Queers who dream big, work hard, and fall short of arbitrary deadlines

Wish you were further along, faster? Well, your arbitrary age cutoffs and imaginary competitions aren't helping matters.

Q:

I’m rapidly approaching the age of no gay return, 40. Apparently, while I was busy having fun and dreaming of becoming famous and fabulous, younger people are experiencing the success that still eludes me. They got that record deal. They got that relationship. They got the job that pays them to do what they love.

Beyond my cat and my paycheck-to-paycheck job, I got squat. I do work on my creative career in my off hours, and I love those hours more than I can say, but the rewards are zero.

Is it too late for me to land my dreams?

Dear Senior Citizen:

Get hold of yourself. Time is an illusion, and age is relative. The day is coming when you think 40 was young and you wasted it worrying about getting old. All any of us has is today, our dreams and the efforts we invest in them.

The world, not just but especially queer culture, loves a fresh young talent who fell into overnight success. But that’s a story with a dramatic ending and no context. The truth lies behind the curated Instagram feeds, and your own satisfaction lies well beyond 40.

The 20- and 30-somethings you envy likely worked harder than meets the eye to attain their success, and if they truly fell into it without trying, they are just as likely to fall out of it. For every one of them, there is someone who put in the hours and years, who kept trying and crying, falling and getting up again.

People’s chances come in all shapes and sizes and at any time. They happen at age 19, 36, 42, 68 and 83. Those folks you’re envying didn’t steal “your” chance; they grabbed theirs. Your success isn’t hidden somewhere within theirs.

While your eyes are on doing the work and seizing your own opportunities, it might help you to redefine success. Base your measuring stick on your own life, not someone else’s. Base it on forces within your control — you practiced today, you made something that didn’t suck, you had a great idea, you perfected a new technique, you contacted someone about a step toward progress. 

It’s about progress, not perfection, and there are plenty of rewards along the way if you look. Make a mental, or actual, list of things that have improved since you were, say, 20. Be grateful for the years. You’ve learned a lot. Revel in the time you spend on your dreams.

There is no age limit to success, but there are limits in our thinking. Glory and riches aren’t guaranteed even if you put in the work, but they definitely won’t come if you give up, and you might find gold along the rainbow rather than at the end. 

Q:

I’m 25, and my friends queer and straight are settling down into post-worthy family units and careers. I’m still just dating, slinging coffee, taking classes and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. When am I going to get it together?

Dear Greenhorn:

It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, but you are already getting it together — on your timeline. You’re holding down a job, going to school and keeping your heart open to relationships. 

Progression is a process. It’s futile to envy other people’s success and measure your life with their ruler or their clock. 

Social media can make it even harder, because people only show a Hollywood movie version of their lives. Don’t compare their highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes footage.

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the latest issue, enjoy all of the past editions of The Q advice column, and look for a new issue of Q each week online and around town.