I don’t mind getting older; I just didn't plan on being around this long.
I never lived in one place for more than a couple of years. The blood of gypsies must be in my veins because I’ve always searched for the next spot to inhabit, ready to leave at a moment’s notice with the eternally packed bag I kept by my front door.
When I was eight years old my cousin pulled me into his bedroom to show me something. It was such an important secret, he had to close the door behind him before he would share it. It was a book on reading palms.
We were raised Roman Catholic and topics like this were considered evil, even though our lives were filled with strange candles and chants for favors from unseen spirits.
As we sat on the floor, hidden between his bed and the wall, I opened my hand for him to examine. He explained what all the lines and notches meant. Then he began counting. He stopped at 36.
So for most of my life, the decisions I’ve made have been based off of the false premise that I knew when I would depart this world.
Between then and now I lived though an epidemic in the Eighties. I was barely out of high school, and just coming out of the closet when I first heard of GRID – Gay Related Immune Disorder. People would go into the hospital for sinus infections only to disappear forever. Like an Orwellian society, friends would be snatched up in the middle of the night, their existence discussed in hush whispers, their bodies at the end of sterilized hallways.
I would sit on the edge of my bed, examining every spot, worried that common colds were exotic fevers and waiting for the sirens to snatch me in my sleep to deliver me to my own untimely demise.
But they never came, at least not for me.
Meanwhile, I dropped out of college and decided to attend the school of life. Discussions about quantum physics followed day long trips on acid. Hash brownies, espresso and Beat Generation writings filled my afternoons with as much literature as I was capable of comprehending. I learned about colonialism while drinking Green Chartreuse in a dive bar on Chartres Street.
We danced the night away and spent too many mornings laughing at ourselves and the silly decisions we had made. Living off of our nightly tips, we saved little, spent much, and had fabulous things to show for it. The moment was rife with glamour and decadence. I knew when the final bell tolled, no one would regret a single thing, because we had lived fully.
Now, years later, I know it’s okay to stop and appreciate the moment I’m in. There’s nothing wrong with having survived when others didn’t. I can sit and learn about the things I ignored, knowing I have experienced things most people only read about in crazy magazines or watch on late night television.
Of course, there’s always a price to be paid for the silliness you have done. It can be as small as a moment of humiliation or as encompassing as the loss of everything you’ve built. The toughest thing about being a former addict is having to face my own stupidity.
But the best thing about getting older? Being able to honestly laugh at the folly of youth.