By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny
Age is a funny thing. Many people make such a big deal about growing older, when really it’s something that should be celebrated. By the time next month’s column is printed, I will have aged another year, turning 36 and hitting the second half of my 30s. While I know that I’m still very young (many of my older friends will remind me of that!), I always get to thinking about age this time of year.
In 2010, as I was approaching 30, I wrote a series of columns in my former “Life with Benny” column with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about my fears of turning 30. For several months leading up to May 3 — the big day that year — I shared about my fears and excitements of “growing older.” Looking back, I chuckle because I have certainly learned since that my 30s have been absolutely wonderful so far.
Sure, we’ve all read those articles about how — especially in the youth-obsessed gay male culture — people over 30 are considered invisible or dead. While acknowledging the fact that I am still youthful looking, healthy and active, I have found the notion that life “ends after 30 (or 35)” to be false. And while I have much respect and admiration for our youth and younger community members, I’m certainly not going to let a group of folks who have less life experience than I dictate my relevance.
Being in my mid 30s is an interesting place to be. I’ve learned that the idealistic view I had 10 years ago of where I imagined I’d be at this point (living the high life in New York City with a corner-view office; attending the hottest parties and events; travelling the globe) did not quite pan out.
And I’m glad it didn’t.
I’m more than happy living in the city where I was born (I’m one of those “unicorns” who was born and raised in San Diego) and being lucky enough to be working for an exceptional organization that allows me to serve my LGBTQ community. I was educated at two of our amazing local universities and have had the opportunity to participate in so many great community organizations, activities and events over the last 20 years — and have had a great time doing it.
I’m learning to do what makes me happy. I used to envy other people’s social media posts doing things that I felt like I couldn’t do — it looked like everyone but me was travelling, or at the beach, or on vacation, or getting a new car, or whatever. I now realize that in most cases, people only post their best moments on social media, and it doesn’t mean their lives are perfect all the time. I know that I’m doing the things I need to do to provide for myself and those I love, and that’s all that matters.
I’ve also learned to just do whatever I want to do on any given day.
In the past, if it was a nice sunny day, I was off work and everyone I knew was going to the beach, I felt like I needed to go to the beach. Just because “everyone else” was. I often didn’t want to go to the beach, but would go through the motions to get there and often not enjoy myself.
Shifting my thinking to doing what I want to do and not worrying about what everyone else is doing has been so freeing. If it’s a gorgeous sunny day out and I want to lie in a dark room all day watching Netflix, then I will!
As I’ve grown older I’ve also learned that alone time is good time! I have many friends who will tell me “I could never walk into a bar alone” or those who constantly want to be around others and just can’t handle spending a day with just themselves.
I enjoy drinking wine (a newer life pleasure as I’ve entered my mid-30s) and one of my favorite parts of the week is a few hours after work every Friday while I sip my wine and read local news (usually via Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News) — by myself. Friends will often join me later in the evening, but those first couple of late-afternoon hours are bliss to me. I’m often approached by well-meaning folks I may run into at this particular bar who always seem so concerned that I’m sitting by myself, and they’ll invite me to “come sit with them” because they don’t want me to have to sit alone. But sitting alone is what I want to do and I feel no shame about it. It’s outstanding.
While I still have so much learning to do, being able to reflect on 20 years of participating in this community (I attended my first gay youth group in 1996 at age 16) and having my 20s and half of my 30s out of the way, I can say I’ve learned a lot. It’s great to be in the position I’m in with so many wonderful memories to look back on, but so much more life to look forward to.
As I approach the next year of my life, I’m most grateful for all of the people who I have met, learned from and experienced life with.
Here’s to 36!
Get out with Benny
A reminder that Dining Out For Life San Diego is coming up at the end of this month. This is one of the most exciting eating and drinking days in town where dozens of restaurants pledge to give back 25-100 percent of the day’s proceeds to HIV/AIDS services. Planning your day can be a lot of fun, too. Check out the list of participating bars, restaurants and cafes and plan to Dine Out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks on April 28! To learn more, visit tinyurl.com/j6hga54.
If you haven’t visited Guys, Games & Grub at The Center lately, I encourage you to check it out. I call it the best Wednesday night deal in Hillcrest, as a $5 suggested donation gets you all the board games you want to play, as well as unlimited free pizza, beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks.
Nearly 100 people show up each month (everyone 21 years and older are welcome), and some come alone (remember what I said about going out alone above — it’s OK!), while others bring their friends. Along with the board games, popular community member John Lockhart leads a Live Trivia game where he writes his own questions and leads teams to compete against each other. Everyone is welcome to jump into the trivia game. GGG is held on the first Wednesday of each month from 6 – 8:30 p.m. (Live Trivia begins at 6:30 p.m.), and is presented by Hillcrest Social. The next one is Wednesday, April 6 — please join us!
Finally, tickets and tables are going fast for the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at the Hilton Bayfront. More on this next month, but be sure to get your tickets now — events.thecentersd.org/HMDB2016.
Have a great April!
—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or email@example.com. Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.