New Year Ideas | Get a life

Read fiction, expand your music library, organize a quiz partydo the things you used to enjoy and which you think you should no longer be doing

I went to engineering college and business school with lots of smart people. Then, they graduated and went to work selling soap or managing money or telling other companies what they should be doing. They married, raised families, bought houses. They became bald and diabetic, gained weight, wore out their backs, and had by-passes.

Now, when I look at these people, I can’t recognize them at all. Those who were athletically inclined are no longer so. Voracious readers rarely read anything more than the day’s newspapers (and if they do, it’s usually non-fiction). Many haven’t listened to music in ages (worse still, some have allowed their tastes in music to atrophy). It’s almost as if the curriculum of life leaves them no time for extracurricular activities (unless one expands this definition to include the birthday parties of children or social drinking). And when they do socialize, the conversation invariably revolves around real estate.

They are, almost all of them without exception, good people. They are good workers, good parents, even good citizens. But they have managed to convince themselves that “me-time" is bad. They feel guilty when they do something they’ve always liked to do. And they are also very boring. There is no music in their lives—no unpredictability, madness, or adventure.

I too married and raised a family. I too have become bald, gained weight and worn out my back. I too spend long hours at work (longer than any editor I know). But I continue to read—almost as indiscriminately as I did in college, and a lot of fiction. Thanks to the indulgent editor of Mint Lounge, I write a column on comics and graphic novels—a genre I have loved ever since I encountered Maus in college. I have expanded my musical horizon, which once began and stopped at the Grateful Dead, to include several new jam bands. There’s always music playing in my room in the office. When I turned 40, my wife gifted me guitar lessons and I now have a Fender Stratocaster that I play very badly. Most weekends between October and March, the family goes out birding. It is actually my son’s interest, but we have made it ours too; my wife organizes the logistics and totes around the camera with the big lens that’s too heavy for my son; I carry the scope that’s too heavy for both of them.

And so, as we begin another year, my advice to you, Constant Reader, would be to do something you used to enjoy doing and which you think you should no longer be doing. Be reckless. Drink absinthe. Smoke a joint. Reread the Sudden books. Buy sexy underwear if you are a woman, a sex toy if you are a man (or vice versa). Cook. Play an instrument (or try to learn to play one). Bird (as in the verb). Rewatch Kurosawa and Fellini and Sergio Leone. Organize a quiz party. Walk the woods with your child. Let this be a year of new experiences.


R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.