I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone
Those lyrics are by an LA band called MGMT, and when I heard them this morning in the car, I started inexplicably bawling. Which made me think quite heavily about a particular phenomenon I experience frequently -- a kind of overwhelming nostalgia that hits me periodically, usually when I'm sort of not at my happiest. Just about anything can trigger it, from lyrics like the above to hearing stuff from childhood I haven't heard in a while ("Free To Be...You And Me," for example, or, a few weeks ago, various songs from "Schoolhouse Rock" -- Kelly, I know you know what I mean, we've talked about this before!) to visiting places I used to visit as a child (I frickin' BAWLED when I found out they finally tore down, after all these years, my elementary school playground). And its powerful. Moreso than just regular depression, or plain ol "hey, I haven't heard this song in a while" nostalgia. It can kick my ass for weeks or months at a time, and makes me reach for stupid childhood stuff like old Sesame Street episodes or old songs I used to love.
I mean, if you analyze it in a negative way -- and I'm sure some of you are currently going holy shit, what a fucking pussy -- you could see it as the sad aging throes of a man that never fully grew up, or who never came to terms with adulthood or whatever. I mean, get over it, right? You're 37, you have a kid and a life and a job and just quit thinking about this stupid shit. Believe me, I've heard it before.
However. If I was to analyze it, I'd say what the overwhelming nostalgia is for is not childhood per se but the feelings associated with childhood -- innocence, safety, lack of feeling like the entire world is bearing down upon you, etc. When's the last time you felt truly safe like you did when you were a kid? When you knew your mom and dad were taking care of you and nothing could ever happen to you (which, of course, when you grow up you realize was just an illusion and you coulda gotten killed crossing the street or from malaria or something)? When's the last time you just kind of innocently stopped to appreciate how beautiful a sky was, or how fun, to quote 60s innocence-rockers the Free Design, kites are to fly? I mean, WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT YOUR BILLS OR OTHER SHIT YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF?
It has been a long goddamn time for me. And it strikes me more and more that I miss it. Just that feeling of non-worry. Like hey, life could be like this for a while. It isn't going to abruptly change. I'm safe. I'm okay.
I suppose part of this overwhelming feeling that overtakes me periodically is that my life has been fucking filled to bursting with DRASTIC LIFE CHANGES, right? Divorces, moves, job-changes, births, deaths, god knows what. That's what happens when you're a grownup -- you realize that nothing is permanent, no routine is forever, nothing is safe, nothing is secure. This is loss of innocence, and its part and parcel of being an adult. But man, I have been through it possibly more than some people, and not in the most positive way always, y'know? (I mean, I haven't had a *really close loved one die or kill themselves* or anything, so I'm lucky -- but still.)
And part of it is that you have a vision for how your life will go when you're a kid, and its pretty traditional, right? You're gonna get married. Settle down. Have a kid or two. Stay in one place your whole life like your parents (maybe) did, and everything's pretty constant. Except that's not how it goes anymore in this day and age, is it? That's certainly not how my life turned out -- that feeling of permanence, that feeling of security -- its really not there for me, and hasn't been since, well, I left home. Ever since then I've been in constant flux, and I'm not at all sure I like it. It's exciting but its also overwhelming.
I'm guessing all of the above creates that feeling of nostalgia. But for me its really pronounced -- and most often, its music that triggers it. Almost like people with synesthesia talk about music producing colors, but for me music produces THAT WEIRD FEELING, and I tend to gravitate towards music that produces it even though in many ways it overwhelms me and makes me sad. And it isn't music that's necessarily sad IN AND OF ITSELF. And it isn't just OLD music or RETRO music either. New stuff can do it too. Hard to explain.
Eh, so anyways, I can't imagine I'm alone. I've posted "Free To Be...You And Me" on YouTube before on my blog, and it got some pretty strong reactions.
But, ah, hell, here it is again.
If you're my age -- THIRTY-FREAKIN'-SEVEN -- I bet it does something to you besides make you retch these days.