I had a brief but interesting conversation with the pops today. We were discussing the past, present, and future. The pops is nearing eighty, and he has lived a full life. He is wise, and he is real.
“Let’s talk about you,” he said. “What’s going on with you?”
“Not much,” I said. “Just living. Stoked about going to Africa in the summer.”
Regardless of his age, the pops is fluent in “Phill speak” (Phill speak is a mixture of pseudo-intellectualism, midwestern skate-rat, and hydroponic hip-hop vibes).
“What are you doing after that?”
“Either going to San Francisco or coming back to Austin. I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter.”
“Why not?” he said.
“I don’t know, so long as I keep writing and reading and making money here and there and traveling and living… I’m doing what I want to do, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t hit my peak with all those days until I was in my mid-thirties.”
“I just feel like right now my life is my career. I have absolutely no desire to find a career, to plug into something that keeps me somewhere, to do anything stable. I want my life to be my career. I want to continue working at my life, gain more knowledge about myself and stay curious. That’s my career.”
“When I was your age, I was teaching and traveling. And when I wasn’t teaching I was traveling, I was in Germany when I was… when I was 32. So, a bit older than you.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.”
“Well,” he said, “that feeling took me all over Europe. After years, I eventually ended up back in Germany, teaching, when I met your mother. But that was… even later.”
“I just feel like right now, so long as I keep doing these things that I need to do, writing, learning more about myself and what I can do and who I am, and all that shit, then I’m working at my life.”
“If you keep working at it, you’ll get there.”
“Yeah, but I don’t even know where there is. I just want to keep doing it, whatever it is, whatever keeps me interested. I mean, even when I think about grad school, about going for, I don’t know, whatever, I don’t even care about the piece of paper, if I went it would be just because learning is fun.”
“And surrounding yourself with people who are interested in the same things, and to share all that is wonderful,” he said. “At least it was when I was in it.”
“Yeah, and even with all that, it’s still more about the pursuit of knowledge and self-discovery than the degree.”
“Yes,” he said. “But still, I was teaching while I was in grad school and continued to after.”
“Right, but you still went because you liked what you were doing.”
“Well, you’re much more self-aware than you were when you were younger.”
“I was a bit more self-aware than I let on,” I said.
“But you were so angry.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but that was something different. I just didn’t want to be in the places I had to be doing the things that people were telling me to do. I hated that shit. It all felt like a massive waste of time.”
“Yeah, but think about all of those books you could’ve read during those years instead of skipping out on them,” he said.”
“True. But I was self-aware, I think that anytime you smoke as much herb as I was smoking back them you become far more self aware than you were.”
“I don’t know,” he said, “pot just always made me appreciate things like music and art.”
“Oh, for sure,” I said. “But you can’t tell me that smoking doesn’t allow you a different perspective on who you are in relation to and as a part of your surroundings.”
“I suppose. But I can still remember the first time I listened to a record when I was high. I was with a group of friends and I just remember listening to the music.”
“Really listening to it, right?”
“Yeah, instead of it just existing in the background.”
“I know, it’s so cool,” I said. “For me it’s the same with art too, I mean, I can kind of appreciate a gallery or exhibit, but you get me stoned first and an art gallery is the coolest thing ever.”
“I like art galleries. They can be a little exhausting, though.”
“Lot of standing,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “I want to keep talking about this…”
And then he stood up from the chair and walked out of the living room and into the kitchen to do some dishes. Because, sometimes, in the middle of a conversation that is beautiful and engaging and fulfilling, old people stand up and go wash two plates that are sitting in the sink that “were bothering” them. I thought it was a funny fucking exit.