(Disclaimer: I wrote this piece a month or so before the COVID-19 quarantine. I’m posting this from my living room in Mexico City, I’m not actually sitting in a coffee shop or going skateboarding. Anyway, here it goes…)
Last week I created a reminder on my i-phone titled “practice self-discipline”. Every day at 2:30pm, my phone pings to try and get me, a thirty-year-old Mexican to exercise, hike, eat healthy, work hard, fast, not smoke, drink no more than a glass of wine and rid my mind of the leftover Pad Thai from my last Uber Eats order that is sitting in the fridge.
I’m approaching thirty-one like a fiery, overweight meteorite.
It dawned on me that there is a real chance that I might actually, literally never be hot; statistically, this is my final shot at having a six-pack. I have to give the rope– that is my self-esteem– a tug in the right direction in the tug of war between monstrous indifference and active happiness. All this, while the only true result of the aforementioned war is a small, misty cloud that looms inside my brain and keeps whispering into my ear- or out to my ear I guess, if it is in my brain, the geography of this sketchy metaphor is confusing but anyway- it whispers the question:
“Am I depressed? Nah, I’m not depressed… am I?”.
When I was fifteen I crashed a quad bike into a tree at full speed. I had a friend called Melissa (names have been changed) who lived in the Ajusco forest and for her fifteenth birthday, she organized a big sleepover. So off we went, bursting with hormones and teenage sex drive. I liked Melissa. She had shiny hair and an unassuming, kind smile. We had a connection that felt like something more than friendship, which is completely unrelated to the point of the story, but I will pay it off by letting you know that during the sleepover, I snuck into the girl’s room and scored. And by a score, I mean me and Melissa cuddled awkwardly until 3am.
After the sleepover, we took Melissa’s dad’s dirt bikes for a spin. I was feeling elated and manly that particular day because my worth as a male specimen of the human species had been validated through Melissa’s approval. So I proposed a race. The others agreed.
There was one problem. There were 10 of us, but only 5 bikes, which meant that it would have to be two teenagers per bike. Bad idea. It was decided that my partner was to be Hugo, a young skinny rasta kid and we spun off, dirt flying and of course, no helmets. Halfway through the race, Hugo and I came up with a plan. We decided to play a dangerous game of deception: right before going under the bridge, I would pretend to go right but then at the last moment, go left. Why? I honestly can’t remember, but as I executed this plan that only a fifteen-year-old mind could conjure, I slammed straight into one of the bridge’s piles.
Hugo flew into a trashcan somewhere and broke his jaw while the bike and I got entangled in a cute little tumble turd of death that resulted in a broken arm and a second-degree burn on my left leg. Melissa picked me up from the dirt, held me in her arms and cried for help… psych, she actually just stared at us, horrified but also kind of frozen, the way that is expected when you are fourteen and think that a schoolmate of yours just died in what has to be the dumbest dirt bike accident of all time. She did, however, find her dad and got him to drive us to an emergency clinic.
The point of this story is not that Melissa didn’t really love me, it is that Hugo and Me are alive and well. We survived. We fucking survived. Not only that, but three weeks later, we went skateboarding. We went skateboarding! Cast and all.
If that accident happened to me today, I would be dead or there would at least be an activity that I wouldn’t be able to do for the rest of my life, like play pinball or crouch to pet corgis.
I hurt my wrist on a hike the other day and have not been able to do a proper pushup in a year. The doctor told me this, textually: “We could operate and try and fix it…but you know what, It’ll be cheaper if you just do fist pushups for the rest of your life. Get a carpet”. The subtext is, it won’t heal. It’s irreparable like my flabby stomach will soon be.
As I’m sitting here in this coffee shop in Mexico City sipping on this overpriced cup of coffee, I can picture a grown man in his mid-forties reading this and laughing while he mutters over a decaf espresso “oh, kid, you have no idea” and stares out at his oak tree from his dark leather chair. It’s all his because he owns things because he’s achieved things. That’s how I picture my forties, apparently, which is funny because that’s how I pictured my thirties when I was sixteen. Right now, from where I’m standing, my thirties are looking pretty much exactly the same as my twenties but with a wider spectrum of drugs that are no longer on the do not even think of putting this substance into your face shelf and a much longer list of diagnoses.
I don’t know if being lonelier comes with the decade but as the list of “friends I see often” dwindles, I find myself wondering what I did wrong. Maybe I became too consumed with my work or just more boring to be around. Maybe this is just what happens when you reach three decades on earth, people just sort of– stop trying.
But I think there’s something to be said to losing not-so-close friends and multiple physical abilities. It forces you to value the things that you used to be able to do naturally, makes you appreciate being surrounded by people who care about you, even if you’ve always hated them a little.
A couple of weeks ago, I went skateboarding– this time of the year, the Jacaranda trees in Mexico City bloom, covering the normally dark grey street in sheets of purple flowers. As I was coasting down one of these streets, a thought crossed my mind: this is one of the things that will become riskier every year that goes by, like eating shrimp or getting extremely drunk. And so I tried to ollie over a sidewalk and fell, hard. But it felt good because I got right back up and I don’t know how much longer that will happen. I do know one thing: I’ll keep trying until it doesn’t and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.
To everyone about to turn thirty, I’ll tell you this: expect an existential crisis, don’t race dirt bikes but do take chances. Grow up, but not too much.
Do drugs, just less often.
I guess the point of this post was to let you, my readers, know that I took a step in the right direction in the shape of an iPhone reminder and in the process actually just created the worst (or best) self-soothing mediocrity machine. “Practice self-discipline? OK! *Click*” and it shows up as completed for the day.
I just completed practising self-discipline by clicking the complete button on my self-discipline reminder!
I guess that is the one thing I’m actually very self-disciplined at doing.
Illustration by Liana Finck