Clearly, 30 is the year in which I constantly introspect about my age. I recently became aware that the recession of my hairline can no longer be denied – I’ve known it was creeping slowly back since my mid-20’s, but whenever I asked anyone they assured me that it wasn’t, so I let it go. Now I look at pictures and, as I said, it’s undeniable – the hair above my temples is, ever so slowly, heading out like the tides.
So what? Happens to everyone, and I’ve had a better run with my hair than most – how many dudes have grown their hair to waist-length in their lives? Still, this does limit me, since I once swore I’d never be one of these balding guys with long hair, which means that my hairstyle options are slowly fading away. But whatever.
What really concerns me, I guess, is that I’m going to miss stuff. Up until now, most of my life has been spent learning about the past – learning math that was invented centuries ago, learning history, language, geography, science, all from outdated textbooks. Recently I have spent a lot of time reading about current events and current discoveries on the internet. But at some point, I have to realize that the things I am reading about – New York’s 2nd Avenue subway, scheduled for completion in 2020; Global Warming benchmarks set for 2050 or 2100; carbon nanotube materials and cognitive enhancement and the Singularity – all these things are scheduled for the future. People are planning for the future, and the older I get, the more likely it is that they are planning for a future in which I am no longer alive.
And what that means is that I will not be able to see how it ends.
I will probably never live to see the Polar Ice Caps melt. And while some might count that a blessing, I’d kind of like to know how it all turns out, whether we get it under control or not. I’ll probably never live to see the Singularity, which means I’ll probably die never knowing if it will happen or not.
Once, a friend told me that I would be the first generation to live forever. He was 32; I was 19; he told me that he would likely die before science figured out how to end aging and forestall all medical problems, but that I would likely benefit from this technology. He said that first my life expectancy would be extended in fits and starts – by 10 years here, 50 years there – and that by the time I got to be 150 or so (which to him seemed like a reasonable possibility) scientists would have solved aging and disease and stuff.
This is probably not true. I probably won’t live to see whether we’ll have another Ice Age or not. I almost certainly won’t live to see humans colonize other planets, if that ever happens at all.
So given that I have a limited time left on the planet – and that I am starting to come to terms with that fact, as the illusion of immortality that we all have in our 20s rapidly abandons me – I feel like decisions that I make now carry more weight. If I’m going to start a career, I ought to do it now. If I want to become a linguist, I should really get moving with the whole grad school thing. Lately I’ve been considering going into cognitive science. If I want to do that, I should do it soon. I definitely want to reproduce at some point in my life, but by 30 male fertility has already started to decline, which means that “some point” should at least be on the horizon.
And being in Georgia just adds additional complexity to this issue. I like being in Georgia for various reasons. I like working for TLG, I like blogging, I like my social circles, I like the lifestyle – but right now I am not making much money, which means I am not doing much for my future. I am not moving towards that Ph.D. or towards having a stable economic base on which to build a family or towards digitizing my thoughts so that my mind can live forever after my body dies and decays into dust.
At the end of this school year, I will be able to truthfully claim to have two years of teaching experience. Between that, my Tefl certificate, and my Bachelor’s, I have enough to work in almost any ESL position on earth, and make as much as $4000/month depending on where I choose to go. That’s small potatoes in the US but it’s huge in places like Georgia, and it would allow me to save money for grad school/kids/a house/a robotic body to house my digital mind.
On the other hand, doing that would mean leaving TLG, and potentially sacrificing a lot of happiness – I’m happy in Georgia; would I be happy in South Korea, or Saudi Arabia?
So I guess what I’m saying is, now I have a choice between the stability I’ve found in Georgia – friends, a good life, a rewarding career path – and the chance to make boatloads of money. In the past, the “more money” path has generally been so much less rewarding that I ended up preferring the “less money” path – which puts me right at home here in Georgia, where capitalism hasn’t taken a strong hold just yet.
Is there a way to compromise? Go to Korea for a year and come back with enough money to buy a nice flat in Saburtalo?
This has been another episode of “Deep Thoughts at Three A.M.”
None of my students were alive when this song came out:
(Video: Oasis, Live Forever)