one instance, my heart is filled with joy, while in another it is broken into a million pieces by the world that continues to rush by as I slowly turn into a simple relic of the past. Although my spirit longs for still and clemency, all too often it is consumed by an overwhelming longing of emancipation.
So as I approach my 24th year on this earth that is simultaneously so astonishing yet redoubtable all at once, I recognize that although to many I am no longer attractive, my bones are weak, and my soul still feels nothing but rejection and ignominy, I’m still well aware of the inner beauty that pervades my soul, and in that consciousness my value will not be forsaken. Although old and gray, it’s true: I’m still here and I long to live with what little time I have left. .