I had an interesting conversation with one of the boys last week. A very close friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a while dropped into Chez Radge for tea and a purple snack. He'd just returned from a boating trip with some of the other lads, a regular enough jaunt they've taken over the years for boozing and carousing and this and that.
He was telling me this particular trip was quiet by comparison to previous times. A more sedate venture up the Shannon, with the ravages of time quelling the beer intake. Don't get me wrong, a good time was had, but one comment struck me.
In years gone by, money would have been tight, but that would be forgotten as caution went to the wind and each town was assaulted with abandon by these hordes of horny and drink-lusty Dublin boyos. This time, he said, was different because while everyone now had money to throw away on such debauchery, life had happened, engagements had been made, houses and apartments bought and stresses previously absent brought to the fore. He said that they had the money but the spark had gone, or words to that effect.
People do have money now, and capital, but the spontaneity that so marked out previous years - "let's rob this tractor, crash a gate and run" - has been lost to a tedium borne of impending domesticity. It troubled me when he said it.
I'm 28, 29 in a few weeks. I still get regularly gargled, end up with egg on my face after encountering mysterious Austrian women, wake up completely fucked and forgetful, chide my more settled friends, eat noodles from a pot and hold grandiose ideas of future writerly success and renown. I may moan about work, about being stuck in a Groundhog existence (see recent post) and give out about not having much money. But ultimately I'm happy with my lot, and the idea of still being able to sit in a pub on a random Monday afternoon and drink the day away and laugh out loud and long. It's a balance that fits me.
Yet I'm still subjected to the fear of other people that I'll never own my own property, buy a car, get a pension, have kids, play golf. It's not yet pushed down my throat, but it's coming. I know it.
I just don't necessarily want to follow the blueprint for life set out by some of my peers. l haven't come across a crisis point where I've missed the boat, so to speak, where the fear of not following the herd into early middle age has borne fruit, leaving me alone and crumpled in a corner and wondering why oh why I never opened that SSIA account.
I don't see why I have to own property. Why I have to get into debt to buy a car. Why I can't sit in the Stags on a Monday afternoon. Why I shouldn't buy quite so many DVDs. Why I should stave off happiness for a rainy day. Why I should eat steamed fish only. The done thing isn't necessarily my thing.
It strikes me that people are petrified of just floating on through. To most people that's the worst thing in the world. Don't get me wrong, I have ambitions for myself but they are my own and will come to pass in my own time. As I enter the last year of my twenties, I really don't want to be 50.