We told our parents we were spending the night at the other's house, but in actuality we were making the two and a half hour drive to Nashville. It was all harmless. We would visit the store that sold Grateful Dead shirts and incense. So exotic. I bought a knitted Rastafarian cap meant for someone with dreadlocks. My friend acquired a day-glo Jane's Addiction poster. We felt like badasses.
We spent the night on an overlook that I now know locals call Lover's Circle. It's a quaint, scenic spot with a skyline view where you might go to impregnate your unemployed girlfriend. Or get stabbed. Or both.
We talked until the sun came up. The grass was wet. Silvery sunlight started to spill over the hill. We were so star struck by that "big city" skyline. All we could talk about was the future.
I've now been in Nashville for 20 years. Nothing turned out like I thought it would, and I couldn't be happier. I've lived an unconventional life full of probably questionable choices here in Music City. Today, I carry with me a sense of weathered hope, which is much different than youthful idealism.
I'm also entering an emerging group of healthy, middle-aged gay men. The daddy demographic, if you will. Match that with inevitable equal marriage rights even here in the Bible Belt; it's a whole new world of possibilities.
I'm 40 and gay. Here's what I've learned so far:
1. Don't be apathetic. Be content. Be angry. Be full of ennui. Just be something. Don't be nothing.
2. Have more sex. It's instilled in us, especially gay men, that we should limit ourselves and be filled with guilt if we don't. Don't feel guilty. Do it. Perhaps just not in a trucker gang bang behind the service station with no condoms. Instead, do it with communicative and responsible partners. If the truckers are communicative and responsible? Well done.
3. Don't get a tattoo. It's going to look aesthetically weird and eventually not represent the real you, and instead end up an unfortunate reminder of what a drunken slut you once were in Daytona Beach (which I've already stated is fine, but it's not worth the permanent bookmark.) Get many well designed and executed tattoos or none at all.
4. Drink a bottle of red wine most nights. Americans seem to think this is alcoholism. The French call it lunch. Be more French.
5. Sleep. It's an unfortunate virtue of the Western world to be overworked and sleep deprived. If you need to sleep, sleep. Can't sleep that much you say? Try drinking a bottle of wine before you go to bed.
6. Smoke pot. (I'm realizing why I sleep so much.)
7. Don't get bent out of shape over fluctuating gas prices. It's fucking liquid dinosaur.
8. The sooner you can embrace the path you have truly chosen, the better. Germans have the word "hintergedanken." A hintergedanken is a thought way in the back of your mind. Something that you know deep down but can't admit. I think most people know the path they are going to take very early on, then spend their 20s and 30s coming to terms with it. Artists are the most likely to do this. I knew as a teen that I was going to pursue the performing arts relentlessly until the day I died. I might be much further at this point had I not quit so many times.
9. Life is simultaneously heartbreakingly short and fantastically long. It's seemingly short because we are inclined to do the same things day after day. We get into ruts. This is our nature simply because it's less work for our brains. The unfortunate side effect is that days, months and years start to blur together. Time flies. Cure this by constantly giving yourself new experiences. With new and unique memories, your life will not slip away from you.
Life is also quite long. A while back I was sitting in a circle of stoned 20 year olds. They were all saying the annoying things stoned 20 year olds might. One of them was, "I know I'll be dead before 40."
I said nothing. But what I wanted to say was, "No you won't. You'll be very much alive with possibly four or more decades awaiting you. So start living like it. Do you realize how much a person can do in four decades? You can do all of it. Your youth is a blip on the timeline of your life."
10. Every time you get out of bed and your foot hits the floor a billion possible paths launch out of your toes. Every. Single. Time. It may not feel that way, but it's the truth. You are in charge of your life that hasn't happened yet. The decades that haven't happened yet. Limitations are only born from your disbelief.
You are always at the brink of a brand new life. You can't not be.
Watch this short film about Kevin's 20 year journey in Music City: