Humble Courage: The Road to Trentafabulous

My awareness of celebrity culture piqued about 1997, so if I ran into the girl who starred in The Hunger Games on the subway, I would have no idea. I was a bit shocked when I opened this week’s New York Magazine to find Anna Chlumsky’s photo staring back at me in Back From Normal. My Girl was in theaters in 1991 when I was still reading Teen Beat (does that magazine even exist anymore?). Chlumshy is the only kind of celebrity I could honestly identify in a line up. As a fellow trentagenarian, Chlumsky impressed me in unexpected ways. Most notably her desire to go back to acting after the industry had determined her adolescent appearance to be too curvaceous for their liking. After spending several years leading a relatively normal life, she went back to acting school to perfect her craft and is slowly reinventing herself. Humble courage is what we should all strive for on our life’s path.

In a week of profoundly disappointing headlines from anyone no longer in their twenties, the New York Magazine article was so very refreshing. Did you catch Sunday’s NYTimes  article on cohabitation by an author whose book title is: The Defining Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now ? Although I have not yet read The Defining Decade, the premise is that poor choices in your twenties lead to poor choices later on and the choices we make in our twenties have an almost irreversible impact on our future. Judging from Amazon.com, poor choices include: cohabitation, not having a baby before 35, and not finding your chosen career.  No pressure, twenty-somethings. For those of us nearly over and incredibly over twenty, if you haven’t yet aligned these things: you’re doomed.

I believe in scientific and rational findings and I have no doubt that the author’s research might be well founded and well intentioned, but I can’t help but wonder how the economic  and political circumstances of our historic moment influence her findings. Furthermore, although reproductive timing is a bit of a non-negotiable (at least without medical intervention), I think that life partners and career mobility/satisfaction can be obtained through humble courage at any stage of life. I intend to read this text to contextualize her findings and will report back, but where’s the book for trentagenarians, whose life plans were mostly stunted by let’s see, two unanticipated wars and a global recession? Our life stories might not be cleanly charted and planned, but we’re negotiating the brave new world of a future that was elegantly unimagined. With humble courage dear trentagenarian readers, carry on!

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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2 Responses to Humble Courage: The Road to Trentafabulous

  1. mellesque says:

    Thanks for this, Gina. As I’m finishing up the PhD and getting ever closer to 30, I’ve been in a bit of a crisis myself for the past few days. So many ducks not in a row, just to get this degree! Your wry observation of all the things that made it harder than ever to educate ourselves with even a modicum of grace (wars! recessions!) was a well-timed reminder that so much is out of our control. Sometimes, I fear the insistence on defining decades, crisis choices in life, and life plans is really a manifestation of our culture’s inability to deal with the fact that we control so very, very little…Yet even recognizing this possibility, the siren-song of self-doubt (“Oh man! I screwed up my whole twenties! I’m doomed!”) remains so seductive and I think “humble courage” aptly describes one of the few things we can muster in the face of this alluring but untrue narrative.

    • Exactly. So very little is in our control, and most of what we believe that we control is illusory. Perhaps this is why Macbeth is my favorite play. Now this is not to say that we should take on blind hubris, but rather to be humble, work hard, be courageous and as Momma always said: don’t measure yourself against anyone else’s yardstick or you will always come up short. I think your metaphor of the siren song is apt. It’s sophisticated to say in hindsight what one should or should have not done in his or her twenties. The New Yorker has a great mini-piece this week on the power of 40 that perhaps I’ll post about later in the week. Anyhow, thanks for reading and following along!

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