Welcome to a new series on Thought Catalog called “Ask A 30-Something” where I ask people I know who are in their 30s about what they’ve learned now that they’re no longer a dreaded 20-something.
Our first subject is Myq Kaplan, a 34-year-old stand up comedian in Brooklyn. Myq is polyamorous and a vegan, two aspects of his life he talks about openly in his comedy. He used to want to be a musician, but now he has a new musical comedy CD out so it’s the Best of Both Worlds! (TM, Miley Cyrus). He is also my IRL BFF! You can hear us on a podcast here or watch us in a video here. We’re so cute!
Myq graciously agreed to answer some 20-something’s (me!) annoying questions about being in his 30s. (Since that is clearly the time you begin to know everything!)
Do you feel like a 30-something, or do you not really think about it?
I would say that before the question was asked, I didn’t really think about it. But upon giving it some thought, I DO believe that I feel like one. I remember how I felt in my 20s, and I definitely don’t feel like a 20-something anymore, for sure. …Sincerely, it’s like how when the year changes, and you have to get used to writing the new year, but it still feels like the old year, until a little ways in, maybe halfway. My 30s are like that. I’ve had a few years getting used to having a “thirty-” in my age, so it feels right, and seeing some very young 20-somethings makes that distinction more apparent.
What do you think is the biggest difference between people in their 20s now and you and your friends when you were in your 20s?
It’s hard to say, partially because so many things are different now, period. Like, when I was in my 20s, way fewer people were on Twitter and Instagram and other things that weren’t around or popular during my 20s. I don’t know if that’s a “biggest difference,” but I don’t know if there ARE that many differences in the nature of the 20-something, so much as the nature of the world and the environments that the different timeframes offer. Also, there are so many different varieties, cultures, and types of people of all ages, so I stand by my original assessment that it’s hard to say and I don’t know.
That’s a cop out answer. Come on! Are young people today more driven because of the internet’s existence? Are young people today more self-centered than you were in your 20s? Or are all 20-somethings self-involved?
My point was, and still is, that generalizations are faulty. Are more young people driven today because of the internet? I just read a study that said more young people are driven to go to social networking sites than will go out and try to get laid. I don’t think that’s representative of the generation because I don’t think ANYTHING is representative of a generation.
My friends weren’t just laying around doing nothing. They went to grad school, became teachers and businesspeople and lawyers for the most part. Or the ones that were comedians, they were working dayjobs and then doing comedy at night. My friends have always been very motivated, maybe because those are the kinds of people I’m drawn to, and maybe because the ones who aren’t motivated to leave their homes, I haven’t run into, because they’re at home. I only know my own experience, my friends’ experiences, and the published results from the experiments of social scientists. You ask “are all 20-somethings self-involved?” Of course not, ALL 20-something aren’t anything. I don’t know how self-centered 20-somethings are today (because I’m too focused on myself to know everything about everyone else?).
Sincerely, I don’t know what all 20-somethings are like because I only see a skewed sample of them, mostly the ones that are out at comedy shows, either doing comedy or in the audience. Which is heartening. I love seeing people at comedy shows, period. I love seeing people like you and Watsky and Bo Burnham achieve things that many people don’t in a lifetime. There are and always have been exceptional 20-somethings, and there are and always will be Lewis Blacks and Rodney Dangerfields who don’t achieve the recognition they deserve until way later in life.
So I honestly stand by my initial assessment that all I can see are the changed circumstances, different environments, plus the results of whatever studies I come across, along with my own experience which I don’t believe is universal — I wasn’t an average 20-something, or if I was, I didn’t know it. But I don’t think I was.
Do you still have the same friends as you did in your 20s? Why or why not?
I definitely have many of the same friends. Some of my best friends are from my teenage summer camp years, so pre-20s through the 20s into today. I have grown apart a bit from some of my college friends, with whom I shared a lot of good times into our 20s, mostly because of geography, I think. Also, I’ve met new people since leaving my 20s, so that’s a reason why I wasn’t friends with them then, because I didn’t know them.
What do 20-somethings think is SO important now that we’re not going to care about in ten years?
What people think about you, maybe? I mean, not entirely, but I definitely feel less self-conscious about most things. (Unless I shouldn’t? What do people think about that?) Sincerely, I think under ideal circumstances, people will find what they love doing in their 20s, and they’ll hopefully start pursuing that unapologetically, without worrying about the judgments of others (provided what they love doing isn’t murder, in which case, please DO worry about judgment).
Does that mean you feel more like the “you” you’re supposed to be now? Rather than trying to find that “you” in your 20s?
I think that saying I’m more the “me” I’m “supposed to be” has arrogant connotations, but if I can say something like it minus those connotations, then yes.
In my career, my 20s were mainly about trying to get started in comedy, which is difficult no matter what age you are. I mean, it’s not difficult to try, but it requires a blind faith, bordering on delusion, that what you’re doing is worthwhile and that eventually it will amount to something. I didn’t know if I would be successful, but I knew I wanted to try. Now in my 30s, I’ve achieved some measures of success, so that part I DO know. So certainly, now I’ve got the benefit of hindsight, seeing everything that’s worked out. My 20s were much more uncertain.
I thought I was doing the right thing, being myself and doing the work and creating the things that I was doing, but without any assurances. And not that I have any assurances now, but at least I have past successes that, even if they’re not predictors of future successes, provide some confidence, that if it happened once, it can happen again. I think I’ve been being myself the whole time, but I just knew it less ten years ago. And in ten years, I’ll say the same thing about now, maybe. Though I think 30s me and 40s me will be closer than 20s me and 30s me. Of course, I have no idea. 40s me will be ten years older and wiser than me now. Let’s talk again when you’re in your 30s and I’m in my 40s. Time capsule!
What about your body feels different to you now vs. when you were 22?
I believe my hairline is receding. Or at least it feels like it is. If I’m bald in my 40s, I was right! If I’m not, then it must be that my brain feels different now.
How have your other priorities changed in the last ten years?
Ten years ago, my dream was to be a musician, and I had entered grad school both because I wanted to learn more but also because I didn’t want to get a “real job,” and rather wanted to give myself more time to “be discovered.” Currently, I am not as focused on “being discovered,” and I have since discarded the thinking that I might need to get a “real job.” Also, I’m not trying to be a musician anymore. What a crazy dream. I’m a comedian.
What are you looking for in a romantic partner now that maybe you weren’t looking for in your 20s?
As a kid, I figured that I would grow up, get a job, marry a woman, have kids, and then live forever. Or die, whichever. Then once I started dating in high school and college, there was a disconnect as to how I would get to that place, the place where I wanted to be with one person forever. Then, in my 20s, I found a person who I felt that way about, and married them. We were together 3 or 4 years and then split up, because apparently wanting to be with someone longer than one year doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel that way forever. Now, I believe I have a more reasonable assessment mechanism for romantic partnerships. I may get married again, I may not, but one big difference is I won’t make that decision in fewer than a couple years with someone.
Also, my main priorities in seeking out relationships in my early 20s were like this: a girl who’s pretty, nice, and likes me. Which is not a bad place to start, but rules out things like “do we have the same sense of humor” or “does she hate when I play guitar,” which maybe complicates the “nice” category, but the point is, there’s more to people than just being nice. I mean, nice is important, but not everything. Necessary, but not sufficient. Maybe. What do I know, I’m just a guy in his 30s.
Do you ever look down on 20-somethings? Like, if you’re talking to a 20-something now and they have strong opinions, are you, in the back of your head, thinking, “Oh, you don’t even know what you’re talking about?”
I think it depends what those strong opinions are. If they’re reasonable opinions that are thought out, then I don’t have a problem WHO is thinking or saying them. I don’t think age has much to do with it. You can be a curious, thoughtful 20-year-old, and you can be a closed-minded, irrational 40-year-old. You don’t have to be young for me to think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Just like someone in their 20s to ask me a question like this.
Could you ever have predicted being vegan or poly at the time? Were those things you thought maybe you’d be into?
I became a vegetarian in my sophomore year of college, around age 19. And I considered veganism then but thought it would be too difficult. But then when I was around 24, I decided it was worth giving a shot, better to fail at something difficult than to not try and live the way I thought I should out of fear. So that was the mindset I had in my early 20s.
As far as non-monogamy goes, I met the woman I married when I was 24ish, and she was the first person who introduced me to the word and concept of “polyamory,” and I didn’t think it was for me. A few years later, I started thinking that it was. So, by the end of my 20s, my thinking was close to where it is now, except for now I’m enacting it more than just thinking.
Ten years ago, I had no idea that this is where I would end up mentally and emotionally. (And the “this” I’m speaking of is a very happy, settled mindset. I have a girlfriend who I love and am very happy with, plus we are both open to activities external to our relationship, which is exactly what I want. And exactly what I thought I didn’t want ten years ago.)