Saturday, December 26, 2009


It was around a year ago that I was describing my life to someone and the adjective that I used was "sheltered." In the years since I graduated from high school (in 2000), it seems like I've made an art out of dodging major social and financial entanglements. In the first big decision of my life, I decided on good old UTEP right here in El Paso for college. It was simpler that way, that was the main reason -- I had a scholarship, so I didn't have to spend anything on tuition, and there were no dorms or flights at holidays or credit card debt. I finished my bachelor's degree (well, education is the exception, at least there's *something* I committed to) but I didn't get into a "real" career straightaway, instead meandering through years of grad school and working part-time at a newspaper, not a career choice I think most grad students in computer science typically make. Even as I've settled into more lucrative work, I still have never had a car or house payment. Too much commitment, even if I had the money for it. I have lived with my mom all except for one year out of my life. I've never been married or even had a serious relationship, and I've never had a kid to take care of.

Am I very weird? Maybe I just don't take so-called achievements or life milestones very seriously. I didn't really want the degree from a name brand college or the high-pressure job that pays a lot of money. To me loans and debt have always seemed like having a bag of rocks tied to your ankle for life. I'm happy with my old Honda and upstairs bedroom and four-year-old cell phone. I laugh at status symbols, nice clothes and iPhones and shiny new trucks, I like to think I don't need them to prove my worth. As for romance, I don't really like the idea of being chained to another human being, especially a man. Men who I have previously admitted that I don't understand. Don't I have enough quirks of my own, without adding someone else's unpredictable neuroses to the mix?

I've stopped just short of living in a convent with the simplicity thing. Looking back I see the simplicity as a choice, a willful act of defiance, because the default seems to be complexity. Complicated finances, complicated relationships. But looked at another way, I suppose there's something else in the self-imposed course of avoidance. A fear. I fear investing too much of myself into anything, only to have it not work out. And immaturity. I've written before about being shy, and I've read that shy people are slower to reach life milestones like the ones I've written about. Not that it's true for everyone, but it has been true for me. It's taken me years to get a tentative grip on the career and relational issues I gather that most other people figure out much earlier.

I think all this is on my mind because I see things about to change for me as I head further into my late 20s. I anticipate admitting more complexity into my life as I get older. I tell myself, the pared-down life is weird enough in your 20s, in your 30s it will just seem absurd. I can't see myself as George Clooney in "Up in the Air," with nothing in the backpack. I've already moved into a somewhat stable career. My car will break down at some point, wouldn't it be nice to get a new one? A place of my own seems more and more tempting. And as I see friends and family my age getting married off and starting families, won't I want the same someday? It terrifies me now, but maybe one day it won't.

But can't we just toss out the timelines, that you get a real job at 23 and get married by 27 and have your first child at 30? I don't much care if I'm the exception. At this point I don't think I'm a general commitment-phobe. It's more like I'm running things on a case-by-case basis these days, and I think that it's just not the right time for some things in my world, that's all. But maybe it will be soon.

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