I’m not an anxious person, and I’ve always had an OK self-esteem, but in the slow, quiet moments of my 20s I spent absurd amounts of time concerned about my identity. About not knowing who I was. About not knowing enough. About not getting enough done. About wasting time. About being a fraud.
Now that I’m 30 years old, all I worry about is my back.
The small of it. See, it hurts more than it used to, mostly in the mornings.
But back to the tepid taming of my flaming identity crisis. The trick I’ve learned — and they don’t tell you this until you turn 30 — is to realize that everybody is having an identity crisis. All the time. We’re all faking. We’re all frauds. We’re all failures.
Fake it till you make it, then, isn’t just a saying, but a proverb.
I see it printed on every bumper sticker, every t-shirt, every smile, every handshake, every campaign hat, every resume, every Facebook post, every blog. Fake it till you make it.
Give yourself a break
I am not celebrating the act of faking, but naming it. I understand the emotional complications of identity fraud — when we lose grasp of who we are by trying to attain something that we are not. What I’m saying is that once we learn to see the faking (and insecurities) in ourselves, we learn to see it in others, and it gives us understanding and maybe a little grace.
We’re all just figuring stuff out here, so let’s give ourselves a break.
It’s a strange time in America to turn 30 — two weeks after the most polarizing election of my life, where voters have been left angry, scared, and protesting, I’m asking for cake and presents.
I won’t say much about the election, because there’s a million thinkpieces out there, floating on the web and in the cloud, and what can I say that you haven’t heard already? I will say this: Democrats can only blame themselves for what happened, and Republicans will be blamed for what will happen. In the meantime I will continue to pray for a viable third party.
Here’s a funny statistic: 80% of voting Evangelicals preferred a man who bragged on tape about sexual assault. These are the same voters who regularly complain about the removal of “Merry Christmas” from Starbucks coffee cups.
Here’s another funny statistic: I’m only 30 and twice in my adult life have I voted in an election where a candidate won the popular vote and didn’t become president. Hi ho.
And so on.
I don’t want to remember 2016 as Trump’s year. I want to remember it as my year. The last year of my twenties. The year I produced a play that was performed in Rochester, New York. The year I earned a meaningful new job in digital marketing, the job I had always wanted. The year I got into Kurt Vonnegut, The Pixies, and of course Hamilton.
I have a beautiful wife, a cuddly dog, and a thoughtful roommate.
I would say I’ve made it, but I’d still be faking.
My roommate recently shared with me a speech by the late-author David Foster Wallace. Maybe you’ve heard it or read it, his Kenyon College commencement speech, often referred to as “This is Water.” Though I’ve only read a few of Wallace’s short stories, I have always admired his ability to think at such a high, intellectual level without losing touch of the average American experience. At heart, he was a midwesterner who loved sports and movies and sugar.
In the speech he covers the importance of overcoming our “default setting” to become more compassionate and well-adjusted, especially in the face of adult loneliness and (I think) faking.
I’ll leave you with this excerpt:
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
This is 30. This is 30.