Worlds Apart: A layman’s observations on personality and age

Having come home from Johnathan’s and watched the livestream last night I was drifting off thinking about the kinds of people I know and from where and how they’re different.

Thing about going to Johnathan’s is that most of the people I know there are the ones who work there, so they’re in their mid 20s to early 30s, whereas most of the guys I know from Smokey are in their late 40s to mid 60s…ish.

It’s a heady experience going from one to the other in the same day, spending 4-6 hours each at either place.

Cue the apparently required background tangent story:

A long long time ago, in a universe far far away (Montgomery, NY in the early 90s) I shared a house with a bunch of guys. It was the predictable kind of disaster you’d expect. A bunch of fucking reprobates splitting the $750 rent of this goofy ass house 4 ways and still largely unable to get it together, not a six month plan between a bunch of guys in their early 20s, mostly.

We had one guy who lived with us, we’ll call him Jeff because his name was Jeff and fuck him, dude was a dick. WHICH wouldn’t bear mentioning if it wasn’t kinda central. Jeff was 35-36 or so. He was always kinda cagey about how old he was, which I always find weird. Yeah there’s a girl thing about protecting their age. But with guys it’s just strange.

All of his friends were our age. He dated girls in their early 20s, 18-19 if he could. He was a monumentally insecure narcissistic musician. He needed fans, hangers on, supplicants. Well a couple of us barely tolerated him, especially when he’d try and make a play for my girlfriend (who, to her credit, just thought it was adorable.)

But I wonder about Jeff and us as directly contrasted with me hanging out over at Johnathan’s.

Again, I’m not ALL that sure of my own motivations all the time and I use my experiences with other people as a mirror for self-examination. I simply can’t trust my own black box assessment of what’s going on in my head. It’s something that’s always worked both for and against me in about equal proportion (ONCE, that is, I learned how to do it, something that came quite late to me.)

So I wonder what I’m doing over there. Do I hang out at Johnathan’s with a bunch of 20 somethings because it’s easy to feel good about myself in comparison? I don’t THINK that’s it. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that was there in some part.

I really quite enjoy their company. There’s something about 20somethings that has its own level of interesting about it. They’re honestly looking to figure out who they are, so they’re trying on masks and personae, carving out what they want to be, who they want to emulate and such. And sure, there’s usually a lot more bravado and posturing. But that’s just position seeking and assertion. It’s innocent in its own way and pretty easy to look past, except in the cases of the monumentally insecure (though that’s true regardless of age.)

And hell, everybody’s life offers a near infinity of things to learn from. No one’s existence is really so mundane that you can’t find something interesting about them if you’re inclined to look.

So what then is the difference between the Johnathan’s and the Smokey Cigar crowd? After all, they’re not even a half mile apart physically. The level of conversation over at Smokey is much higher, if not always quite so honest.

What I find about people my age is that they’ve more or less decided how they want to be seen and to a lesser extent, who they actually are.

People in their 40s-60s seem to have a sense of what identity should be. But there’s a problem with that: There seems to be FAR more ego tied up in maintaining the identity, the mask. So I find it very frequently tougher to have an honest conversation with them. It’s so damned easy to see them fighting to “maintain frame” to use modern parlance rather than just as a barely differentiated mass of humanity looking for a path.

There’s an inherent fragility to it all that I find just frustrating as FUCK. Can’t you just have a naked conversation? Do I REALLY have to get half of you drunk off your ass before you start talking honestly and let your guard down? Now there are some notable exceptions, people who’ve actually worked this shit all out and have settled not in to how they want to be perceived, but who they actually are, and aren’t threatened by conflicting…I don’t know…information? Ideas? Competing identities?

It seems to correlate with self-identified intelligence, which may be perfectly orthogonal to actual intelligence which in turn is why the observation of it makes me so fucking nervous.

You have to walk a line between presumed identity and openness that has a strength without brittleness in order to continue to grow. I can’t even have the damned thought without getting instant reminders of the Taoist and Zen admonitions to hold on to the world without holding, to be like water, or trying to add tea to a cup already full. The calcification seemingly but not necessarily inherent in age almost seems like a gravitational pull.

I’m just not sure I believe it’s a biological phenomenon so much as a social one. Or, if it is, that popular thinking doesn’t just have the causality exactly backwards.

The other thing I sense in the people my age is an awful lot more fear. It seems to seep into everything. Maybe it’s the growing realization of mortality, the sense that “this is all going to end some day, are you spending the time wisely?” I don’t know. It’s conjecture. I’m certainly finding such thoughts encroaching on my day to day thinking.

The kids have no real notion that they’re not going to live forever so they live a bit more freely, innocently and frequently stupidly. They make horrible choices because they don’t really see that there are consequences to the associations they make and the things they do.

For instance I don’t know ANY 50 year old drug dealers.

I don’t know what it all means, if indeed it means anything beyond these observations. And yeah, it’s on my mind because I’ve been suspicious of my own motives.

As usual I won’t understand what I’ve written here, much less its consequences until I’ve thought about it a couple days.

But I think I’ve managed to write myself into some clarity and peace about it all. I get it, and think I’ve passed my own judgement on the matter. But maybe not.

I’ll have to see.