Happy Birthday

To me! It’s my 21st birthday, and rather than be at a bar at midnight, I strapped on my boots and walked out to the fields behind my house. That’s right, the first thing I did on my birthday was kick a soccer ball.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the “orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us…” But what did he mean by that; how can the future recede before us? In the book, Gatsby is driven by his desire to rekindle the past; to create a future that is no longer possible.

It is said that when we are born, for roughly the first year of our lives, humans have the ability to hear and distinguish all possible sounds, but at some point, those sounds become more limited to what we hear regularly. Hence, constantly expose a newborn to music, they will retain a better “ear” for it than others; expose a child to several languages, they will be more able to learn and understand them, simply because they can hear all the tones–like African “click”
languages or Chinese’s four intonation. We are all born with the ability to learn any language, but we lose if it we do not use it: the ability to learn new sounds “year by year recedes before us.”

I would give anything to talk to myself at five–as I’m sure we all would.

I am a shallow person: I want to be great at something–successful–in a way that people remember me and I compete at the top level. More than that, I just want to be good at something. Really good. I want to excel at one thing. Not to be the best in the world, but among the best.

That future is rapidly receding before me. At 21, if I were going to be really exceptional, I would be already. If I were going to be a professional musician, I would be in a conservatory practicing and writing. If I were going to play football professionally–even semi-professionally–I would either be on a team or a starter on my college’s varsity team. These are the only two things that have really managed to hold my interest.

Teaching is a consolation prize. It’s a way I can hope to help a few people, hope to coach some high school football, hope to be remembered by an old student or two. There is still time to be an exceptional mathematician, but I think I would have already shown some signs, and I am too glad to be done with math at the end of the day/week/semester.

So today I am 21, 5 months and 8 days older than Wayne Rooney, and watching my orgiastic future recede just a little farther as I “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”