I sit in the car as my wife drives us down for my niece’s sweet 16th birthday party, and I find myself waxing nostalgic for the days when I was 16. “I Wanna Get Off With You” by Republica is flying out of our car speakers, and while the lyrics aren’t quite fitting for the events of the day ahead, the song fits in nicely with where my head is. It’s that kind of pop electric meaningless distraction that sort of makes your thoughts get syncopated, and even though you don’t really like the music you suddenly find your head moving back and forth and the only thing in your mind is this dodododododatido dunnnnnn pitchaditadadada dunnnnnn… I realize something is lost in the translation, but hopefully you understand the mood. It’s that state of mind that seems so rare, where things that normally bother you… just don’t.
When I was 16 I don’t think there was much else in my head other than those sorts of meaningless distractions, and nothing really seemed to bother me much. Life was all about going from one fun thing to the next. I didn’t dwell on the past because there wasn’t much past to dwell on. I could bask in the luxury of just not giving a fuck, knowing that Future Me would probably figure out how to take care of things just fine. I had a kind of blind faith that way. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Call it naiveté if you will, or if you must, ignorance. It was bliss.
You see, the thing is, us Gen-X kids had it easy. Never mind that my father was an alcoholic, my parents were divorced, I grew up in a trailer in Wisconsin where the water pipes would freeze up in the winter and we had to go to the neighbors for showers, and I had what I now realize was the typical American Rough Childhood. That stuff was just my life as I knew it; I could control it to some degree by choosing to ignore the bothersome pieces because it wasn’t really that bad. There were really no Big Bad Forces of Imminent Doom and Gloom hanging over our heads... no threats of global chaos, terror and destruction. Now… now I just pray that my nieces and nephew and my kids are able to steal away their fair share of not giving a fuck in between worrying about how their world will change, or end, tomorrow. It’s clear that they won’t be so lucky.
Well, enough of that I suppose; the clock’s not going back on itself so we might as well shift our focus to figuring out how to make it go forward as slowly as possible. My Dad’s mantra over the past few years has been “Keep on slowin’ down”, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that line. The world would do much better to live and breathe that way, rather than the opposite popular belief that we need to go as fast as we can. Just what the fuck are we chasing, anyway? Do we really have to reach rock bottom before we see that we could have been happy without anything more than the hills and the trees. WE COULD BE HAPPY WITHOUT ANYTHING MORE THAN THE HILLS AND THE TREES. We used to fucking sleep outside.
Now, I’m not a hippie dippy dude that thinks we should go back to sleeping on rocks, and I don’t know that this gigantic momentum called “progress” can be slowed down all that much. To be clear, I’m not suggesting we try, either. That would just become another unimportant thing to chase. What I’m saying is this: think about what it is you’re chasing before you leave the place you’re currently at. All too often I think we pass the point of bliss in search of bliss, and I think we do it because we try to move too fast. It’s a fear of missing that ultimate goal because someone else might get there first. Just change the goals a bit. Include sanity and happiness in your list of things to achieve or maintain. Just keep on slowin’ down. For my part, I’m going to spend the rest of our drive listening to the kids be bored in the back seat. Are we there yet?