Happy Birthday, Jake

We knew we’d get older. We knew we’d do these things, these housemarriagecarsjobsvacationtimeplaneticketsbusinesssuit things. We knew we’d give up other things.

So this is us, at 28, 29, 30, and 32.

A little more tired, though eight years ago we couldn’t imagine it.

Pets and houses. Dreams that didn’t quite work out. Dreams that did. Delerium.

Burnout. Medication. Hospitals. Funerals. A church that wouldn’t let us throw rice at our wedding. Endless bottles of wine. Candles.

Laughter, always laughter.

Looking at each other, all four of us, thinking, “I love you. You can’t imagine how much I love you.”

Thinking, “Nothing else in the world is as real as this love. Nothing.”

Hatred so pure it comes out as exhaustion; “I just can’t stand it if you keep talking one more second.” “Shut the hell up about your own problems!” “You never loved me enough.” Reminding ourselves we’re better than that. Now.

It wasn’t that at 20 we couldn’t imagine 30. We could have, if we tried. We knew we’d get older. We knew we’d do these things, these housemarriagecarsjobsvacationtimeplaneticketsbusinesssuit things. We knew we’d give up other things.

Bike rides through the park at 3 p.m. Being poor. Drinking until 4 a.m. and going in to work at 7. Drinking until 4 a.m. and calling in sick. Sleep, hours and hours of blessed and unending sleep, and having weekends to ourselves. Fast food. Kissing strangers at parties. Doing more than that at parties. Parties in general. Fighting over Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac and Shakespeare. Fighting over politics. Hack work. Drafty apartments. Loving the drafty apartments. Piling on blankets to keep warm in the winter, blankets and quilted lumberjack shirts.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t imagine it. We just didn’t. We had stuff to do at 20 first.

And it isn’t that we’ve all woken up now, and are wondering how we got here. I know exactly what kind of disenchantment and panic response caused me to take the job down here, what kind of wonderful loving convinced me to get married, what kind of impulsive reaction made us to buy our place. I can’t take credit for the pet, exactly, but I don’t regret him. He’s cute and harmless and he calms me down.

It’s just that I keep hearing these things, these idiotic stereotypes. About how young people think they’re immortal. About how everybody gets more “conservative” (whateverthehellthatmeans) as they get older. About how age naturally confers wisdom. About how whatever you think now will automatically be trumped by what you think later.

We never thought we were immortal. We knew how the world could touch and harm us. I don’t know where anybody gets the idea that you “confront” mortality only when someone close to you dies. Nobody’s out there walking into cars, confident they won’t die. Say young people are more fearless, that I will agree with. We didn’t know to hide in our houses and fear talking loudly in public about things that matter. We didn’t know that signing on to a risky business venture without consideration of what we’d do for food if it failed was too hard or too big or too much. We believed too much in the idea that we’d find a way to make things work.

There is such a thing as too much respect for the laws of nature, too much respect for the odds. There’s such a thing as being scared, and we were, but there’s such a thing as going ahead anyway because something mattered more than fear, and we did that. That’s not foolish conviction of immortality, it’s courage.

And if we have decided to hell with the bullshit, I’m cracking up or burning out or breaking down and I just want to rest now, I just want to live the life I didn’t get to live because I was so busy falling asleep on the floor after my fourth all-nighter trying to get a database program to work while you were eating six-day-old pizza and interviewing the mayor wearing a two-dollar dress from the Salvation Army, if most of us have decided to fall in love and live in love and go to Home Depot like the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean we regret all that, or don’t believe in it anymore.

This is us, at 28, 29, 30, and 32.

And love doesn’t go away.