Getting old terrifies me on some level. I’m not old by any measure and am still very young. I have a youthful vigor and energy and still can run wild during my more uninhibited moments. College was just a few years ago, but it seems so far away. Cliché thinking, I know. However, when you have a 401k, savings account, and insurance, it feels like eons. My studio apartment costs me $795 per month for rent. I remember when I used to worry about paying my share of $230 for a room in a house with some friends. Now, I spend that on alcohol and responsibilities. Looking back, it makes me smile.
I will get old and I will die. There is a lot I do not know, but I know that much for sure. And it isn’t the dying that frightens me. It is everything else. Losing my mental and physical abilities. So, I try to live my life to fullest. I make a good living, have hobbies, and I surround myself with good people. There are times now when I feel my life is just too busy, but days can be fleeting. There may come a time when I will have nothing to do. Just existing. A wrinkled husk that used to go on adventures and make love.
What I’m most afraid of is losing my memory. When I really think about it, that is the only thing I am truly afraid of. Because what are we? What truly defines us on an individual level? I believe that our personal experiences make us who we are. I am the person I am because of my experiences. Moments with friends and lovers. Periods of reflection and introspection. Flashes of excitement and turmoil. A random sequence of events that has settled in my brain and shaped my worldview is the reason I am the person I am at this very moment.
A few years ago, I made myself a promise to always work at being a better person. I believe I have figured out the secret to success and fulfilling that promise. Trying new things and being open to new experiences are essential in personal fulfillment and being a more whole person. Whether it involves food, people, or places, I strive to “yes.” To learn and become more storied.
Gil Scott-Heron had a long and amazing career as an influential and revolutionary afrobeat artist. Before he passed away in 2011, he released his final studio album I’m New Here. A deeply personal record, Scott-Heron sings as a man who is aware of his own mortality and wise in the ways only a man of his age can be. Naked and emotionally exposed, Scott-Heron reflects deeply on his life and his state of mind. This record is a window into the final days of a man who has lived so much, but desires to live even more.
The title track “I’m New Here” is a ragged cut featuring Scott-Heron and an acoustic guitar. Telling a story using spoken-word, Scott-Heron proclaims that no matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around. What I get from this is that the journey towards an increased sense of self and personal development doesn’t stop at any particular age. Until you’re six feet under and just dirt in the ground, there is always time to focus on yourself. If you live your life and grow, you will not have a life you regret. In the song, Scott-Heron is comfortable with who he is and is aware of himself. He didn’t become some different that he did not want to be.
Whenever I hear someone tell me that they are who they are and that how it always will be, I feel sorry for them. To me, they’ve become complacent. Sure, they might be happy, but only for a moment. Happiness cannot sustain itself in a vacuum. Grow from the ground and reach towards the sun. It may be too high to grasp, but don’t ever stop reaching. If you do, you might as well be dead. Become constantly in a state of becoming. Don’t overstay your welcome. Go to another place and announce “I’m new here.”