MICHAEL JEWELL A&E Editor
I don’t wish for a happy New Year anymore. At this point in my life, I avoid sentimental wishes, especially as the bubble of college that like-it-or-not, insulated me quite comfortably from the calamity befalling the world around me, draws close to bursting. I now have to rise or fall on my own efforts in what is possibly the worst possible environment to enter the job market with my highly specialized (i.e. useless) degree in comic books. But I will have a degree; a degree that I am privileged ad infinitum to walk away with, debt free. A wish for a happy 2009 for me is gilding the lily, a cutesy throwaway expression. I’ve been encouraged by some parts of my culture to feel entitled to happiness (meaning in this case fortune; my overall emotional health is another story) but even when I’m broke and “hungry” (as if I really know what that means), I’m the happiest guy in the room.
If you’re still with me, meaning you haven’t navigated away from this column in disgust, you should have noticed the giant chips on my shoulder seeping through my keyboard. They’re probably my most distinguished of my many character flaws, for those of you keeping count at home. Did I really just admonish people who wish for a Happy New Year? I’m making myself ill as I write this. What’s worse is that the above paragraph may not be the most egregious, sanctimonious crap I’ve ever written in my life. I can’t help it. Conservatives find the most artful ways to belittle and avoid the guilt felt by liberals like myself who haven’t experienced a day of real hardship in their lives and are now determined in our adulthood to carry the weight of the world’s multitudinous sufferings on our own backs. My hatred of my own privilege is so all-encompassing that I spend more energy bemoaning how good I have it than thanking cosmic will of my lucky stars for the chance to draw comic books. For a living. I see the fruits of eight years of a Bush presidency (saying I told you so actually offers zero satisfaction and only invites more of the same gut-twisting anxiety and torment) and think there but for the grace of the cold, indifferent universe and the prudence and hard work of my parents go I.
So early this morning a gang of small birds crowded around my windowsill to clean their feathers, something that had never happened before. I don’t know if a bird’s physiology even allows them to see through panes of glass or they were conditioned to people but they didn’t much mind me watching them, tiny red and brown things with beady black eyes. Depending on what follows the occasion, a bird’s arrival is considered either a good omen or a terrible one. Superstition is cute, but I consider this small flock about as deterministic to the coming year as the family of squirrels that winters in the crawlspace above my ceiling, which is to say absolutely zero.
I entered college overcome with the anxiety of fitting into a false system obsessed with prestige and placement. After I leave, my success can be analyzed and reduced and boiled down into hundreds of fractions, but there’s no accounting for my attitude. How do I take advantage of every moment. I’m a technical master at nothing, but I think critically and creatively. I don’t mourn my lack of sex appeal because I’d like to think that I can make people laugh. I don’t dress to impress but I’m finally feeling comfortable in my own skin, and if my family could make it in the times they did, then I’ll be damned if I give up now, and nuts to the chips on my shoulder.