I’m twenty-two. Actually, that’s not accurate. I’m writing this the night before my twenty-second birthday. It seems weird to type. Not that it’s that significant; twenty-two doesn’t hold the same connotations of importance that twenty-one or eighteen have.
I’m not particularly fond of birthdays. I find them to be vague markers, odd esoteric guidelines for celebration. Not many as privileged as I am should treat surviving another voyage around the Sun as an accomplishment.
Still, it forces me to reflect on the past year, and how much I’ve accomplished in my time here. If you read this blog often, you know how I value introspection.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Even harder is picking the right milestones. While I don’t claim to be even half so great as the likes of Alexander the Great or F. Scott Fitzgerald, their young accomplishments have been held up against men my age as the pinnacle of achievement for generations.
A friend of mine shared a map of the lands conquered by Alexander the Great by the time he was twenty-two on Facebook this week, reminiscing about his own birthday (happy birthday, Justin!).
Is this something to be praised? No, of course not. Alexander the Great could be seen as a despot as much as a conquerer, a murderer and villain as easily as anything else. And yet it’s still hard to look at that map and not see something.
I love the anecdote about Julius Caesar coming across a statue of Alexander. He found it on campaign in a town square and was said to burst into tears. His friends and captains with him asked for the reason, and he responded:
Or so says Plutarch.
And isn’t there something to be said for that?
I think most of you reading this are my age, but I’m sure there’s more than a handful thinking, “You’re so young”. Maybe one or two thinking the opposite. I realize how naive, and pretentious this post is. I think there is something of value to be considered here.
I’ve plenty of time, but that doesn’t mean I’m wholly satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far. I have wasted plenty of time. I continue to shirk from my goals.
I’ve done some things I’m really proud of. I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend who means the world to me. I’ve seen a large part of the world and hope to see much more. I’ve read a good amount, and written a little bit too. I made this soapbox, almost one year ago to the day.
I also have three-quarters of a rough first manuscript. I have countless poems that have never escaped my notebook. I have a reading list that’ll keep me busy for years. I have a few feature screenplays that’ve never been read, short films that have never been watched, and literary submissions that have never been published.
F. Scott Fitzgerald published ’This Side of Paradise’ when he was twenty-four.
I’ve got a ways to go.
The “Great Man” theory is outdated, and largely problematic. But isn’t history filled with great men? I don’t think I’m great, but more is possible. I need to strive more, dream more, and at the end of the day, work more.
Twenty-one was a good year. Twenty-two will be my year.
- Ian Battaglia