It all started with an innocent question.
The conversation had a reached a point where it was perfectly logical to ask, “Are you Jewish?” Little did I expect the outpour of raw emotion that followed. My friend was brought up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family on the East Coast. His anti-secular upbringing had become both the source of his rebellion and sadly, his father’s downfall.
Upon reading the auto-biographical account he had written, I was struck by the vivid passion that came through in his writing. His story was genuinely touching. Being the self- centered individual that I am, it reminded me of my own writings many years back – not in content but in the purity and strength of emotion.
This triggered a trip down memory lane. I re-read the letters I wrote to others and myself many years ago. For all its naiveté, the passionate expression of my love, longing and fear rendered me slightly nostalgic. When I was younger, I was terrified of social expectation, judgment, and harbored a fear of rejection. In part, such fears drove me into social isolation, and it was in that isolation that I developed true independence, which in turn led to greater creativity and drive. Did I lose something in the process of conquering those fears?
It’s amazing how much easier life is when one is older. We are more experienced, confident and financially independent and come to realize that most of the things we once feared do not actually matter. After all, if you approach a girl and get rejected, you have lost nothing. Yet it seemed such a risky and momentous step at the time.
My hunger and drive have in no way abated, but is that because of habituation? Maybe it’s just what I do and who I am. While I still feel a fire burning inside of me, it is a canalized and more logical form of passion. Arguably it’s the longing and need to succeed that have disappeared – the “je ne sais quoi”, “zazazu”, and butterflies that make the experience magical.
Is fear of rejection requisite to falling in love? I have loved, but have not been in love in years. Even when I consciously wanted to, the invisible protective barriers of my subconscious seemed to refuse it.
It might also be why most entrepreneurs are one hit wonders – young men in their twenties who no longer feel as much of a need to compete after they succeed. It is natural to become more risk averse once you have something to lose.
From this evolves another interesting paradox. When I was younger, in an attempt to be taken seriously by adults, I avoided behaving as a child. I was always studying, reading, deferring to authority and generally being shy and conservative. As I no longer fear disappointing others, I have become a lot more relaxed and playful. I have no qualms rolling in the mud with my puppies or admitting that I love video games, remote control boats and helicopters, paintball and games of all genres. I am arguably more of a kid today than I was then. Yet from the same process that allows me to be childlike came the loss of poetic longing and fear that have inspired so many throughout time.
Despite this, as I turn 33, my recently discovered youth leaves me hopeful about the future. My motivations are now self- driven and no longer dependant upon the approval of others so perhaps something greater has actually been gained. As for love, who knows, the discovery of quasi-childish innocence may yet retrigger those seemingly lost feelings.
Rest of my life: here I come!