Mostly my thoughts come from a couple of songs: "Vienna" by Billy Joel and "Forever Young" by Alphaville. I guess that the songs don't really resemble each other very obviously, but they both stir up the same feelings within me. YouTube them, if you like; they're good songs, but I can't guarantee that they'll make you feel what I feel. Maybe they will--who am I to say?--but I find that expressing emotion in words, though often difficult, is a relative cakewalk to trying to replicate those feelings in another, so my intent here is not to make you feel what I feel but rather to make you hear what I think.
I could put the lyrics of "Vienna" and "Forever Young" here, but I bet you'd probably lose the thread if you tried to read them--I know I would--besides, like I said, the similarities are more abstract than anything. However, there are two bits that really strike me--the words that always stand out to me when the songs are in my head--so I'll give you that and hope that it gives me a solid jumping-off point.
From "Vienna": "you can get what you want or you can just get old."
From "Forever Young": "It's so hard to get old without a cause."
I find it odd that these sentiments impact me so powerfully. I mean, I really have no right to complain about getting old--far from having passed my prime, I think I have yet to reach it!--but I really believe that the things I do now will set the trajectory for the rest of my life, and there are no options for course corrections later on should I aim too low.
But that's not really what's weighing on my mind, and, to be totally honest, I'm really not all that fatalistic. That is, however, a significant part of what I'm feeling right now, so don't totally disregard it.
The way I perceive people and my relationship to them has changed drastically in the past few months. I used to be bitterly jealous of most everyone for one reason or another, but now, not so much. I've really noticed this lately in my association with [Dameon], my afore-mentioned supervisor at work. I really like the guy--a lot. We've had several meaningful conversations as we've cleaned dormitory restrooms together, and I always really enjoy his perspectives. He occasionally talks about how unspectacular he feels, and I suppose he is a fairly ordinary person, but that's what I like about him. He and I are on opposite sides of a milestone--I am questing (though perhaps not as assertively as I could be) toward marriage; he has finished that quest and is now embarking upon the new adventure of fatherhood--but, really, we aren't all that different from each other. Working around him has really been enlightening in that regard.
My senior year of high school, Mr. Richards (also previously mentioned) was my English teacher. We were a class of seniors, ready to graduate, ready to go out and take on the world, ready to be done with parents and public schooling, ready for life; he was a sixty-something school teacher, ready to retire, ready to get away from the world, ready to be done with our parents and the public school system, ready for life. It was his last year as well as ours, and that led to some interesting discussions. The one thing I remember best is reading Waiting for Godot. After we had read it, Mr. Richards said something that went like this:
"We are all waiting for Godot. All of us. You are so excited to graduate and leave this place; you think, 'Oh, I'll leave high school and go off to college, and then I'll be happy!' But then you'll get to college and you'll think, 'When I graduate and have a degree, I'll get a real job, and then I'll be happy!' But you won't. You'll graduate and you'll get a job you hate, and you'll think, 'When I get my dream job, then I'll be happy.' But no. Eventually, you will be like me, thinking, 'I'm going to retire. Then I'll really be happy.' We are all waiting for Godot, and we always will be until we learn to be happy in our current circumstances, whatever they may be."
Today [Dameon] was talking about how unfulfilling his life seems right now. He's got a wonderful wife and a baby son; he's got a college degree; he's building a house for his family to live in--yet it just doesn't feel as wonderful as it looks. Sure, he's got a college degree, but what good's it done him? He works as a janitor! He could do that without a college degree!
I told him about Waiting for Godot, and then we got to talking about how obvious the idea is--of course life is never going to hand you happiness on a silver tray! You've gotta learn to be happy with what you've got--but, even though this is easy to think up, it's much, much harder to actually apply. Even when you wholeheartedly believe in the principle, being happy is sometimes hard. I mean, I've made bold statements on how we need to choose to be happy, and I've been trying to increase the frequency of optimistic posts on this blog--I've even created an optimism label! But I recognize that being happy is sometimes hard; I struggle with it myself sometimes.
Remember my soulful mentor [V]? We had a late-night chat about this once. Here are some excerpts:
She said something about being happy-smiley ALL the time, no matter what
So take that for what it's worth. Perhaps it doesn't mean much to you since you don't actually know [V], but the woman has been through the ringer a time or two (at least!), yet she maintains one of the happier personalities I've ever encountered. Gives me a lot of hope for humanity, really.
This isn't really coming together the way I had hoped it would. But I have one last thought to present, so hopefully that does it.
I'm a fairly sentimental person in some regards. I've recently overcome most of my packrat-like tendencies, but I still have a few things that I hold on to for strictly sentimental reasons. One I carry with me in my wallet. It's a piece of paper that I found on the floor of the office supply store I worked in before moving up here. It was lying underneath a briefcase display, so I assume that it came off of a briefcase, but I couldn't figure out a place to put it, so I figured it was garbage and therefore free game, so I kept it. The piece of paper says this:
is soft and mellow.
Marks and scars are natural
and serve only to enhance its beauty.
I have often found myself associated with people who are suffering from life's trials. I, myself, am not much of a sufferer--not that I'm especially stalwart; mostly I'm just prolifically apathetic. Of course, I do suffer sometimes, and I think to suffer is actually healthy, it just isn't something I'm particularly good at. But I look at the people I really admire--my dad, [V], several people I met as a missionary and at other times in my life--and they have all suffered quite a bit. But it's the overcoming that really makes them admirable. And, after they overcome, "Marks and scars are natural and serve only to enhance [their] beauty."
I'm not much of a poet--I mean, I can rhyme okay, but real poetry is hard to produce and certainly isn't the sort of thing that I can create at will. But sometimes poetry just happens. Here's a poem I wrote a while back while suffering vicariously for a friend (I mentioned this in my suffering post); it isn't gonna make me poet laureate or anything, but I think it has merit--at least enough to finish off this post (which really isn't going to have any sort of solid denoument, as it turns out. Sorry. I hope you got something out of all this...).
If I could write the story for your life,
I’d edit out the parts that caused the pains
And scars with which your noble soul is rife,
And chase away the clouds that still drop rain.
But if I wrote the story out that way,
I guess it wouldn’t really be your life,
And maybe you would not turn out the same
If you had never tasted pain and strife.
Oh, I have felt the fury of your wrath,
And I’ve received compassion from your heart,
And I have seen you cry and heard you laugh;
I fathom you God’s greatest work of art.
So let me get down to the bottom line:
I love you—scars and all!—dear friend of mine.