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rant of the moment

“I think it’s time to blow this joint and start making some serious money.”

I used to have a friend who said that to me. He used to say it fairly frequently, with the emphasis on "serious". He wasn’t a close friend. He was somewhere in that void between good friend and friendly acquaintance that gets so difficult to define. We knew each other because we were hanging out, way too often, at the same bar. We both liked music, we both moonlighted as DJs and we both liked drinking and dancing. Even better, he liked buying drinks for women and didn’t expect anything in return, at least from me.

Because he was nice to me and bought me drinks and didn’t hit on me, I never pointed out to him how ridiculous I found the statement I’ve quoted above. (Ironically, if he had been a closer friend, I probably would have felt comfortable laughing about it to his face.) The first time he said it to me, I thought he was drunk, since it came out of nowhere and I’ve heard drunk people make more ridiculous non-sequiturs than that. The second time, I was sure he wasn’t drunk and, stumped for a comeback, I took the opportunity to ask him what he was studying at university. I think it was business, but I really didn’t pay attention, because I wasn’t interested. I just wanted some conversational distance between me and that horrible line.

It sounded like he might be quoting a parent, which wouldn’t have been that surprising, but it came without the irony one might expect. It was like he was announcing his retirement from club life, having decided that the moment had arrived to become an adult. I had always assumed that coming of age was something that happened over time. But for him, it apparently arrived like the morning newspaper, at a precise and definable moment in time.

I didn’t know what he was planning on making serious money doing and I didn’t particularly care. But I remember wondering what the rush was. I was not even twenty at the time and he was at the very most three years older than me. To my way of thinking, we had years, years before we had to worry about our grown-up futures.

More disturbing was the idea that at some point I was also supposed to choose, that I was supposed to give up the things that I enjoyed, from nightclubs to political rallies to writing, because they were somehow immature. In fact, I did a pretty good job of not making that choice. Or at least, consistently choosing to remain in my state of childish ignorance.

My bar friend may have been onto something. As pretentious as it was to say out loud, at some point, you are supposed to put away “adolescent” things- those hedonistic vices- and become... what? Productive? Mature? All of those things that you were also supposed to hate in your hedonistic youth. You aren’t supposed to ask why you do these things, because that is outside the rules. If you want children, the answer is self-explanatory, because having children does involve responsibility and sacrifice. But my friend wasn’t talking about having children. He was talking about opting to settle down. And he was talking about it in a way that implied that he was more advanced than the rest of us, who would still waste the remains of our youth in this state of sybaritic oblivion. He was getting a head start.

I have never had a comfortable relationship with the working world. I enjoy the perks that a decent salary brings, but I try to leave it there. I’m consistently bothered when people ask me what I do, because I detest being identified with my job. But it’s one of those questions you’re supposed to ask someone when you first meet them. It comes right after asking their name. We are all supposed to be identified through what we do, because we can no longer be identified through what we’re studying in university (which might at least have had something to do with our interests). The truth is, the career I have now came about by accident, when a job I took just to pay the bills unexpectedly morphed into something more serious.

The question of what I do bothers me because of the kind of closure it implies. This is who I am, full stop. I still believe that my life is open, that, because my obligations are relatively light (no children, no martgage, no amassed debt, save what I put on my credit cards from month to month), I have many options, many potential future me’s. I still think about what I want to be when I grow up. Every time I have to answer the question of what I do, I die a little, because I am forced to play along with the charade that what I do for a living is what I do, period. I want to explan to them that I have a lot of other things that are more important, but that’s not how the game is played. At my age, I’m supposed to be set in my path. I’m supposed to have blown off the joints of my youth. I’m supposed to be making some serious money.

I don’t know who made up these rules. I’d like to know, because I’d like to ask that person a few questions. Because I don’t understand why working at a job that means nothing to me should make me more mature than believing in the ideals I had when I was younger. Because I am far more interested in knowing what people think about when they’re spending time alone on the weekend than in how they pay their bills. Because I’m fed up with feeling like I’m immature for not wanting to give up my freedom. And most of all, because I want to believe that this is a phase the same way that all the parts of my life thus far have been phases. This is the part where I get to stop worrying about how to pay my electricity bill so I can concentrate on how to get my life to where I can pay the bills doing something I enjoy.

I lost touch with my serious money bar friend eventually, but not because he stopped hanging out at clubs (which he didn’t). I never found out if he managed to get the life he was planning for himself. The last time I saw him, he was still caught between knowing he was supposed to move on and not really wanting to.

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