Youth carries with it a certain externality that disappears later in life. To be young is not merely to be frustrated but also to want to do something about that frustration, to want to find whomever or whatever is the source of that frustration and to destroy it, change it, transcend it, triumph over it, make it your own.
With age comes a kind of fatigue, a kind of weariness. No longer something to be fought on the battlefield, frustration is instead the thing that pursues you endlessly, across continents and worlds and years. Priorities, goals, aspirations, appointments and positions, incomes and bills, contracts and cases, little inconveniences and big inconveniences—they begin to accumulate just behind you, a kind of storm that one forever tries to outrun. It is no longer a matter of wanting to fight it all off; it is instead a matter of wanting to outrun it, to spin or juggle plates endlessly and in increasing quantity with the hope of being able to stave off crisis rather than have to confront it head-on.
This sort of thinking leads one to stay in jobs longer than one might have otherwise done—longer than one might have done when one was younger—and to become increasingly less prolific both in terms of general output and in terms of specific kinds of output, like creative projects or academic work. To sublimate and flee from frustration is precisely to avoid the work of having to confront it.
In this sublimation and flight, papers are lost, would-be career “branches” never quite “branch” from their trunk, and big victories or big defeats give way to little contingencies and small bumps in the flow of reality of an everyday sort.
It is unclear to me whether I can ever become a prolific academic or even a writer of any serious volume again. The motivation seems to have gone; I am no longer driven as I once was to say what I am dying to say and moreover to ensure that others are able to hear it. There is no conversion project behind my action any longer, no desire to save souls or move mountains.
I am content to manage my own garden; this level of contentment is irreconcilable with any kind of serious production beyond day-to-day wage labor. Growing up may be, in essence, the end of one’s voice inasmuch as it stretches outside the confines of one’s own house and family. I don’t know whether that