Dear 38 year old me,
Hi, how’re you doing? I guess you’re resting right now. If all things go to plan, then you’re due for a pretty big year ahead of you. There’s the new book coming out, Fluff. There’s another book to write. You’ve got a massive new Avengers movie and the first female Doctor Who to look forward to as well. I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you luck and send on your way with a little advice.
You see, at your age, a lot of people get a little sheepish about their birthdays. Don’t ask me why. They’re going to cringe and make jokes about their age. They’re going to wistfully mumble about being 21 again. As if 21 was ever anyone’s golden age. Surely, if we’re going to wish for another age, then we want to aim for care free but able to use the facilities. Where every day was basically playing with our toys, watching brightly coloured TV and getting spoilt by grandparents who didn’t have a grey hair between them yet. So shouldn’t we all want to be four again? At least that way we can go into the school system knowing that it is all just one incredibly meta amusement park this time. An education that offers one, important lesson; friends are the family we choose ourselves and people, as a collective term, are basically an annoying and unwieldy hive mind whose fickle tastes flip in the blink of an eye and the gleam of a knife’s edge. Oh, lesson two is that most authority is only there in order to keep paying its bills and serves no real purpose or bearing on your life beyond that.
Sorry, got a little side-tracked there. It’s possible you won’t have that in 38. 37 has been riddled with it. Just read the blogs.
37 hasn’t been easy. We lost good people. Loved ones. Family and friends. Everything out in the real world got a little tenser, a little closer to midnight on that clock we all wish was just a plot device in an Alan Moore comic. Still, for all of the heavy flapping of global right wings, there were some great times. New life. New relationships. Fresh starts. Some friends won awards and achieved staggering success with their endeavours, whilst others got back on their feet after a hard fight and started to climb towards the life they want to live right now.
Here’s the thing, 38, life is as complicated as want you to make it. Most of the strains and stresses you’ve got ahead of you are going to come from one thing: trying to accommodate people who don’t even realise they’re causing you issues. It’s the biggest friction in the boring, middle class world you call home. Everywhere is full of them. Talking louder than everyone else because they expect to be heard. Working hard to impress their parent idols or their idle sense of entitlement. Telling us all how much they drank or how funny their problems are. They blast you on the way to work because they think their rush is more important than your rush. They play some of the tackiest, cheesiest, dullest, most inane music around because they don’t even realise you don’t like it. They didn’t think to ask because, well, why would they? They learnt early on that not sharing is easier if you do it with determination and stubbornness. Because, you know, these swine are basically spoilt children who would’ve been wiped out by bad parenting, poor ventilation and a pox of some kind before society learnt to coddle them, inoculate them, give them a credit card and some social media to broadcast their nuggets of tragically misplaced confidence. They crank open windows on cold days. Or disagree with each other about whether or not the windows should be open. They’re the people who use up the last of the milk or block the toilet. The people who jump the queue. The people who park over two spaces with one middle life crisis comment of a car. They’re the kamikaze vans on the busy roundabout of life. The blaring music coming from a stranger’s garden on a summer’s day. Their dogs don’t need leads. Their bass can’t go high enough. They feel it’s only right to passive aggressively drag the whole world into their private little soap opera. The whole restaurant needs to see them fight. The whole cinema needs to know their opinion or see that they’re checking their phone. You know these people. On the day the missiles are launched, the test tube is broken or the meteor comes into view we are going to string them up from street lights and take them apart with power tools. One last little laugh before calamity envelops us all.
It comes from blinkered privilege and unthinking actions. You can tell them to knock it off, using as many or as few words as you like it, or you can put up with it. As you move into 38, it’s all about picking your battles. It’s what headphones are for sometimes. Or feet. Just walkaway or drown them out. These people aren’t going to change into human beings by confronting them. Not unless you have their beloved pet held over an industrial wood chipper. Then maybe they’ll listen.
You can remind yourself that everyone is mortal and, if they’re older than you, you’ve basically got a front row seat to watch them speed into the arms of Oblivion. Especially if they’re always smoking, drinking and planning the next takeaway. Although, for the record, that is not polite party conversation. Being 37 taught me that. The point is that you can live an easier life. You just need to let everyone run their own race. Don’t get bogged down by the time wasters like I just did there. It’s a waste of words. It’s a waste of page space and time. This is your existence. You write your rules for you. Also, whilst we're on this, don’t get distracted by the successes of others either. What was it Andy Nyman said in that Comedian’s Comedian podcast? Don’t compare, don’t compete.
You won’t need to worry about alcohol anymore either. That’s off the list. The writing is definitely taking up more time so, you know, don’t ignore your wife. I’m a little worried there have been some days over the past few months where I’ve basically left Sam on own for hours on end whilst I worked on this sort of thing. That said, keep writing. You’re getting better at it. You’re approaching a point where all of these strange, interesting ideas you’re picking up from art are going to solidify into something. Something that might take you away from full length horror novels. Maybe even prose altogether. I don’t know.
There’s an offer to write a low budget movie script floating around for you to chase up and there’s that incredibly dark idea for you to send off to the No Sleep Podcast. Also, if you’re lucky, some family member might quiz you for a good half an hour about your plans for the future and ask you if you think you’re any good at writing. Actually, that’s harsh, he meant well. It was just the bleak fin of unnecessary, idiot privilege showing past the waves of calmer, easier waters again.
The writing is going well. I got to do a couple of live events in the last year (including a Halloween one where I read a very dark story) and there’s talk of more ahead for you, including the first ever live book launch. Only the other week The Caribou Chronicles put up my ‘Mother Sable’ story, which got some great feedback. I got my first story up on The Wicked Library early this year and a great Christmas ghost story on Shadows at the Door last year. So keep at the writing but try not to totally shut out the world around you. Without the booze to hide behind/blame/lose yourself in, I’m hoping things will became clearer if not always easier. No more inhibitions for us. Nope. It’s all about hibitions from here on in. Investing in existence. Exploring it. Taking part in it. Apart from eight or so hours for five days a week, of course. That’s for keeping your head down and paying the bills. That bullshit allows you to do this sort of thing; which is where you thrive, my friend.
So, 37 wasn’t perfect. There were some drunk and embarrassing times. There was a lot of misplaced anger. There were bucket loads of self-loathing and some of the other seven sins as well. There’s going to be more of that. It’s bound to happen. This isn’t a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination but, on the bright side, you do have an imagination to stretch. So, get those short stories that are due sent off and then write your third novel. Have fun promoting the second one and meet some great writers in the process. Help, promote, connect but do not compare. That way, madness lies.
People shy away from their age. Maybe because it’s a ticking clock. Strangely, even though you're such a morbid fool, you don’t do that. I guess we’re best to leave that bear unpoked for as long as we can. So, after Friday, have fun out there. Take a few days to acclimatise yourself before the real race begins. Don’t forget to say thank you for your presents. Don’t get too lost in the hype for Infinity War. Don’t get too preachy about the foundations of modern art and don’t lose your mind because day to day life is not where you thought you would be by now. Also, stop lying awake and wondering about death. It's not doing you any good. Actually, one other thing, when people ask how the writing is going, tell them it’s going well. Then ask how they are. They’re not looking for you to mope or whinge at them. Nobody wants to hear that. It’s why you have a blog, remember?
Happy birthday, sir!