Nothing is ever as good as you hope it will be. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but after experiencing a lot of life, one has to accept that everything eagerly anticipated, on occurrence, is ultimately destined to be a disappointment. This is the attitude that many of my friends now take, they expect failure, and therefore make lifestyle decisions in favour of the familiar, the comfortable, the easy. They think they’re being clever, in limiting disappointment, choosing the reliable old damage-limitation approach. You must protect yourself from the perpetual anti-climax at all costs!
This is a stance I’ve desperately tried to avoid taking all of my life. And for reasons that I still consider to be entirely valid. Having this position of scepticism is bad for a number of reasons I can think of, because
- It precludes being adventurous, achieving high goals, doing interesting things, taking risks. It makes life boring.
- Life itself would be not worth living unless it is something that can potentially continually improve with time.
- It’s arguably a highly cowardly perspective, as it is a form of giving up in the face of adversity.
- There is simply far too much to be lost, and so little to be gained. Every day is a thousand failed opportunities. Understanding the extent of these missed opportunities would be agony to our minds if only we knew what we have missed due to our habitual laziness, cowardice, stubbornness, arrogance and ignorance.
I’ve been an idealist, a romantic, a panglossian fool. I’ve written the scripts in my brain and then the play never happens, or if it does happen it’s a twisted, dull simulacrum of what I intended, and all of a sudden I’m starkly reminded that I’m not a character in a 19th century Russian novel or a TV series (that probably doesn’t even exist anyway but I still wholeheartedly believe in my chimerical brain I will probably write, star in and recreate in my actual life). I finally decide to speak to the girl in my seminar who seems nice, handsome, dresses cool, appears to have a personality, and she answers my questions as briefly and abruptly as possible, gradually quickens her walking pace and says “Dave, is that you?” then takes the first opportunity she can to escape out of the nearest fire exit.
Another instance of disappointing reality vs Utopian dreams (and the former resoundingly crushing the latter into a thousand pieces)- last weekend one of my friends’ vast, lovely house was vacant and available for a gathering, which I allowed myself to be optimistic about for weeks. Ooh yes! We can get the decks, put them on the vast expanse of work surface in the kitchen and my little friend who knows how to DJ, the only person who listens to the same music as me, can plug in his USB stick of meticulously curated IDM tracks (yes, intelligent dance music is actually a genre [and overshadows the deceptive and meaningless blanket term ‘techno’ which is no good to any of us]) and we can all take the right drugs and all dance together and all really get down to someone like Joris Voorn or Solomon and everyone will smile together and it will conjure ‘one of those moments’ – the moments we constantly seek.
The night before this was going to take place, in a drunken state I sent a long and grotesquely mawkish text to all of my friends who were coming, emphasising the importance of the occasion. It encouraged attendants to honour the occasion, treating it as if it was a proper rave with an emphasis on dancing and loads of other things I can no longer remember, as I deleted it from my phone as soon as I got the chance. And deservedly, the next day I was under heavy scrutiny, at risk of being righteously lambasted by anyone and at any second. The execution was despicable, but behind the horribleness, was hope.
What eventually transpired was a complete disaster, descending into mindless techno- warfare and nothingness. My mate with the USBs decided he ‘couldn’t be bothered to DJ’ and was nowhere to be seen, preferring to dissolve into a bag of coke for the evening. A couple of my friends played some nice stuff but truth be told, it was never what I hoped for. In a flurry of contempt I ran over to the cutlery draw and withdrew two of the largest knives I could find and threatened to stab him if he continued to play music.
Following this we were scattered across the house, no one knew where anyone was, there was a couple or a threesome in the dark corners of every bedroom. There was no certainty, and no unity. Many lost interest in the night altogether, some whom had travelled from far and wide to attend, and decided to leave early, preferring the comfort of their own beds. The rest of us continued to do what we were doing. It was a good night. But nowhere near good enough. And it’s not like that’s anything new. And that’s why it’s so sad. Sooner or later, we will have lost faith altogether. Imprisoned, destined to re-enact the same dissatisfying, mechanical routine over and over again. Disappointment after disappointment. When I suggested we should perhaps invite other people to parties like this another one of my wiser friends put it well the other night when he said, ‘we can’t even socialise with each other, let alone with other people’.
I could chuck this experience in with about 5 holidays and about 3 festivals, about 3 friendships and my University experience, all of which I felt this same tedious level of dissatisfaction having finished. I’ve learned from these miscalculations. Other than a few fragmented memories of ‘happiness’ and momentary triumphs, these are mostly valuable as learning curves for me. Stark reminders not to get carried away by the rhetoric of the hedonists. Cook from Skins is not and never will be a real person. Drugs, aren’t what they purport to be. It turns out that all this idealism is is a desperation to escape, to escape one’s own life and become somebody else. And when you realise that that’s exactly what you’re going for, you’ll realise how bollocks all of this truly is. The question still remains, should we want more or should we want to be happy with less? Is there a middle ground? We’re lost, even if we don’t realise it.
I don’t know if any of this applies to you, your life might be joy after joy as your Facebook profile suggests, with those photos of you smiling like a crocodile in your graduation robes, or standing by some idyllic beach clutching your partner’s waist like you’re indestructible, or sitting in some swanky bar with a colourful cocktail in your hand with an umbrella sticking out of it, experiencing wonder after wonder, you might be loving every single chapter of your life more and more as it unfolds. And if so, congratulations! But I fear that the reality for most people, is more akin to my anonymous character who wanders across the Island of disused electrical appliances, alone and lost, constantly telling himself that ‘it will happen’, when he knows full well, deep down that it won’t. But he hopes nonetheless, clinging to the slightest possibility that it might. If not, he’d be off to B + Q for an extension lead (toaster, bath, post-it note, biro, goodbye).
We, the hopeful are no different from the devout in that we delude ourselves with the improbable. Without doing so, life would be intolerable. But what if even this is a delusion? I should stop over thinking it and realise life is fantastic if we just sit back chill the fuck out, and enjoy the finer things. Like listening to Kiasmos or reading Larkin, taking the piss out of a horrible friend, watching Peep Show, walking through the woods, eating a delicious bowl of cereal with raisins in it, standing in the away end at football matches, taking the dog for a nice walk, playing heads and volleys (according to the proper rules) or just that massively liberating sweaty feeling after a workout when you’ve got a slimy back and soaking wet hair and the endorphins are swimming around in your brain and you’re free because you don’t have to exercise anymore for the entire day! These things will always be there and then, and then…
And then the grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
What? Gandalf? See what?
White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Well, that isn’t so bad.
No. No, it isn’t.