June 1st marked another birthday for me. If you know me at all, you’ll also know that in general, I hate birthdays. In fact, anniversaries of any kind fill me revulsion. Just when I find myself enjoying life and not caring about this pain in my knee or that wrinkle which wasn’t there last week, there’s this murky thing which rises up from deep inside me like a hideous swamp monster about a week before the event. It begins to bitch slap me into trying to believe that my life is almost all over.
“You’d better hurry up Julia. Time is running out. You are kidding yourself; no one is going to want you at this age! Get real...get some new dreams....”
This slimy, smelly wretch with mud skin and seaweed hair takes great pleasure in reminding me that the best years of my life are behind me, that I should have done this or that, that I have made a complete wreck of my one and only chance at success on this earth. He does his demented little happy dance in my head in a circle (with me in the middle), and continues it until his miserable feet dig a trench around it. When the mood strikes him, Swamp Thing takes out his rusty sledge hammer and clunks me in the head and sings his jerky song. As if I needed a reminder of his presence
“One more gone... one more gone... one more year till another one’s gone!”
All the people around me who are my age seem to be retiring, dying, getting parts of their body replaced, moved or removed. Some were here yesterday and gone today. People half my age have children in high school. How can that be? My head is still only twenty six years old!
“You’re old, you’re old, I ain’t lyin if the truth be told!”
The whole process seems to be speeding up too; so much so, that I can’t sit for a minute and just absorb what I’m seeing.
And so, with the passage of another year of my life, I find myself once more wrestling with the man-made concept of time and its effect on my life goals.
At the risk of being crude, the idea of a race against time just blows the big one. Still we are reminded of it constantly through the incessant brainwashing of media, who would have us believe that nothing useful has ever been accomplished by anyone with a varicose vein or gray hair.
We have learned to dispose of people long before they are ready.
The thing of it is, we who are in this period of our lives are so easily susceptible to believing that our age of usefulness is done. Each of us has a personal Swamp Thing that visits us from time to time, who nudges us into that realm of complete and utter defeat, where sitting around and reliving our ‘glory days’ becomes our reality. The problem with such an exercise is that it only serves up Swamp Thing with a big ole’ platter of FUCK IT to feast on and we begin to accept our ‘fate’ and just give up.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do battle with Swamp Thing each and every birthday, holiday and New Year’s Eve. Every time the seasons change, I see him poke his head out of the muck of my mind, like some hellish groundhog to remind me that it doesn’t matter when spring arrives, because I only have a few left and what’s the point of making plans?
“Give up, give up, and drink your half empty cup! Put your ass in the rocking chair because your time is almost up!”
I really hate this bastard. And though it takes me a week or so to shove him back down into the ooze, I always do.
And then I get mad.
I’m just about out of the funk now and I can feel the fires inside getting stoked; particularly when it comes to comedy.
My goals as a comedian now are far different than they were in 1980, when I began. Back then I was an idiot who thought the world would beat a path to my door just because I thought it should. I felt like I was different than my colleagues and that stuff should just come to me. Sure I worked hard back then, but I didn’t work smart. I just assumed that word of my genius would spread like wildfire and they would find me.
I was an asshole then, as you can see.
Thirty-three years later, I may still be an asshole, but I finally get it. There is only one path to success in show business-be funny and work at it. Have goals and work those goals to the exclusion of everything else in your life; Write, network, work. And when the Swamp Thing pops up, kick that son of a bitch right in his fang filled, filthy mouth with the steel-toed boot of resolve.
In just a year and a half back at this I have accomplished more than I did in my first twenty years because I get it now. I won’t let anyone tell me I’m too old or too odd for mass consumption. I won’t allow any thought to be squirreled away because I’m afraid of the public’s reaction if I put it on stage. Indeed, one of the great advantages of getting older is that I just don’t give a flying fig what anyone thinks of me, and that freedom is what allows me to enjoy standup a hundred times more than I did in the past.
Swamp Thing does his dance occasionally. I fear that nothing I do will be remembered, but then I remember that isn’t the reason I became a comedian. I do it because I love it. I love it because it makes people happy. And when people around me are happy, I’m happy. That’s why any of us should do it I think.
Nothing we do is permanent, yet everything we are has permanence to it. The world will not remember how funny we were no matter how famous we become, yet our influence as people, as comedians, will ripple through the generations. Our age doesn’t define us or diminish our relevance. Those people who won’t give us the opportunity to speak? Fuck em. Do an end run around them. They are the compatriots of Swamp Thing, his legions on the outside world.
Touch people with your comedy, your heart, your love, your voice, and your time here will matter in ways you will never know. Ignore the “No s” you hear, that’s just Swamp Thing, and he can go to hell if you send him there. If you have a dream, make it real! What’s the worst that can happen; you die before it comes to fruition? Well I would much rather my last thought be that I did what I wanted than to see Swamp Thing laughing his scaly head off at my surrender to popular opinion about age.
The blessing of time is that you have a supply of new days to renew yourself. The curse is that they are limited. The gift is that you have a choice in how to spend them.
That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug, everybody eat. Abbondanza!