After a few frantic hours of worry, we heard from my little brother in Japan that he was OK. I had encouraged him two years ago to go explore the world. He started teaching English in Tokyo, where he lived on his own for the first time, fell in love, went through heartbreak, and grew as a person. Unable to reach him and getting no updates on email or his Facebook page, we worried. Then he emailed and said he was fine, just a little shaken up. I was glad. Though he’s older and much more mature, he’s still my baby brother. And I’m pretty sure he owes me money.
These past few weeks, a bunch of stuff happened, exciting stuff. For example, Jerilyn, the inventor of the Cinnabon recipe, was being interviewed for a local TV show, and she asked me to sit in the audience. It was a cool experience, and they taught us how to clap enthusiastically and look spritely. For some reason, the camera kept cutting away before reaching me during shots of the audience; maybe they didn’t want me to steal the show with my magnetic presence.
The show featured a nine-year-old piano prodigy named Nathan Lee, who played Nocturne Number 20 in C Sharp Minor so beautifully that everyone in the audience sat breathless, moved. Here, you can see him perform
Listening to Nathan play, I was transported, nearly moved to tears. He was so talented. Which is why I hate his guts. Ooh, look at me, I’m Nathan, I can play the piano like a pro, and I’m only nine, I’m so cute, I’m Nathan! Ugh. He was even sweet and well-spoken during his after-performance interview. Made me want to break into his house and steal his Care Bears.
At that moment, I realized I had tapped into something deep and dark. Then I realized it was because I was turning 30, the pinnacle of the two-fifths life crisis. By 30, I had dreamed of having published a book and owning a house and having a flying car and having a show on Food Networks called “Vegan Fear Factor.” Only one of those things has come to fruition, and a condo is not really a house.
Every birthday since my 13th has been marked by existential crises, and this one is particularly significant. 30 is a nice round number. It marks a deep transition into a world of adults. It’s scary. I have always enjoyed being the youngest person on a committee or a board or leading a project. People are impressed when you’re in your 20’s and you seem to have it together. When you’re 30 or older, no one is impressed anymore. You’re not a wunderkind; you’re just doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
And that’s why I hate little Nathan. His accomplishments highlight two things: 1. My opportunities to impress people as a young and talented person are over; I’m just another adult and by default I should just do my job. 2. He is vastly more talented than I ever was or could be.
The birthday came, and it’s actually not bad at all. The earthquake put things in perspective. I should be glad to still be alive, and all my family is safe. But also, I think being a full adult has its advantages. I don’t need to try to impress people anymore! Let the young’uns do that. I can now just focus on doing stuff that makes me happy, because dammit, I’m an adult. Little Nathan will continue performing and impressing people. I am sure he will be successful, but with so much talent on his shoulders, he will always feel the pressure to impress for the rest of his life.
Now that I am older and don’t need to impress people, I feel more confident. I can put myself up there with people I once would try to impress. After the show, I met the son of the family that owns Cinnabon, at backstage of a TV show, and tried to convince him to develop a vegan Cinnabon. “Greg,” I said, tapping into this newfound confidence, “there are a ton of vegans in Seattle, and we would love to see a vegan Cinnabon. We are tired of standing at the airport, smelling wistfully, unable to taste your delightful confections.” Ha ha, he said, “We once tried a low-calorie Cinnabon, and that was a total failure.” (I think a “low-calorie” Cinnabon is one that is only 800 calories).
“I’ll run your idea up the flagpole,” he said, which I think is code for “I will completely ignore your idea.”