Columns, Opinion

KAZI: Pillars of success

It’s a slow news day. For me, that means that I haven’t gotten any fatter in the last week. Women still refuse to touch me. I still thwart their plans by getting on the Red Line in rush hour. Business as usual. But I don’t have anything to say today, and I’m not going to do one of those things where I talk about what I would have done and just keep on makin’ up lists until I’m like, ‘Oh my, 800 words gone, what will my editor say now!’ That only works when you’re a hot woman, and I’ve already tried convincing my editor that in Bangladesh, women have penises. He didn’t buy it.

Like all rising young intellectuals, I asked my Facebook support group of 2,620 friends: wtf (i.e. what the falafel) do I write? Ninety-six of the 97 suggestions I received involved ‘butts lol,’ and one involved my old boss KC talking about irrationality. Whatever, dude, I don’t work for you any more. Go smell a butt lol.

Did Arafat Kazi, foul mascot of The Daily Free Press’s immigrant quota, just call himself a rising young intellectual? I sure did, bunky! And why not? I have a blog. I have a Twitter. I use big words like ‘gastrointestinal’ (though only in the context of saying I use words like that). I know the difference between Schlitz beer and John Scofield’s ‘Shinola’ album!

What does it take to be intellectual? ‘Intellectual’ is an adjective that people in their twenties use a lot (as a noun) until they’re beaten down by life and turn into accountants or secretaries. We all want to fail at: writing a novel, recording a rock album, makin’ all of those one-shots that might just propel us to stardom and a life of relative ease. Make fun of Vanilla Ice, but that guy owns a house. That’s the plan, except it wouldn’t hurt to stumble onto the kind of talent that turns your average Farrokh Bulsara into a mercurial rock star.

The only problem with getting anything in the world though is that it takes hard work. If you want to become the best Schlitz beer shoveler in the world, you’ll still need to practice for ten years. And the dreams we have – rock star, novelist, Dr. Manhattan (i.e. a combination of scientist, superhero, porn star) – are dreams that take even harder work to achieve. Furthermore, to be a rock star, it’s not enough to be a reasonably talented musician. You need to be better than all the other Arifs and Bulsaras and Kurdts, otherwise, it’s singing ‘Back to You’ at the Plough & Stars. Same thing with writing. While there’s a large contingent of critics who would argue that a single monkey on a single typewriter with faulty vowel movements can better Hemingway’s best, it does take a certain investment in cigars and strawberry daiquiris to win Pulitzers. Plus if you’re from this generation, you’re used to writing in your LiveJournal and listening to Radiohead. It’s way more difficult to be stern and staccato. How shall you presume?

Back in the day you had to be born rich or good-looking. But in 2009, you can get away with simply being smart. And just as everybody thinks they’re hot in the right lighting (in ultraviolet, for example, I’m irresistible), we also think we’re intelligent and misunderstood. It’s just that we haven’t had our big break or amazing coincidence yet. The cosmos are skewed, the universe is unjust, Fortuna’s spinning in prejudiced cycles! My pyloric valve closes up in protest.

This is what you realize when you’ve been out of college for a few years and haven’t sold a million records, have only written badly punctuated breakup letters and (here’s the bright side of not being a star) not killed yourself: it’s perfectly acceptable to be a successful systems administrator. It ain’t glamorous, but you get to pay bills, keep your circadian rhythms in check and lie about where you’re going with your life.

Ultimately, we’re all happy with things like a middle-class home, a reasonably attractive spouse, non-special children so that the president can’t crack jokes. And why shouldn’t we be? If every one of us became superstars, who would Christian Bale shout at? Is being satisfied with enough such a bad thing?

Remember: there’s always a deeper hole you can dig for yourself. You could be a movie star, and Angelina Jolie would still not answer your calls. You could be a rock star, but you could end up being, say, the guy who plays rhythm guitar in Oasis. You could be a famous writer, but your fart jokes would never be better than Jonathan Swift’s.

So don’t bother following your dreams. Follow mine: fail.

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